All of my writing these past few months, both blog posts and other projects, are imbued with the wistfulness and lack of control that characterize my life at this stage. It doesn't feel like a choice, as in a negative attitude, but more of a circumstantial virus that will pass, given time.
Last Saturday my older sister spontaneously dropped by and picked up all four of my kids, opening the door for Jeremy and I to run away for a few hours. Afterward, when we stopped by her house to pick our kids up, my sister's kitchen was unusually messy with dishes, her face flushed from scrambling around multitasking.
Is everything okay? I asked. My sister is usually so organized and efficient. Truly, one of those part human, well oiled machines whose dish washer is always loaded. So it surprised me to catch her in a flustered, towers-of-dirty-dishes moment.
She smiled sheepishly. Sorry. I'm trying to cook dinner. But it's been a while since I've tried to do this with a baby on my hip.
My eyes nearly filled and I wanted to hug her and say, Thank you for saying that. You just validated my entire life. I'm always flush faced with leaning towers of dishes these days. What happened here? I sometimes ask myself. What happened to my twelve year old self who once asked my mother for empty shoe boxes so I could better organize my sock and underwear drawer.
Oh, that's right. I had another baby.
Even though I'm a year deep into this fourth child, having a baby in the house explains everything. I saw it in my sister's eyes last Saturday. Whatever part of you is organized, efficient and ready to seize life will slowly be leached away by the little people, with their colds and sore gums, and their tendency to trip and fall every four seconds.
I have the most delicious, gourmet cherries in my pantry right now that I know will make the best pie ever, but I'm not baking a pie today. My crusts are always lop sided and depressed, and today I want to feel my work has succeeded. I don't want lop sided.
My mother in law recently gave me a scarf that is perfectly soft and as gray as the fall sky. I can't wait to wear it. But I'm not in the business of beautiful scarves today, either. In fact, yesterday my nine year old said, Mom, why are you still in your pajamas? It's the afternoon. You're acting like you're sick when James is the one who is actually sick.
Our baby is getting over a nasty chest cold. We're on day four cooped up in the house, trying to keep a cold a cold, rather than inviting the cold to become pneumonia or an ear infection. James manages on his own for about five minutes at a time before crawling into my lap to rest. He can't say much yet, but he looks at me beseechingly as if to say, Just hold me mama. So, I do. We all feel that way sometimes.
Since she lives down the street from me I have a front row seat to watch my older sister's busy and productive life unfold. She works downtown, and as a single mom not only manages a career but is the sole provider and care taker for her three sons. Oh, and she's only four months away from finishing her Bachelor's degree. I crave the sense of accomplishment that she achieves each day. Like I mentioned above, she is one of those part-human machines that can pay bills, sew Halloween costumes and work a full time job, while finishing her homework once her kids are in bed. And yet I know well how she desperately craves pajama time, and in a heart beat would choose to spend four days holed up in the house holding my sick baby, if her life allowed it.
There are no winners. All that is left is to search for what is beautiful and lovely in our own day to day life. For me, it isn't pies or scarves, so much as the triumph of working in five minute increments for three hours, in between comforting my baby, to get my thoughts down on the page today. Tomorrow it will probably be seeing my four children heavy laden with trick or treat candy, their butterfly wings dragging tiredly behind them. Next week it might very well be a not-as-crooked-as-usual pie crust. Because I'm going to keep at it, looking for what is lovely.