Photo by jppi, compliments of morguefile.com
Sunday around noon we looked out the window. Locust tree seeds were flying. For more than half an hour they literally filled the air, seeds floating like snowflakes everywhere you looked. I thought of the massive locust at the corner of the bee yard. Myself, I would have been depressed. Tempted to a little melancholy. My year’s work, floating off so quickly and all to where? The point was planting a tree. But what were the chances? It’s not like the wind had a plan with all those drifting, wafting little bits of possibility it was throwing around like confetti.
Later I needed fresh air and alone time. My Adirondack chairs aren’t here yet so I got help to carry the worn blue recliner from the house out to the grass underneath the red maple. I brought my notebook and some books. Girl two saw and took off running. I was reaching for my book when she appeared, her own book in hand, climbing up over the arm of the chair.
What are you doing? I asked.
Snuggling, she said grinning, confident she was pleasing me.
I came out here to read, I said.
Me too, she said. So far I’m here. She pointed to a spot on the page of her book. Would you like to read to me?
I took a deep breath and lied. Of course, I said.
We read and laughed until the lie was true.
There is a place inside me, I said by way of moving on to parting, that is just for you. It is a very happy part of me because it is a space belonging to and completely filled by loving you.
She did not pause to picture the place unless she pictured it very quickly.
How much of you is it? she asked.
That’s a tricky question, I said giving myself time to do the math (four kids, my husband, everything else I care about…).
Is my space half? she wanted to know.
No, I said. I watched her face fall and something in me was called forth. No it isn’t half. Your space is bigger than the moon.
That’s not possible, she said trying to hide her delight. That’s bigger than you are.
Ah, but love doesn’t work that way. It’s magical. Love is bigger than we are. Much, much bigger than we are. The spaces for it have to be extremely big to fit it in.
After that she left and I didn’t feel sad for the tree anymore. I wondered where I could buy wizard suits for the children. I feel them sometimes, intentionally or inadvertently, siphoning blood from my veins, asking to share my tiniest spaces. For everybody’s sake, there are times to guard the spaces. There are also times to let them in. To let them wave their enchanted wands. The ones that makes us so much better than we started out to be.
photo compliments of morguefile.com
In addition to severe hearing loss, my children no longer have interest in or aptitude for school, music practice, chores, responsibilities, basic personal hygiene, or conversation about any of the aforementioned.
Girl two has been the egg collector for ages. She has two modes right now.
#1. Going out to get the eggs after wailing, tears, and stomping (I see her veering towards the Charismatics when she’s older). On the way, she sees a sibling, a bird, or a bug, and forgets why she went outside. If you can find her after that and lead her to the door of the coop, she sometimes remembers to get the eggs.
#2. She wails, stomps, dries her eyes and heads to the coop. She returns a few minutes later with at least one broken egg, sometimes more. She cries and says she just isn’t good at getting the eggs. She suggests that perhaps it would be best for the sake of the eggs if another more skilled child were assigned the job of egg collection. She is shocked at suggestions of intentional egg breakage.
Boy two and Girl one are reading like there’s no tomorrow. A friend couldn’t quite get how I could be getting my son in trouble for reading. I’m not sure what there is to explain. Both of them hide (closets, bathrooms, small spaces) to read. Both expect that a good page trumps coming to dinner or responding to verbal commands. I have endless conversations with people who only appear to be in the room with me. I yell their names a foot from them, sometimes twice before they realize I am speaking. Boy two speaks (and works) primarily on Saturday morning because I’ve taken to using an after lunch library trip as a way to his heart. It’s a mixed blessing. I get to hear his voice for a few hours. Then he wants nothing to do with food, life, or people for the rest of the day. I am planning to call a no reading zone for a day or two this summer just so I can remember what it was like to have kids who talk to me about their thoughts when they came in from outside.
Boy one continues his preparations for law school. By my estimation, he will soon be ready to take on, if not the world, at least the ruling communist party in China or the mafia. I do my best to be a good training ground. An analysis of his time would look somewhat like this: Homework: 3-5%, Responsibilities: 5-7%, Recreation (soccer, music): 15% Verbal exercises (philosophizing, debating, honing socialization skills on the phone): 75%.
The lack of focus around here is maddeningly contagious. I myself have not had clear consecutive thoughts for days now. When I can remember what the issue is, I ponder important questions slowly. Like is there a cure for spring fever? If so, what does it taste like and where do you buy it?
It’s almost March break up here in the snowy lands. Snow banks are sinking. Roofs drip madly. The maple syrup is running and the pancake houses have put out their open-for-business signs. March break is not the end of winter, but it’s the time you let yourself start longing for spring. Maybe if the schools didn’t let out for a week it wouldn’t stir up every trapped feeling I’ve ever had. But they do and it does. Institutions and structures and culture loom like prison bars on a window begging for a jailbreak. A holiday is great, but I’m feeling revolution.
My opening battle cry of revolutionary activities to be completed or repeated
Give a child directions on how to get somewhere and leave (The grocery store, main street in a small town, the woods, or a major urban center depending on the age.)
Leave children untended with no more than two rules for hours. (Ditto for self)
Sing together for fun (This will be hard if there are too many Catholics unless they play the guitar. According to my observations the majority of guitar playing Catholics are accustomed to singing, the rest are not. So guitars, Protestants, or musicians required if anyone else wants to pull this off.)
Read a book requiring many sittings, out loud with the family. (There is little better than a children’s book to begin with. Reading one out loud with someone else means you get to inhabit another world together. If anyone else feels the same way, some of the most delightful I’ve run across lately: The ***Penderwicks, The Calder Games, Chasing Vermeer, Artemis Fowl . . . and I have it on strong recommendation from a seventy year old and an eleven year old that, “The Borrowers,” though hardly a new release is well worth a read or a reread.)
Write letters. Put them in envelopes with stamps and mail them. (I discovered to my horror in February that although my grade ten son is working to become bilingual and is quite proficient in math, he had no idea how to mail a letter or where to write a return address on the envelope.)
Play board games or cards. (We are big kitchen table game fans but have been playing only in bits and snatches of 15 -30 minutes. A multi-hour game-fest is calling.) If anyone else is feeling the itch:
Our tried and true: Go Fish, Old Maid, Uno. Trouble or Sorry. Dominoes. Taboo. Pit.
Recent delights: Settlers of Catan, Seven Wonders of the World, Apples to Apples
The eternal classic that may not have broad based appeal but will forever hold my heart: The Farmers’ Game
Poetry is enough to start a revolution all by itself. The kids like to listen to it but I want them memorizing it and writing it. Maybe when I figure out how to put feet on that vision, I’ll write about it. So far it is a mystical yearning with no good ideas to hold it up.