Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Dickens' Debate

Her 5th birthday started with all of us laying in my bed.

This is how pretty much every day starts at the moment.

After many years of grappling with A Tale of Two Cities, I was determined to finish the last thirty pages before I committed my mind and body to any of the heavy duties of the day - like feeding everyone breakfast.

Jonah asked me to read aloud. His request came in the most critical, emotional, purposeful pages of the book. I read with tears barely held at bay. I gave voice to Sydney Carton as the unlikely Christ figure. We rode with the tumbrils through Paris to meet Madame La Guillotine. We followed the clicking, knitting Defarge en route to an unexpected encounter with Miss Pross. We were jostled in the heart thumping carriage of the little party desperate to abandon la vie francaise. Jonah held on to every word - enraptured. Caroline said, "When can I open my presents?"



Oh yeah. . . it's her birthday.

"Caroline," Jonah retorted with frustration, "we have to find out what happens."
"But I want to open my presents from Granny."
"Ugh," he replies, "if only you understood the glory of books."
"I know the glory of books," Caroline demands.
"No, I mean like, figuring out something new, and . . . the magical way the author tells the story."
"Well, I just want to open my presents."

And it is her birthday, so Dickens will have to wait another ten minutes to render the conclusion of his tale that has taken me nearly fifteen years to read.

We open presents.
We play.
We finally come to that famous sentence:
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
How did he do it - Dickens that is - The first and last sentence of this book are arguably the most famous in English literature - except for maybe a few of Shakespeare's.
We eat pancakes per birthday request.

The culmination of our birthday celebration came in the evening when I used Caroline's new curling iron to put curls in her hair, dress in her fanciest dress, take a picture in the front garden, and dine at the Olive Garden - a very rare outing for our family.

Books are good. A Tale of Two Cities might be one of the best. But someday Jonah will also know the glory of children - his own - a little girl turning five. Even Dickens would have yielded to that glory.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Retire to thy bed early..." - but probably not all day.

Twelve hours in my bed did a good deal towards reducing the permanent, pregnant swelling in my feet.

Last night I laid down at 8pm with the thought that I needed just a few moments to gather my strength before getting three children into their own beds. Sometime in the dark of night, I awoke with my husband asleep beside me and all three of those children in their beds, asleep, without my having contributed to the effort in any way.

While I showered this morning Matt asked what my plans were for the day. "To lay in bed as long as I can" I answered (in slight jest). I really liked the idea that if I stayed in bed the next two days I might be able to wear shoes to church on Sunday. But that wasn't really my plan. My plan is almost always to clean the house. My plan is waylaid nearly every day. Plus taking a shower these days requires nearly an hour of recumbent recovery, so I did, in fact, end up on the bed for some time afterward.

Caroline poured cereal and milk for herself in the dining room, but came to me so she could pray before eating. She was ok to eat by herself, but not pray by herself. She prays consistently for me that I will not have "a heartburn", like she prays for Tickle Grandpa not to have "a heart attack." I wonder how the two are related in her mind and figure I had better help her understand that there is actually no correlation at all nor is there any danger of imminent death for me.

She asked in her blessing on the cereal growing soft and unpalatable in the other room, that "the Bishop will get lots of tithing so he can buy lots of Books of Mormon and so he can give money to people who need it." I amen this prayer earnestly. There are so many things the Bishop does that I am both grateful for, and grateful I do not have to do. Not that I would mind giving people money, but exercising the wisdom and confidently gaining inspiration as to who should receive the money and how much holds no allure for me.

While I sat in bed - still recovering from the shower - Jonah and Caroline decided to pretend they were attending to me in a kind of salon for pregnant, suffering women. They each took a foot to treat with pumice stone and lotion, then rubbed my legs with a dazzlingly satisfying cream called "Lucky Legs" that Chani bought for me at Pea in a Pod, said to relieve the discomfort of swollen legs. It is minty and cool and an hour later my legs still feel better.

Finally, approaching noon, the kids ask if they can wake Cecily up so they can play restaurant with the play-kitchen in her room. I figure noon is a decent hour at which to waken the child that seems to be able and willing to sleep any length of time if left to herself.

