Sunday, February 17, 2019

What the Rain Came to Say

Drops of rain slide down the window glass.   This Sunday morning is dripping over Nashville like a thin coat of grey paint.

As I walk into the kitchen I remember I left the curry out on the stove last night.  I curse under my breath because now I'll have to throw it out.  But then I see that someone put the curry in tupperware and put it in the fridge last night before they went to bed.

I'm not the only adult in the house anymore.

Tip, tip, tap.  Raindrops tap on the kitchen window.

I make a hashbrown casserole and my 7-year-old niece Bliss plays with the Roomba.  Her parents had a date night last night so I got to have a sleepover with my red-headed elf-niece. 

The Roomba is a source of endless entertainment for her.  What happens if she puts it on the chair?

Feeds it a mint?

Feeds it ten mints?

Locks it in the bathroom?

Puts a pillow on top of it?

Lets it run over my foot?

Tip, tip, tap.

She is ready for the next thing.

"Alexa, play 'I Believe in You' by Dolly Par-ton."  She pronounces Dolly's last name very clearly, otherwise Alexa will play a Michael Buble song, which is not danceable at all.  While Bliss and I dance, Grant stumbles out of his bedroom to ask what time it is.

"9:00!" we say.  Bliss dances jazz hands at him, pointing at his knees.  I dance jazz hands, pointing at his shoulders.

Neither of us can reach his head.

It is too far up there.

Tip, tip, tap.

We picked Grant and Audrey up from the airport last night  - they were in China all week with their dad and grandparents celebrating Chinese New Year.

Tired and pale, Grant goes back to sleep some more.  Jet lag is a fact of life for my children.  This is what they looked like at midnight on Chinese New Year.

I feel pity and admiration for them, all at once.

I admire them because they deal with jet lag so well and always have.  They both took their first flight to Asia when they were tiny babies and even back then, they adjusted to the new time zone so quickly.  Not easily necessarily, but quickly.

I feel sad for them because their dad and I have put them in this position.  If they want to have a relationship with both of us, they have to get on a plane and criss-cross the Pacific.  Over and over again.

I'm sorry about this.

Tip, tip, tap.  The drops of rain land on the glass and they cling to it stubbornly.  It's almost as if they want to stay on the window as long as they can, watching us from the outside.  But soon the weight of their watery bellies pulls them down to the ground in a quiet splash. 

Audrey comes downstairs and hugs me. She yawns and hands me the Hello Kitty makeup she brought for me from China.

Tip, tip, tap.

My children are growing up and one day soon they will leave the house.  By this time next year Audrey will be away at college and three years from now Grant will be too.  All I will have is the occasional sleepover with Bliss and there will even come a day when I don't have that anymore.  Everyone is growing up.  
And finally I hear what the raindrops have been trying to tell me all morning long.

Tip, tip, tap.   

You are okay.

You are and you will be.

Cling to the glass.  Watch these moments for as long as you can. 

Tip, tip, tap.  

And amen.  

Friday, February 8, 2019

They've seen worse

Here's one from five years ago.  Why did I not post these?

The other day I had a huge problem.

At least, to me, it seemed huge.  

Audrey wasn't registered for the magnet school that we wanted her to go to next year.  I was sure I had filled in the right form and turned it in to the board of education on time and I remembered they had given me a receipt.

Which I threw away about 3 weeks ago.

I can tell you exactly where I was when I threw it away.  I was at the car wash and I was vacuuming out my car and I came across the receipt and figured I didn't need it anymore.  And I can tell you exactly which garbage can I threw it away in.  Three weeks ago.

And then I found out yesterday that she wasn't on the list for the magnet school.  Which, if true, is a disaster. 

So I went to the board of education this morning and prayed that the universe would save me.  By this point I was doubting myself - I was afraid I had actually forgotten to turn in the form and that the receipt was just a dream.  But the woman at the Board of Ed checked her records and found that I had done what I was supposed to do.  I had turned in the form on time, and someone at the Board of Ed had failed to add Audrey to the list for the magnet school.  Totally a clerical error and not my fault.  She even gave me a photocopy of the form I had turned in. 

I was so relieved I burst out into tears.  Because, we're talking about a really big deal school here. 

"Can I come over there and hug you?" I asked the receptionist. 

She paused for a minute and then said, "Sure!" 

I was surprised.  I kinda thought she would laugh at me and we would move on.  But she came out from behind the counter and hugged me.

A security guard standing nearby offered, "Don't worry, we see a lot worse around here." 

I wiped away my tears and sniffed, "Thank you for not thinking I'm crazy."  But as soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized he hadn't said I wasn't crazy.  He only said he sees a lot worse around there. 

That trip to the Board of Ed reminded me who I am.

I am a mom who usually does what she's supposed to do, on time.      

But one who rarely keeps evidence that she did it.

I am a woman who offers hugs, thinking most people will not take her up on it.

But often they do.

And while I may not be the most balanced person you will ever meet, there are worse. 

It has been independently confirmed by the security guard at the Davidson County Board of Education that there are worse.

Maybe that is the real meaning of life

I wrote this four years ago and never posted it.  

“I’m beginning to think that the real meaning of life is looking around us and recognizing that everything is extraordinary.” 

My pastor said that on Sunday. I am feeling the extraordinariness of it all myself. I’m sitting in church with Grant, who is sitting closer to me than he would if we were at home on the sofa. And our cell phones are packed away in my purse. In the still of the sanctuary I can hear his breath and I’m pretty sure I can even still smell his baby scent. My kids both came into this world with their own scent. Audrey smelled like honey and Grant smelled like butter. I remember smelling them as I nuzzled the tops of their heads when I nursed them. 

As they mutate now into teenagers, their smell is changing. But in a moment like this, when he sits still next to me and I put my cheek on the top of his head, I still smell butter. 

My new patent leather heels have a black scuff mark.

“Can I go now?” he asks.

I say what I always say. “I really want you to be here with me, but if you want to go you can.” 

“Will you be sad if I go?”

I nod yes. 

“I’ll stay with you for five more minutes and then I’m going to check on Audrey in the nursery,” he says. 

Five minutes later he slips away and heads towards the nursery. 

The choir is singing “Here I am, Lord” and the time of day is just perfect, because the sun is streaming in through the window behind them, illuminating each of them from behind.  They look less human to me and more alien. A chorus of extra-terrestrials who have landed in the sanctuary to speak to us in the language that we all understand, the language of song.

Audrey slides in next to me in the pew. “Why are you mad at me?” she asks. 

“I’m not mad at you,” I say, confused. 

“Grant came in the nursery and said you were mad at me and that it was his turn to be in the nursery.” 

“Well I have no idea where that came from. I’m not mad at you,” I said. 

She glares at the cross at the front of the church. Her clenched jaw tells me that she is not praying. Instead she is planning the revenge she would exact on her brother as soon as we sing the closing hymn. I have a feeling it will somehow involve their cell phones. 

Their cell phones. They’re a safety net and a bed of nettles at the same time. When I need to reach my kids, our phones are the constant connection. If I can’t find them, an app on my phone tells me where they are. 

And yet those devices also bring us so much heartache. They fight over their phones (which is particularly mystifying since they each have one). They lose them. They crack them. They live too much in the world of social media and too little in the moment. I wonder if the connectedness is worth it. Is it worth the stress? Is it worth the money? 

If this question was a prayer, it is going unanswered for now. The final hymn has been sung and we are walking to the car in the church parking lot. 

My shoe is scuffed. 

My children are arguing.   

Their heads smell like butter and honey.

And I realize that the meaning of life is to look around us and realize that everything really is extraordinary.