There is a backyard in California where time stands still. I lay down across a giant tractor inner tube and squint up at the bright sunlight shining dappled through the leaves. The grass is green and a bit too long. Odd fences crisscross the yard, remnants of dog breeding attempts. But right now I’m all alone, eating a hot dog with mustard, kicking my bare feet, and channeling my mother.
This yard is the only place she and I have shared, the same place, the same ages. Generations melt away, and I know that we are for once sharing the exact same experience. I hear the traffic driving by that she heard, the same frog sounds in the pond across the narrow dirt lane. I smell the grass and blackberries she smelled, and taste he same French’s mustard. I cold hot dog leaves the same greasy coating on the roofs of our mouths. We feel the sunburn on small spots of our skin where branches let the molten sunlight through. We both avoid scorching hotspots on the dull black tube.
Nothing in my mother’s life paralleled my own except this one summer afternoon in this yard on La Barr Meadows Road. She who married at 16 and finished high school, GED, at 35. Six older siblings and no dad, living always in California with rain and plants growing wild. Me a mom at 30, college graduate, oldest of four, and boy did I have a father in my life. Growing up in deserts, nothing grows by accident or of its own volition. Rain is still a fascination to me now, I’m 41.
And her life wasn’t sunshine, but I got to see her carefree and happy when we shared a sunny afternoon when we were both 12.
The wisest eighteen year old I’ve ever known once told a group of rapt listeners, sitting at his feet Socrates style, that being eighteen was a lot like being . . . thirteen. I’d expected him to say seventeen. We anticipate the wisdom which reminds of that we’ve actually only aged another day, not the year children picture passing in the time from midnight till they wake up on their birthday. The disappointment and bewilderment was palpable as the seventeen years olds grappled with the loss of the magical transition they’d anticipated.
My surprise turned to wonder and joy. “He gets it.” I love when they (teenagers) get it, when they get anything. But that was when I was 29. And now I revisit the wisdom to share that 41 is a lot like thirteen too. And I’m a little disappointed and bewildered at the lack of the mysterious transformation I’d been looking forward to.
We gain guru status slowly, haltingly, and sometimes we lose our followers. It’s pretty difficult to be wise enough that everything we say sounds profound all the time. And if the wisdom we spout is tinged with disillusionment, well I don’t blame them for going—it’s a bummer.
But I remember wise people who’ve participated in my life. I have my favorites depending on my moods and my circumstances. I reflect on what they’ve taught me. Once in a while. Today I’ll think of them more and appreciate thinking of them more. I’ve had wisdom shared in my life. Praise the Lord for the good people he’s sent to fascinate me and to impart a bit of what they’ve learned.
When it’s my turn to share a bit with someone, will I have it ready? Will I be in the right place in my mind to dispense the nugget they’ll remember? Or will I be worrying about the way the seam in my sock is rubbing against my toes?
I have a deep dark secret.
My two youngest kids sleep with me. Now, I love sleeping with a newborn baby. Is there anything more luxurious than to cuddle up to that soft warmth and that clean baby smell? Listening to their quick steady breath simultaneously relaxes and revitalizes. There is just nothing better.
But. Yes here is the but. Things get problematic as this bundle of joy grows into a cyclone of tossing arms and legs and demands for midnight drinks. And I wake up immobilized in a sweatbox of my own making. DD5 sneaks in every night. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait till I’m in bed. And DS2 has slept with me since he was born. And I still might not mind, but Darling Baby is due in May, and I need space, mobility, and air circulation. I need to make a change.
I’m also hoping that DS2 already having his own bed will lessen any resentment he might feel. So we’ve started rearranging sleeping situations. And tonight is night one of operation Empty My Bed Before the New Baby Comes. So far, as you can see from the picture, so good.
I’m cautiously optimistic. DD8 and DD5 are crashed downstairs in the “girls’ room.” I’m not taking wagers on them making it through the night. But sometimes we moms have to take the win that we get. I’m off now to celebrate my roomy bed with some much-needed sleep. Good night.
Our little local museum has a fun “please touch” table. That and the caboose are always highlights.
Sometimes I don’t do things I should. Now that I’m an adult I report to myself quite a bit of the time. This makes it easy to slack off. So what’s a woman to do when she’d like get back on track? Stand by for truly profound and life-altering advice:
Do a little bit.
