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The Keeper of the Squid

I have kept a secret from my husband.

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We have moved an average of every two years since we began homeschooling, and some homeschool materials have gotten, uh, misplaced from move to move.

Including the squid. Which I had never told him about.Homeschooling: Am I doing enough?

The squid, a preserved specimen meant for dissection, was packed up from our home in North Carolina, and I was vaguely aware that I never saw it when we made it to Virginia. Or to Mississippi. Or back to Virginia. Or any of the places we moved within Virginia after that.

I would forget about the squid for years at a time, but then some stray mention of a biology lab or discussion of the KonMari method of decluttering would send a figurative scalpel to my own heart, since I was reminded that there was a squid lurking in some atticked or basemented box in our home.

This squid was definitely not sparking joy.

What if the specimen jar leaked? What if the seal got broken and squid stench permeated the house on an important occasion?

What about the moral issue of this squid having given its life for the purpose of being trucked back and forth across the country in moving vans, imparting no new knowledge to anyone?

(Don’t judge: I’m a vegetarian, dog lover, horse trainer, overthinker. This is exactly the kind of thing that can keep me up night, when I’m not worried about my kids’ futures, figuring out how to afford new tires for my car, or helping a homeschooler through a crisis).

But worst of all, what if my husband stumbled across the squid before I did?

Then, he would know.

He would know about the money wasted on purchasing the squid, since our youngest homeschooler has graduated, having done all his biology studies at co-op. He would know about the times my good intentions were followed, well, by no follow-through. He would know about my inability to keep up with the packing and unpacking, how my lack of attention to detail has forced us to move boxes over and over again, many with innards long past their relevance to our lives.

The squid would be horrifyingly emblematic of all my shortcomings as a non-thrifty and disorganized and ineffective homeschool mom.

And also? It might just be shockingly weird. Would my good natured, hard working, supportive husband come across the squid in a box of books we never unpacked? Or with kids’ toys we decided to sort for a yard sale? LEGO bricks, Pokemon cards, Nerf guns, and a squid?

I tried to tell myself I might have gotten rid of the squid between moves. In the best versions of this fantasy, I gave it to the parent of a homeschooled teen who planned to go to med school, or I sold it at some homeschool event where the money benefitted a good cause. But I knew it wasn’t true. The squid lived, well, not exactly lived, somewhere in the sweep of our household belongings, in our embarrassment of American Too Much.

This year marks our third year in the same house. We thought we were cheating the “every-two-years-we-move” thing, but our house was flooded by a water problem, and the restoration has meant handling all our stuff, so carpets and ceilings could be replaced. We’ve pretty much moved within our occupied home. That is to say, we’ve moved without moving.

As we planned the restoration from the water damage, I took the leap.

“There’s something I’ve never told you, but I’ve wanted to tell you for years. For twenty years. I’ve wanted to tell you for twenty years.”

My husband got that deer in the headlights look. I could still change this conversation to a less embarrassing or more consequential non-squid story, but I plowed ahead.

“Somewhere in our stuff, there’s a squid. But I have no idea where.”

I cringed, waiting for his questions. Why do we have a squid? How could we have a squid? What do you mean, “a squid?”

But nope.

“Oh the squid in preservative? I know right where that is.”

Bless this man. Mover of our boxes, earner of our income, deejay of the soundtrack of our lives. He is also Keeper of the Squid.

He has never berated the expenditure or our sons’ missed experience. He, who hates clutter, has never used the squid to illustrate our chaos and my part in it. Or homeschooling’s part in it.

And more than that, he has simply noted where the squid is, waiting for the moment when I might call for a squid in the same way I have called for other unlikely things I deemed our homeschooling life to require, which he always tried to find a way to cooperate with or provide.

The squid knowledge, lost to me, gnawing at me, embarrassing to me, was one more information point he held for me, for our family.

I write this with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day approaching, and I marvel at having been fortunate to share this homeschooling life with the man who knew my squid secret and never used it against me.

But I also marvel at the things I thought we were going to do in our homeschooling that somehow got lost in the moves and the years. Despite my broken plans, the kids learned. They finished homeschooling. They became successful adults. They appreciate having learned at home. They remember the walks and talks and books and friends and movies and meetings and co-ops and microscopes and animal tracks.

Even without a squid, it was enough.

May your family find “enough” as well.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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  1. Robert Marmorstein

    Don’t leave us hanging — where did it turn out to be? Was it in with the Legos?

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      The squid was in a box in the attic with a few other lab supplies. True to form, my husband told me exactly where it is and offered to show it to me, and I’ve already forgotten.

  2. Jacqueline

    I needed to read this!! I look forward to all the stages of this journey, thank you!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      There is no way that everything gets done. The days and even the weeks seem to represent missed opportunities. But the years tell a different story – of the cuddles, the encouragements, the walks by the water, the stories, the struggles, the being there even when things are imperfect. The squid can stay in the box if we have done the rest.

      Thanks Jacqueline! I’m glad this hit the spot for you.

  3. Ann Campanella

    This is so wonderful! Who would think a squid could be such a great metaphor for all the things left undone? But it is … perfect!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      I know, a squid, right? It’s so strange! But we can never fit in All the Things we want to do, could do, should do. Maybe a squid with its ranging tentacles is more apt than it first seems.

      Thanks Ann.

      • Beth Marmorstein

        I have a worm in a jar! Not quite as epic as a squid, but it’s also randomly floating around in our stuff, and also got moved around due to flooding this year. 😀

        • Jeanne Faulconer

          The flooding, right? It just upturns everything. Sorry to hear you’ve dealt with that, but I feel sure your worm “survived” the flood!

  4. Maureen Moslow-Benway

    Love this Jeanne!!!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Thanks Maureen!

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