Monday, February 7, 2011

A memory and a message

A year ago we were stuck cold, and holding our breaths. I was 40 weeks and two days pregnant and there were several feet of snow on the ground and the state of Maryland was shut down and we were in a house that was 41 degrees, without power.

We waited. With my maternity leave already begun, and the girls' daycare and the lovely husband's work closed due to the back-to-back blizzards, we spent the whole week in the familiar company of our family of four. I think nobody afar believed me, but I was calm, waiting (this is one of my very favorite pictures ever).

I got an extra week of nothing-to-do time. There was nowhere we could go and nothing we could do, so I got a week of playing in the snow with my girls (okay, I lied, these are my very favorite pictures). G's late arrival, against the backdrop of freak snowstorms and endless play time, was an unusual but wonderful gift.

You know how this story ends, of course. Third babies aren't supposed to be eight days late but he came when he was ready, in about as easy a labor-and-birth as a mama could request. (Obviously, these pictures are my favorites, too).

If it wasn't for the unprecedented snow, G's late arrival would have been much ado about nothing. He'll be one on Sunday, and I find my mind is living in this week a year ago, deliberately calm, waiting, waiting.

And then, he was here. This past year was like nothing I could have imagined. If we were a TV sitcom, we jumped the shark. We used to be your average busy two-career family. But now, we're the breath of chaos. We care for the children, of course. It's just everything else. In this past year, I've forgotten to RSVP. I've bought gifts on time but delivered them months late (see: our family's Chanukah gifts still sitting on top of the china cabinet). I've complained about not being told a teacher was taking vacation only to be informed that it was posted in the newsletter -- the newsletter still on the seat of my car between cheerios dust, glitter projects and a lonely mitten -- the newsletter I never had time to read, the newsletter I had forgotten existed.

It will be easier as the kids get older, and in the past few weeks we've seen glimmers of that. E can be self-sufficient when pressed. L can be tantrum-free when the stars align and she's sufficiently fed. And G won't always be in our arms. I hesitate to say it, but we might be just past the apex of nutso, and settling into a downswing of ordinary full-throttle. There's hope.

One thing that has helped is that after five years of holding on to baby things, some of the large pieces are leaving the house forever. I've given away the swing, the bouncy seat, so many clothes and receiving blankets and bracelet rattles. I'm about to give away the bath seat and the exersaucer and more clothing. It feels good to clear out, to, in a literal sense, make way for the next phase (aforenamed full-throttle).

I went to a funeral on Saturday for a coworker who died unexpectedly. It was a funeral unlike any I'd ever attended before. In an African-American church, the wake was a dance party and the service was a joyous celebration. There was a full band and a sound system and we danced, we clapped. It was my first experience pausing before an open casket and it was my first experience dancing at a funeral. It was -- and I know this sounds discordant -- a really uplifting morning.

We were in the sanctuary for two hours of singing and prayer but there is one sentence that struck me and has left me unsettled, as much as the unsettled feeling of living this week in last year's past.

In part of her eulogy, the pastor broke from her stories about my coworker's life to pray for the congregation before her. In that passage she said,

"May God provoke you to live harder."

"Provoke?" In any given moment, the girls are arguing over who gets the favorite spot on the couch (so identified by the dull absence of cushion-y-ness, the reach-out-and-touch-it green marker decoration, and various stain and drool marks forming a halo around The Spot), while G vies for their attention by slapping their knees with his drooly, gummed fistful of bagel. Do I need more instigating to happen around me?

But I just keep thinking about where in my life I can be provoked.

And "live harder." Because we have given everything to safe passage through the first year of three-kids-having, but it's time to move past the concentration required for the juggling act. It's time to figure out how much we can do in those blurry pockets of space between, when all three balls are successfully spinning in the air. There is more, even if my laundry pile protests otherwise.

Thinking about that is alternately exhilarating, or terrifying, or fills me with a deep, concentrated calm. Not unlike this week last year. I think we're ready. Pin It