Today they are testing the fire alarms in our building, so I am driving Daughter in the car for her nap. The sunshine lights up the trees in brilliant reds and golds. The road is smooth, turns are effortless. The rear view mirror frames Daughter’s round little face, turned to one side, with her closed eyes and sleepy pout.
I think about the weight of the life that I’m holding in my hands as I drive her around. Her dependence on me feels heavy, but it’s a weight I can handle, one I’m happy to carry. I’m glad to do this for her, and to have this moment of quiet with nothing else to do but watch the smooth lines of the road and glimpse the trees from time to time.
I feel like an accomplished home-maker today. After a week (or maybe, ahem, a little more) of letting the dirt win, I managed to vacuum and clean the stinkiest toilet. I mostly hate cleaning, but I’ve been basking in post-cleaning bliss all day. If life were a movie I would have spent a good thirty seconds twirling, arms outstretched, face to the sky, on my crumb-free floor. They’re such tiny accomplishments: a stinky toilet and a bit of vacuuming, but so incredibly satisfying.
I’ve loved this song for twenty years, but never owned it. I tried to buy the album when it came out, but I bought the wrong one, and since I’d already spent the money, I never let myself buy the one I wanted. I was really into playing the starving artist back then. Today the memory of the song filtered into my consciousness, with a twinge of regret. Then it occurred to me I could just buy it now. A dollar twenty-nine later, the song was finally mine. When I listen to it, I’m twenty, driving with the windows down, walking barefoot in green grass, staying up late to talk about Art and the rest of my life around a fire. It’s good to remember the way I dove into life then, how much I marvelled at and relished it. Listening now, I feel some of that old passion. I think I’ll keep listening.
A day of sunshine, bacon and egg breakfast (made by Husband), and popsicles. We made the popsicles yesterday and Son had to wait until his snack-time today – about 24 whole hours – to finally eat one. He went to bed talking about popsicles, he woke up talking about popsicles, I’m sure he dreamed about them. (I actually did, a consequence of all the recipes I’d been reading.) Son’s Long Wait reminded me how slowly time seems to move when we’re young. (“Is it snack time, now, Mama?”) I felt such sympathy for him – I know today felt like an eternity for him, while it felt like ten minutes for me.
I didn’t actually get to see him take his first bites, I was napping, gloriously with Daughter, but his excitement met me on my way down the stairs, “Look Mama! Popsicles!” His arm waving a mostly empty stick, with a bit of watermelon red still clinging to it. “Want a lick?”
Oh, what joy to be four and eat your first popsicle. Oh what a gift to be a popsicle-bestowing Mama on a hot summer’s day.
Daughter is on the examining table in Dr. K’s tiny office. She is naked except for her diaper, and is lounging like a baby Buddha. She is serene, watching Dr. K. intently. We have just weighed Daughter, and now Doctor K. is checking her hips for flexibility. Her hands are gentle. Finished the check, Dr. K. lets go of Daughter’s legs and says, “what a grace it would be if at the end of life, we could be as relaxed and trusting as we are in the beginning”.
I look at Dr. K., into the sparkling, youthful green eyes that contrast with her long, greying hair. I wonder how she feels about getting older. A lot of her patients are probably closer to the ends of their lives than the beginning. We always need doctors more towards the end. She must see them struggle and fight, as I have seen older family members do. I think about how different it would have been for them if they had been able to go through it as serenely as Daughter. Such serenity at the end of life has never seemed like a possibility. “Getting old is not for sissies”, an uncle once told me.
I think of myself, now in the middle of life and wonder what my walk to the end will look like. I hope I’m able to remember Dr. K.’s bit of wisdom.
I used to hate getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist. I have a couple of sensitive teeth. Any time the hygienist touched them with a poky metal thing, a sharp needle of pain would pierce my jaw. Every cleaning I would lock my jaw and grip the arms of the chair, dreading the moment the hygienist found one of those spots.
One day at work (before Son was born and I still had a job) I was chatting with a colleague who said she loved getting her teeth cleaned because she always thought of it as a “spa for her teeth”. I laughed. That seemed totally crazy to me because the dentist was nothing like a spa. But then I thought about it some more and I could see what she meant. I mean, you get to lie down for about an hour while someone else helps take care of you. And spa treatments aren’t always exactly painless, take waxing, for example. In a spa, though, you don’t focus on the pain, you focus on being cared for and the results; smooth legs that you don’t need to shave for weeks. At the dentist, you get smooth teeth that feel squeaky clean.
Since that chat, I started seeing a cleaning as a “tooth spa”, and it completely changed the experience for me. So much so that the first time I went to the “tooth spa”, I actually thought the hygienist had given me something to numb me, and later found out she hadn’t.
Now, I am sitting in the chair at the “tooth spa”. Son is with Husband and Daughter is with Grandma. I’m away from home, so no tasks are calling me to be done. I have nothing to do while the hygienist preps her things, but stare out the window. The fifth floor office has a beautiful view of the sky. Today the clouds are moody and brooding, but brilliant flashes of blue sky behind them and the green of trees tell me it’s summer. I can see the mountains in the distance, silent witnesses to our busy days, while they wait patiently for eternity. And I look forward to the restful hour I’ll spend in the chair and how smooth my teeth will feel when I’m done.
Son had a hard day at school. His first whole morning there. When he came home, it took two hours to calm his storm.
I wanted to talk to him about his day, to find out what was bothering him, but he wouldn’t talk about it, so I left it alone.
But at night, he is lying in his bed and I am sitting beside him, “Talking About the Day”, as we do every night. And it all spills out. Everything about the day. His fight with the teacher over putting his backpack on his back, and the tantrum that followed. Then the good things, “the singing place is downstairs!”, and “mama, they had, like an egg and you put it in your hand and when you close it, it makes a noise!”.
I can breathe again. Finally, truth. He offers it to me and I hold it gently. When the day’s experiences have been held up to the light, we put them away and start counting sheep.