Faith in Vermont: The Moms Are All Right
This column will be published immediately following the last day of Addison County’s 2014-15 school year.
But I’m not going to write about the complex bundle of emotions that summer vacation inspires in parents: the relief of no longer having to get up before dawn to pack lunches and sign reading logs, versus the dread of 71 long days filled with sibling squabbles, sunscreen and bug spray, and the logistical gymnastics of camps and classes and vacations.
I’m not going to write about that, because now I know that the moms are all right. I’m sure that the dads are all right, too, but I haven’t had coffee with them.
Ten days before the end of school, I got together with seven local moms for coffee at the new café in the Vermont Coffee Company headquarters. We considered it our last hurrah before summer vacation.
The setting of our coffee klatch deserves special note: Although the Vermont Coffee Company has been roasting and selling organic, fair trade beans for over 30 years, the café in its Middlebury facility just opened this past month. It’s an airy, simple space, furnished with long pine tables and benches; during our visit, we were greeted by Vermont Coffee’s founder and owner, Paul Ralston, who proudly informed us that the wood for these tables and benches was milled from his own property.
The café is open from 7 AM -2 PM on weekdays, and offers light fare for breakfast and lunch. We were fortunate to visit on a day when free drip coffee was being offered, so I splurged on a $2 plate of buttered toast with cinnamon sugar; I hear that fancy toast restaurants are all the rage these days in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I spent around 90 minutes enjoying toast and coffee with these seven women, and was reminded of how important such gatherings are; the laughter, camaraderie, and nuggets of wisdom I received from my fellow mothers during those 90 minutes should last me all summer long. And since most of you reading this weren’t privy to our conversation, I will share a few of those nuggets; they’ll work for summer vacation, or any time of year.
1. Try to do only one thing at a time. Life throws a lot at us all at once; one friend at this gathering was putting in a garden, buying a new tractor, preparing her children for summer, and cleaning house for unexpected guests. When another friend invited her to lunch several days hence, she said, “Thanks, but I’ll have to get back to you: I’m trying to think just about what I have to do RIGHT NOW.” She then went on to dismiss what she called “the myth of multi-tasking,” which is when we try to manage several things at once and usually end up doing them badly and making ourselves more anxious in the process. I realized how much more quiet my mind would be if I took this one-thing-at-a-time approach to life.
2. Try to be the kind of person you’d want to be married to. That exact sentence came out of a friend’s mouth at this coffee date, and it’s forever altered my perspective. Several times since then, I’ve stopped to check myself: Would I want to be married to me right now? I’m not sure if my husband’s noticed a difference, but I’ve been more aware of being responsible for my behavior in relationships. This outlook needn’t apply only to marriage; Would I want a friend like me right now? works just as well.
3. When in doubt, get rid of it!Through a combination of spring cleaning, donating to the Bonnie’s Book Foundation book drive, and transitioning my children from winter to summer wardrobes, lately I’ve felt compelled to get rid of stuff. We have too much stuff, and it sits around taking up space without being used or useful. But I always agonize during these purges. As the only child of parents who saved everything and passed it on to my daughters, I wonder: Should we save these books and clothes for our children’s children?
One of my coffee friends had a helpful metric for deciding what stays and what goes: If it’s an item that could be replaced at a later date should you need it, get rid of it now. Irreplacable? Hang on to it.
That’s not a bad haul of insights for 90 minutes of coffee, toast, and talk, is it? The moms are all right.
Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.