The Habanero Cycle

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COME ON BACK TO AUNT CHILADA’S! the email blared. WE MISS YOU!

Ah, Aunt Chilada’s. I’d completely forgotten about you and your weapons-grade muy caliente fajitas – so hot that the cooks have to wear gas masks to cook and serve them, lest the pepper gas render them unconscious. Did I order the muy caliente fajitas one day last year at Auntie’s? Perhaps fueled by one pitcher too many of Pacifico on a hot Phoenix night, did I have delusions of youth, believing myself to be capable of handling the same multi-million Scoville food I ate in my 20s? I did. I could scarcely eat them, and Kathy got a good laugh as my head flushed pink, then raspberry red, then deep purple as I tried and tried to get through the platter. I paid dearly for it, in ways I will not subject you to.

I know this happened, but I have no experiential memory of it. We move through these moments and they are left to anecdotal, but not experiential, memory. Do I remember this happening? I do. Can I summon up what it was like to pile into that first overstuffed, billion-Scoville Tortilla-O-Death? I can’t.

Auntie C’s email came at just the same time that I was reviewing my notes from the last homeschooling year, in which – at least once a month or so – I wrote, somewhere, ‘this feels like too much.’ I can go back and look at my project bookings for work at the time, and see what horrific home improvement projects were going on, and sure enough, the correlation is clear: there were moments it was all too much. Too much algebra. Too much PBL management. Too many contractors at the door, and too many sheaves of paper to proof and spreadsheets to check, and too much too much. 

It was too much, in the same way that so many other things are too much:  roller coasters, breaking a limb, ice-cream headaches, the vengeance of last night’s good bottle(s) of red wine. They leave a trace of excess with us afterwards, but then it’s gone. Quick, summon up a summer-BBQ hangover, right now. Pull up your mouth memory of that crazy-ass ghost-pepper sauce at Tango Red’s, or the sensation after getting off Space Mountain. Bring that experience back, just for a second.

You can’t, can you?

Homeschooling is the same way. I know it was too much, then; it’s right there, on a journal page, that I thought it was. But it’s not now, and it doesn’t really matter that it was: I remember that I felt this way, but I can’t summon up the sensation – and I’ll be there again at some point this fall, and then I won’t, and life will go on. Hot sauce and roller coasters and red wine will make their repeated appearances in my life, too, and I’ll swear them off at different points, and forget I did.

Too much is all right, so long as it’s not too much all the time. And it’s not. It wasn’t today, the first day of summer vacation for us. I tackled a competitive analysis this morning while they labored away in Minecraft, taming ocelots and poking zombie villagers in their snouts and giggling the whole time. When my lumbar region gave out, I stretched and we took off on a bike ride and picnic, E comparing cloud shapes with me while H climbed a tree and A assembled an Iron Man suit out of bark. Home we came, and the girls tackled summer reading books while A and I played Monopoly for an hour. Back to work for a bit, and then it’s off to light the grill for dinner.

Not too much at all. Highly doable. And isn’t that really what’s necessary? The days that make it all seem possible?

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