My kid graduated from middle school. This is, like, a thing. I know I know I know, it’s not high school graduation or any sort of milestone that we ever celebrated with sheet cake aplomb way back when, but Brodie has been at the same school for a decade. It was his last day there. I guess I wanted to cry, because I dug up those first day pics when he was posing with a nervous bus stop smile in his little Velcro shoes. Oof. That boy is now almost 6 feet tall. I’ve been writing about being in the sweet spot of parenting for a number of years, and somehow, it keeps getting sweeter.

You know that scene in Lost in Translation? Bill Murray’s monologue about his kids? I’ve always loved it. These small people do get more interesting with every year and inch. They become the best people you know. Brodie crossed a stage and became an official high schooler. But the night before, he fell asleep next to me on the couch after poking fun of my inability to SnapChat. (I’ll never get it.) Teddy asked me if I was one of those moms in texting threads with tons of emojis. I lied. As I find them ever more fascinating, I become infinitely more embarrassing. This is, I’m told, the natural order.

I’m practically pickled in end-of-year nostalgia. I used to think I romanticized teenagers because I didn’t have them, myself. And now that I do, I love them even more. They seem so much more exciting than my own Laura Ashley, white pump memories of being on the cusp of… something. I guess I wanted to cry (again), so I watched the Parkland kids sing “Seasons of Love” that had been shared oodles of times by moms annotating with heart eye emojis. It has been The Year of the Teenager in my own house and in the world.

I am a volunteer teacher for a rather incredible immersive Biology course taught to high schoolers at Harvard Medical School. MedScience uses an interactive mannequin to simulate ER settings to teach basic systems in a clinical setting. Last week’s topic was addiction, and I summoned my most dramatic teen persona and gave them a coked up 17 year old having a heart attack. Behind a one way mirror, I voiced the dummy and answered their questions peppered with drug-addled songs, paranoia about the whereabouts of my boyfriend, and a bunch of 80s movie references for my own amusement. They didn’t giggle when I told them my name was Julia Gulia or when I busted out my best Claire when they asked me if I was sexually active with Johnny:


But they were super protective of me. Even after the diagnosis had been reached—that my tombstoning EKG was the result of a line-snorting afternoon– they were sure that my boyfriend was the peer-pressuring culprit. They held my hand and called my mom and told me they would take care of me. Medical schools and residency programs had just begun teaching empathy and sensitivity training when I was a fourth year. Are teenagers today tuned in a bit better? After the year they have had, perhaps.

Just as I’m feeling all mushy about teens in general, and mine in particular… they are gone. A week without children is how Bernie and I are beginning the summer, knowing Brodie is having fun with his cousins (and praying Teddy doesn’t tumble into the Grand Canyon). I’ve already purged their bedrooms of a semester of Latin tests and so many pants and shirts that didn’t keep up with their limbs. And then there it is. Brodie’s pre-K class picture. He dug it out to post on Instagram after Prize Day. Brodie never posts on Instagram. Do teenagers feel nostalgia, too? I guess so.

Seasons of Love (sniff sniff). Enjoy the milestone moments, friends.


Boys in Velcro shoes…


**For those who found us through Steve Safran’s wildly shared and well-received essay about suicidal ideation and a rather wonderful message of empathy… welcome to Blooms and Bubbles. 

Thou Shalt Buy (Crap) Gifts for Teacher

I don’t remember bringing Mr. McCormick anything on the last day of third grade (though he really could have used a new corduroy blazer). Mr. Thacker? Not even a World’s Best Teacher mug. Mrs. Pruitt? It never occurred to my mom to buy her another chain for her glasses. On the last day of school, we showed up with flaccid backpacks, goofed off until the bell rang, and then merrily lugged home a year’s worth of forgotten sweaters and art projects. As we got older, we were too distracted obtaining yearbook signatures to think about a small token to thank Mr. Newton for making Physics fun. Maybe moms back-in-the-day (as my boys refer to anything that happened before 2005) arranged group gifts or wrote little letters of thanks. But certainly none of them delivered obnoxious Bloomingdale’s gift cards inside fancy letterpress envelopes to recognize a year of facts remembered.

I have no childhood recollection of this parent/teacher covenant: Thou Shalt Buy (Crap) Gifts For Teacher. Sometimes, this custom requires a slew of annoying emails to organize all moms into donating some pittance as a group nod to the exhaustive effort to keep our children from falling off monkey bars or eating paste. At the conservative Jewish preschool, we contributed our magical $18 toward something that was never a multiple of 18. (Only the enthusiastic, stupid Shiksa mom volunteers to buy The Gift.) My first year at the fancy private school, I offered to do the 11th hour gift card run, but didn’t specify a donation amount. Flabbergasted by the windfall of cash mailed by moms all too happy to be relieved of the task, I bought Mrs. Bell an $800 gift card to Bloomingdale’s. $800. For Mrs. Bell with her Dansko clogs and makeup counter-less life. I realized an $800 gift card is more ridiculous than a t-shirt emblazoned with small, smeary handprints. This end of the year gift pact can be an odd dance.

Under less forced gift-giving circumstances, I am quite good at it. I also love spending money. And for the ladies who have spent the past nine months drilling factoids, feeling for fevers, encouraging excellence, drumming out gross habits, and knowing and loving my kids, I want to buy them something fabulous. In fact, I’m overjoyed to do so. To adequately thank them for a successful year, I want to give them a case of Veuve Clicquot. But a Facebook query running many comments long suggests a Starbucks gift card will suffice.

“Thanks for being patient with Brodie’s stutter, for reading his moods, for not believing the ouchies that didn’t matter, and for celebrating everything that did. Hey, go grab yourself a coffee!”

Jason (a teacher, currently deep into grading papers… and his own bottle) suggested a good Scotch with bawdy note enclosures, “Drink up, bitches!” I could have the children write these in cursive to great effect.

Ultimately, what’s bugging me is the inability of anything in a small gift bag to embody what I feel for these women, to convey how deeply these teeny milestone moments move me (still grateful to be here for them), to let them know they did well, and that I noticed. So I’ll probably write them long, overly effusive letters of thanks… which I’ll then slip next to a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.

Drink up, bitches.

Thank you to all of the (good) teachers... we'll let you know who you are.

Thank you to all of the (good) teachers… we’ll let you know who you are.