Fest der Kentauren. Edoardo Ettore Forti. 1880 -1920.
I undertook a small trip this week. The four and a half hour trip down with the kids was almost pleasant. I filled the gaps with pep talk reminders about the joys of project work. Despite a late breaking meltdown ten minutes from our destination, we were happy to be out of the car and got down to business pretty quickly.
The boys were pleased to be cleaning out eaves troughs. Our roof at home is too steep to walk around on,and in seven years we haven’t managed to put up the eaves troughs on our house, so it’s not a job they’ve ever done. The girls and I emptied out a small greenhouse, then set to work with hammers and wrenches to take it apart.
The newness of the tasks made them fun. Milk and cookies from great grandma (who said they needed a break before their mother would have) didn’t hurt. Watching the girls play with toys that I played with as a child made my heart happy.
The way home was a little less fun. All we were doing then was going home, and we weren’t there yet. The movie choice was hotly debated by three. Girl one was the swing vote with the two’s (Boy and Girl) duking it out to win her over. Peaceful resolution required intervention. I chose Boy two’s movie with an option for Girl two to vote it down at the fifteen minute mark if she didn’t like it. She magnanimously said she would add five minutes and make her assessment at the twenty minute mark. I mistakenly thought we were home free.
Girl two lost track of time as planned. After half an hour she wasn’t sure if she liked the movie but it might be okay. In five minute intervals for the next hour she was alternately convinced, distracted, or placated with snack. We then declared it too late to change the movie. For the rest, in between watching intently, she told us every three or four minutes how much she hated Free Willy. It was the second worst movie she had ever seen in her life. She liked the sound of a statement so sweeping and repeated it periodically for the rest of the trip.
We arrived home in one piece, albeit not in one peace. I thanked everyone for their help. The kids said they’d enjoyed the trip excepting the return. A furtive tap on my door brought this counsel:
Mom, my advice is, while we’re still in the working mood, you better work us hard this weekend for as long as you can . . . but don’t let anyone else know I said that or they’ll kill me.
In their own strange ways, they look out for me.
I vaguely remember in the lead up to Christmas feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about unfinished lists. Blissfully fuzzy now are all such silly things. I remember the gifts, too many to count. In the telling I am happy all over again.
This year we got three days of an odd snow and freezing rain combination right before Christmas. Holidays can’t be ruined by weather, but it can make them sing a little more. I watched the rain come down and felt a little melancholy about the inevitable destruction of good skating ice on the pond.
Christmas Eve (twas the time for cleaning madly) I opened the outside door to see my daughter’s boots thrown on the snowy ground. Irritated, I commanded into the cold for her to come and explain. She didn’t answer. Her brothers smiled and pointed.
Girl one was skating. All over the yard, around the house, and out into the pasture. Instead of melting the snow or leaving divots all over the place, the freezing rain had hardened six inches of snow into a very hard and smooth surface. Christmas day kids were sledding, skating, and Cross Country skiing, all on the same hills and fields, sometimes side by side.
My favourite gift was a song. Boy one on the piano, girl one on the violin, boy and girl two singing. The First Noel. A surprise performance for me.
The day after Christmas, we went to see my brother and his family. We didn’t fight moving from beds to car. For most of nine hours travelling, we were kind to each other. We have no idea how it happened. I feel asleep that night with gratitude (and wonder). Two families of six (who see each other twice a year) were in a three bedroom house for days. The joy inside me was so loud, I hardly heard the kids.
I love my sister-in-law to death. I also find her organization inspiring. I started sorting and organizing the night we got home and for almost the entire next day. More order and hope are already flooding the place as I head into another day of home improvements.
In closing, the commentary department:
I am in the laundry room. Boy one puts his arms around me from behind.
“Thanks. What’s that for?”
“I feel like I’ve been a jerk today. I just wanted to say that.”
Mid morning on the first, So what if I can’t marry a Dutch girl (like my brother did) at least I can learn from one cleaning day. The girls had cleaning rags in hand. I was arranging shoes. “We’re like Cinderella,” said Girl one. “We work all the time, but we’re really happy.”
During our anniversary celebration, discussion of marriage commenced.
“You guys fight a lot,” said one cheery voice.
I wasn’t sure how to take the appraisal. It surprised me. I was deciding how depressed to feel when boy two interjected, sincere and insistent.
“Mom and Dad don’t fight a lot, Mom’s just right a lot.”
Ah, my young shining knight . . .