I know. It’s astonishing. But it really can be that simple if you let it.
I have fallen into a trap of indecision paralysis. You might be familiar, you can’t quite decide what would be best so you do nothing. I’m also prone to over-whelmed paralysis: where a task seems so daunting that I plain flat don’t start it.
And once you procrastinate something, it becomes a big, fat, hairy deal. But the opposite is also true. Take your first bite out of the task before and you’ll likely discover it wasn’t as bad as you’d told yourself on the sleepless, worried nights.
Take our family for example: We’ve got the homeschool year underway, I’ve done some of the “get ready for winter” list, mostly wardrobe related, and I am sort of semi-prepared for this month’s pack meeting tomorrow. Yay, me! What was I worried about?
Alright, next time we feel our steps slow with dread, we’ll take heart. Remember (Mary Poppins was it?) “well-begun is half done.” And half-way done is a good start on any project!
My Grandma was a serious cook. She worked on farms and ranches and for a while ran a restaurant. She didn’t cook for fun, but I know she was pleased to see you eat.
This is my proportion version of her biscuits. I multiply them up according to how much flour I think it will take to feed the group I need to feed. (That’s why it’s all easy multiplying.) My Grandma used milk; they always had cows. But I find water easier to come by.
Heat oven to 400F.
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl Baking Powder
1 Tbl sugar
Cut in: 1/2 cube butter (that’s 1/4 cup. And when I say butter, I mean margarine. Use the fat of your choice.)
Mix in 1 3/4 cups water. roll onto floured surface and cut rounds with a glass, a canning ring, or whatever makes you feel like a frontier woman and cuts the size you want.
Place them into a baking pan so that they just touch, and bake till they’re golden on top, maybe 25 minutes. Mm-m. Grandma was famous for her biscuits.
So much to do, so little time. That is often my attitude in general. I used to be a fantastic multi-tasker. I never sat down in front of the TV without papers to proof or my latest crochet project.
But the last year or so I’ve started to appreciate the value of doing just one thing. I think I can credit my children for this change. Let me brainstorm my reasons:
- I am always one second away from catastrophic distraction. Seriously, you never know what might happen next, anything from blood to floods to broken eggs or just the unfounded piercing shrieks that punctuate our day.
- I’m in a half-stupor more than I realized was possible. I worked a lot of overnight “sleeping” shifts throughout college, so I was no stranger to interrupted sleep, but boy-howdy my kids (and hubs, let’s be real) have taken that to a new level, a walking sideways, dreaming of diapers level where I can’t always tell real from imagined come morning.
- Teaching things to kids is hard. You don’t want them doing anything other than what you say when you say it. I find it is a bazillion times easier to work with them if I’m not trying to do ten things, or even two, at once. I can focus, and so can they, sort of. And I won’t find them in their underwear, swim flippers and overcoat wandering into the bathroom with a peanut butter sandwich.
- But mostly I want to grab snatches of joy where I can get them. Never have I had more reason to be happy. I always wanted to be a wife and mom. But now that I’m here and now that there are people whose lives are affected by my whim and fancy, I find that cheer is an elusive butterfly that I just don’t even think to catch and carry with me until after I’ve stormed all over somebodies fun day parade.
I still love the washing machine, because I s long as it is running I am always getting two things done at once. But I’m learning to follow Ecclesiastes “To every thing there is a season, and a time . . .”
Let each activity have its time. The things I get done will be more meaningful and less often burned. Maybe I can learn this lesson while I still have children. Otherwise I’ll have to practice it on the grandkids while their harried mothers follow my frantic, crabby example of motherhood. Ouch.
Did you make big plans for Memorial Day weekend? And did you think about what it is you want your kids to remember?
I am usually good about making a plan for holidays, partly because I think anticipating is half the fun. But also because I think it is important to give a bit of consideration to the family traditions we develop with our children.
All of our holidays seem to have thoughtful and thoughtless options. The thoughtful ones are those that get us thinking outside ourselves. Memorial Day options, for example, could be visiting the grave of a departed loved one or attending one of the many veterans’ memorial events that are held today.
Find out what local observances are available to you are put them on your calendar for next year. Also remember Father’s Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day are all coming up.
How about beefing up our family traditions to give our children a sense of heritage?!