Education Matters: Jill Stahl Tyler: How can we patch the holes in the fabric of our lives?

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It is a near nightly scene here at our house. We try to always have family supper together. Oh, we don't succeed, of course. There are sports practices, meetings and work schedules.

But it seems very important to stick to this routine as much as we possibly can. I find it is often one of the highlights of my day, just reconnecting to everyone and hearing what they have done.

It's one of those pieces in the fabric of our lives, I think, one of those simple, small moments that makes up a whole.

Often we have extras at the table, or staying in the house. Although sometimes it feels a bit like a revolving door, we appreciate knowing everyone who comes. We try to be welcoming, remembering their food preferences if they are staying for a bit, and making sure everyone feels comfortable. Of course, all who eat here join in the "two good things of the day."

I'm learning to adjust to the ebbs and flows of having college students in our lives, and of hosting exchange students in our house. I have adjusted to preparing something special for son number one only when he is home. I have learned to cook extra when we have a few more mouths to feed while someone is with us for a few weeks, a semester or a year. I expect to see son number one's girlfriend whenever she and my son are both home.

There is just this one thing that I seem unable to do.

I have not been able to completely get over their absence when they leave. They are like holes in this fabric of our lives. Very often, at least at first, they are gaping holes.

After our first Spanish "son-for-the-summer" left, every time I made scrambled eggs with American cheese and prosciutto, I thought of him. I've continued to eat this - and have even introduced others to this mixture with great reactions - but I still remember him every time.

When son number one left for college, doing the chickens every morning was bitter sweet. It had been our time together, checking on the birds and chatting together nearly ever day. I now send him the occasional video of a chicken antic, or an update. The latest was the proof of a chick now fully grown, who has just confirmed that he is definitely not a hen. His college friends chuckle when they hear rooster crowing sent on messages from his mother.

When our semester-long Brazilian left us — even though he came back often to visit — I couldn't go through the grocery store without thinking I should buy more orange juice. He's back in the country, going to college in New York City, planning on visiting soon. I already have the frozen orange juice in the freezer, so we are prepared.

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I made chicken noodle soup the other night, which is a favorite of son number one's girlfriend. I missed her happy self sitting around the table, too. I sent her a Facebook message and told her I was sorry she was not here to eat it with us.

Late this summer, after our trip to visit our Spanish daughter, I could barely look at the humus she always had me buy. I actually took a photo of it and sent it over to her with the caption, "Thinking of you."

Imagine being at a grocery store and tearing up over humus. It's really quite ridiculous.

I always liked the commercial about the "fabric of our lives," for cotton. (OK, I'll admit it: I get kind of emotional over those, too.)

I think someone needs to find a patchwork quilt to make out of the cotton of the fabric of our lives. We need to find a pretty way to cover the holes.

Or maybe, I need to just accept the fact that the cotton wears down with time and use?

And that the holes, too, are a part of the whole experience of having a wonderfully soft, well-loved piece of cotton as the "fabric of our lives"?

Maybe I'll just sit with that quilt for a while, appreciate the warmth and the joy that it brings me. That seems like the best option for now.

I have this feeling that the quilt might continue to change in the next few years. It might just have new uses and new holes and new patches.

Jill Stahl Tyler is parent to three kids, and appreciates the many others who come through their home. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com.


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