We are all up now - no one left wasting away the day in bed. We'll see how close we come to a clean house today, the possibility of making something for dinner, keeping the kids busy, moving the sprinkler as Matt has asked.

Clean house...
Swollen feet...

It's a good life whatever the close of this day brings.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Your Mark Is Permanent

There are signs of my mother everywhere.

The last load of laundry that she put through my washer and dryer, still waiting to be folded.
The last two pieces of cheesecake and raspberry sauce in my refrigerator that she made for me on my birthday.
The scraps of towel she tore apart and used to clean my hardwood floor - that had not been truly cleaned in the six years we have lived in this house.
The towel she brought me to replace the one she tore up which happened to be a bit raggedy but still one of my favorites. The one she brought is my new favorite.
The new pillows she bought for me that support my aching, pregnant body each night and carry me through to a new morning - one day closer to the end of pregnant.
The towels put away in my cabinet that are folded differently than I fold them, but would not be folded at all had she not done it.
The lack of grass choking out my daisies.
The morning glories thriving in the pots on my front porch - growing from seeds she harvested off the dried up vines from last year and planted with the kids.
All the clean clothes left in my children's drawers.

And the empty space she left on the couch . . .in my kitchen. . .my laundry room. . .my garden. . .my inner sense of well being.

Luckily she leaves other signs - the kind that won't fade.

Like homemade macaroni and cheese with red sauce served at our table regularly.
Magenta bottles of pomegranate magic. . .or jelly, whichever you prefer.
Thursday taco night.
Little Cecily saying "Nana, Nana, where Nana, Mama?"
Instilling the confidence in me to keep trying to be a mother.
Organizing my medicine drawer.
Airborne when we feel the slightest itch in the throat.
Stevia for morning oats.
The nightgown she gave me out of her own suitcase after Caroline was born that I wear all the time while I am pregnant and nursing.
Her genes made manifest in my mirrors and my daughters.
#7 on my cell phone speed dial.

My Mom is in New York.
My Mom moved to New York.
She is in my sister's home now.
I know what kinds of things they do together - work - and some play - and make sure to take a nap every day.
Goodbye Mom.

It's alright. The next best thing to doing my laundry is doing Aubrey's. The Hannigs are lucky to have you, even if you don't do any laundry at all. And Heaven knows they've waited long enough to have Nana on that side of the country.

Until September 14th.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Mom Sorry"

I yelled at Caroline the other day - Caroline and Jonah. The kind of yell that is borne of my own exhaustion and unrelated frustrations, but comes out as though they have betrayed the very heart of me by . . . playing in the dirt.

The wrong dirt, at the wrong time. I usually don't mind my kids jumping into outside dirty. I had better let them do something, since everything with an electric cord, or batteries makes me get all impatient and irritated. But this was right by the newly planted tomatoes, and fit snugly in the twenty minutes after bath and before bed. So I am the backyard banshee, demanding obedience and some kind of retribution from a four and seven year old. I corral muddy little bodies into the house, pushing them with undo force.

Our back door opens into the house at the top of the stairs to the basement. We have trained ourselves to open gently and slow should there ever be a child at the top of those stairs. A child at the top of those stairs would be bumped right down to the bottom by a door flung open in anger. So when I flung open the door in anger it caught the moment that the baby was making her way through that little square of floor from stairs to kitchen. It also caught the side of her head. I waited for a split second envisioning her tiny body tumbling down too many stairs to the floor that had at least been recently carpeted, instead of the welcome block of hard tile that used to catch my kids when they fell down the stairs.

Instead she screamed and clung to the wall. Anger rushed out of me, replaced by a flood of shame. I left the muddy children, scooped up the crying baby, and locked myself in my bedroom to hide from my own parenting. Cecily and I cried together. Her head was fine. She wiped my tears saying "Mama crying?" Matt eventually came in to sit quietly with me, never chastising me for my ill behavior. Natural consequences worked well enough in this case.

After enough time had passed to make me feel almost ready to go apologize to the rest of my family there was a timid knock on my bedroom door. Caroline came in - no signs of mud and clad in pajamas - to offer her own silent apology.

She explained that she is the little girl in the picture and "The tears are me crying because I made a wrong choice."

I told her I made a wrong choice too, and I'm old, and it still made me cry.