you and whose army?

I am a dismantler. This afternoon Nels brings home all the odds and ends from his year at preschool including an autograph book, an academic workbook compilation, he and Sophie’s pottery work, and several pieces of art. In a few minutes I’ve taken his Emergency Pack apart, the snacks returned to the cupboard, the small stuffed animal returned to his home in the kids’ room, the large ziploc bag in the sewing room stuffed with cotton scraps for donation to the local trinkets shop – where I will stop on the bike, on errands this afternoon. Nels’ art is hanging on little clips in our kitchen, the end-of-year picnic notice recycled and the date put on my Google calendar.

A few minutes later at the kitchen table I’m helping the kids learn to operate a toy bow and arrow (Sophie’s choice of toy while visiting the local dollar store) and finishing the final details on two cotton dresses: a bubble dress (self-drafted), and the slip from Folkwear’s intimacies. Within a few minutes after setting the garments to washing and air-drying I am dusting and sweeping my sewing room, moving on to the next project (finishing corset #2 – my grommets arrived via mail yesterday).

Tonight I’ve organized a small craft event at the local deli; a series of modest art projects for our community’s children. The last day I’ve been assembling a few crafts revolving around the natural world: clouds, leaves, flowers. The supplies sit in a basket waiting to be loaded on the bike. Sophie’s swim team gear hangs in a duffel bag on the porch, where she knows she can grab it as she runs out the door.

I have to make something clear – I do not really get a high from operating an efficent house, if that’s what it sometimes sounds like. It’s much more like I can’t stand to let our busy life spill into chaos. And sometimes, weirdly, all my tidying and cleaning leaves me to feeling like I have nothing in my hands, get nothing done; our house often looks to me almost bare, despite the fact there is a very active family living here. The rooms are full of music and laughter, or bath water running and arguments; only the most recent artwork, no messy history except maybe two days worth of cat hair clumps. No history, no cumulative work. I don’t find clutter comforting and I don’t find myself attached much to any given house or piece of furniture.

What do I find joyful? Yesterday, in the car, rolling back the sunroof as the music came on and the sun spilled over the bare shoulders of my daughter, tall and willowy and strong. Today, apologizing to her and having her accept me, her body close as I leaned down for a kiss and smelled her hair, her body, one of the most delicious experiences I have to me. Flipping through my son’s yearbook and seeing, “What Makes Me Smile?” and his response: “Good Food.” Today upon showing him remedial archery principles; on the first try he sent an arrow flying across the kitchen, and looked up at me, eyes wide and his little body jerking in shock at his unexpected success. My husband and his small but many kindnesses, turning the bed down and pouring me a glass of wine, every single day he asks me how my day has been.

This evening is also the Relay For Life, a very popular event in these parts (I believe Hoquiam’s relay ranks in the nation’s top ten per capita “earnings”). Last year my parents walked the first lap together: this lap reserved for those who’ve had cancer and lived to tell about it. I’ve never given much of a damn for a defiance with regard to the personalization of the disease, “Cancer Sucks”, etc. etc. It’s almost as if I’m too tired and heartbroken to make an imaginary person, a foe, of something that is just another version of death. The more I think about the Relay the less I want to go. Instead: crawl into bed tonight and wake early for a train trip with my children and my mother.

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