The build up of cooking and cleaning and entertaining and wrapping now rests firmly behind me. With anything in life, this leaves a strange twist of bitter sweetness and relief. The pace was so rapid I tried desperately to be in the moment, but life pushes us ever forward, with not much time to grab and savor and ponder.
The bad highlights:
After steam cleaning my carpets and furniture, Thursday morning I served my little one breakfast in front of the television to grab a few moments of computer work before settling in for the rush of the day. When I emerged, a strange scent lingered in the air. A familiar smell that made my heart stop. He greeted me with a dark purple smear on his pajamas and a gleam in his eye. “Joshie, what did you do?” I asked gently. “What is on your pants?”
“I don’t know.”
The three words that haunt me as a mother. I. DON’T. KNOW. The eternal answer to every question ever posed. I DON’T KNOW.
I looked at my crème colored oversized chair. It was smeared with dark purple splotches. Not Crayola marker that my magic eraser would remove. Oh, no.
It was nail polish.
The most dreaded thing on earth to remove off of anything.
Thank goodness, the shock was so deep and intense I could not kill my child. I just stared at him staring at me while he waited for my reaction. “Why did you do this?” I asked.
“I DON’T KNOW.”
The chair is ruined and now needs a slipcover. I won’t bore you with the variety of cleansers and calls I made. The moment is over and we all survived intact. Except the chair, of course.
Church on Christmas Eve. Wrangling my two boys into suits and knowing we will sit there for about an hour and a half with no room to move and needing to be quiet. Up front in row 6, between readings a hush falls over the church. My little one bursts out in a very high pitched voice, “Mommy, I HATE church! It’s so boring. I want to go home and open presents.”
A giggle here and there. A humph here and there. My heart sinking as the whole church realized I have failed showing my child the true meaning of Christmas, because all he still cared about was presents instead of baby Jesus.
In the car after church. Talking about God. Church brings out questions, questions I am usually able to answer, and sometimes don’t have a clue. My older one is questioning where God lives, and what he exactly does, and I am handling it and feeling quite proud of myself. Then he says he doesn’t want to ask God for anything anymore. I ask him why. He tells me every time he asks God to put a baby girl in my belly he doesn’t get what he wants. So, if God never answers him, why should he keep talking to him?
My husband and I looked at each other in the darkened car and quietly prayed God would NOT answer my older son’s prayers. Because I am SO done. Then I tried to explain we pray but don’t’ get what we want sometimes, and a few minutes into that conversation he got bored and just told me he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. My moment of pride dissolved and I realized I still didn’t know what I was doing as a mother.
Those were the highlights of a rapid succession of events. The rest was a whirlwind of family and friends, wrapping paper and torn boxes, instruction manuals and desserts and lots of wine. The screeches of my children on Christmas morning and the twinkling lights on the tree late on Christmas Eve. My new Kindle attached to my right hand as I echoed my children’s excitement and surfed the Kindle store for more books to download. Cozy new pjs and brand new furry slippers. Finding the snow shovel and spending two entire days trying to dig out.
But, in between, there are moments of clarity and inner silence. I found mine this morning shoveling the excess in the driveway, listening to Joanie Mitchell on my Ipod sing about broken dreams. The world covered in white, the gentle icy breeze against my cheeks, the singular moment of clarity of the beauty and stillness of the actual moment. You know it when you find it.
It comes with motherhood when you go to tuck your boys into bed and find they have made their bed in their brand new Toy Story 3 Fort. Their feet stick out, they hold flashlights in their hand and giggle in the dark with their Spiderman blanket and pillows, cozy and warm and exited about a new adventure. And the moment just hits you.
As a writer, in the midst of carving out a story, when the characters suddenly come alive and speak to you, and suddenly, you know who they are and why they entered your head and their story must be told. In that moment, it is pure magic and the rest fades away.
On a quiet driveway in the early morning shoveling snow, sometimes you just reach it.
I wish all of us more of these moments in the new year.