Photo: If someone asked for a summary of childhood in a single photograph, I feel like this would be a good composition. The only thing missing are fireflies or frogs in a jar.
There was a moment yesterday when the sun came down to touch my neck. The warmth of it was deep and reaching, spreading through my shoulders and up through my scalp and into my locs. A duck lounged on a rock just a few feet away from me while another bird in a distant tree sang a sweet song that traveled on the breeze.
It was a moment that lasted a few precious breaths. The boys had found a patch of dusty dirt on our little bike path and were now eagerly digging away at it, unearthing increasingly larger stones to throw into the pond. The next splash, the next thud, the next “whoa! Let’s do it again!” were coming to disrupt it all.
The brevity did not diminish the power. The calm of it burrowed itself deep somewhere, a precious resource that I would need later in the day. The message of those few heartbeats was clear: this is where you are, everything is fine, be still and don’t forget to breathe.
It allowed me the patience to deal with my children when we went around the next bend to make the next stop along the trail.
Sitting on a rock just beside the water, the boys spotted a small school of fish warming themselves in the shallow area below. There was much pointing and giggling, and soon the boys decided that the best thing they could do for their new fish friends was to feed them. What did they decide to use as fish food? Dandelion seeds. A small patch of it was growing next to the rock. They got up and collected their dandelions, returning to the edge of the rock and blowing as hard as they could, relishing the sight of the little white parachutes blowing into the water under their power. The fish were interested, darting to and fro, some of them sucking in a seed only to spit it out under the water. The boys thought their fish friends were actually eating the things, so they went on the hunt for other plant debris to throw into the pond. Poor fish.
I explained to my sons that fish enjoy things like bugs. “Matter of fact,” I sighed, “I suppose it would have been great to have some worms with us. What a great day for fishing. I used to go fishing with GrandFather, you know. Every summer.” I could practically smell the brackish waters of the Chesapeake and see a nice sized rock fish on my line.
“We could go fishing!” Major declared.
“We should get a Rocket Fishing Rod!” Minor decided.
The hell? “A what?”
“A Rocket Fishing Rod! We saw it! It’s new. They say it’s great for kids!” Major recited perfectly from the commercial he must have seen the night before. Minor nodded his head excitedly in agreement.
“Well, I don’t know anything about that. You don’t really need some rocket–”
“But can we please have a Rocket Fishing Rod? Can’t we go buy one right now?” Major started.
“Baby, no, first, I don’t really know anything about that and second of all–”
“But I really want one and it’s really great and I really wish I had one!”
“[Ursa Major + First Middle Name], I not interested in fighting with you about it, I’m not going to be getting you any toy fishing rod today and furthermore–”
“But we really want it! I just want you to buy it!”
My fury came from somewhere, white-hot and full. It shook me. It was one one of those moments when I wanted to scream at him at the top of my lungs and tell him he was a spoiled fool, that some cheap shit piece of plastic didn’t matter, there was no toy in the universe that mattered this much. I wanted to snatch him up, get real close and let my voice get real low and deep. I wanted to let him know some things, about not enough sleep, about a lot of work and worry. Don’t you get it, child? Don’t you know what your Father and I have been trying to do for you lately? Can’t you appreciate something for once, child!?
I think the look on my face was enough. Maybe it was my seething silence. Minor distracted him with a new dandelion. Giggles and joy came again. I told myself to go back to that happy place where I was just a moment before. Don’t you know how happy Mama is just sitting here in this warm sunshine without a care?
And I remembered that they don’t know. Of course they don’t know. Of course they have no idea. Of course they don’t appreciate any of the stresses The Husband and I have felt. We’ve kept it tucked away, hushed in the kitchen or saved for after bedtime. It’s been exchanges over email, a few texts and Google chats in the car after drop-off or before pick-up. Adult things have stayed between us adults, leaving the children things for the children. My son’s mind was on the toy he saw on tv. Of course it was.
And that’s wonderful. That’s how it should be.
The boys were relentless yesterday. Lots of fights over toys, lots of wrestling, lots of neediness as they went from one activity to the next, and there was plenty of protest for Mama, who was constantly tasked with being the referee. They got filthy from head to toe, splashed too much in the bath (after I had to fight to get them in there). I spent the whole day screaming and cleaning. I suppose that means it was a successful day. Actually, I know that’s exactly what it means.
This Friday, my Quiet Thoughts are on the many roles that each of us play, the “jobs” that we’ve chosen, the “jobs” we’ve been given, and how we’re supposed to know that we’re performing them well. Life is full of feedback, though sometimes interpretation is impossible. If we’re lucky, though, we get clarifying moments, stillness and peace, reassurance that we’re doing the right thing. Brief as they may be, they are still incredibly powerful.
My Dear Reader, it’s Friday, the end of a long week. You made it and so have I, and now it’s time for wishes for the weekend to come. I wish you sleep, Dear Reader, deep and restful. The kind of sleep that allows you to wake up on your own, turn over and go back to sleep a little longer without care. I wish you time to clean up some things, declutter a bit, and feel satisfied with the space you consider to be your sanctuary. Then I wish you time to venture out into your community. Go find something new about it that excites you or makes you love it a little bit more. What new thing can you discover that will make you love where you live just a little bit more? Share it with me on Monday! I wish you time to read next to a window and look up at the moon from time to time. It’s putting on a show this week. Just gorgeous for anyone who takes the time to look. Finally, I wish you a hug and a kiss on the cheek from somebody who loves you. I hope they tell you so. I hope you know how much they mean it. I hope that understanding warms you like the rays of the sun on bare skin. Who will you say those words to this weekend, Dear Reader? Make it count. Do it with gusto and sincerity.
Until Monday, be kind, be open, and take care.