In the living room I hear my mother turn down the bread my husband offers; Nels asks if she’s on a diet. No, she says. Well, kinda. Her tummy – she tells my son – her tummy is real sick.
From the next room I can feel his demeanor change. He asks, “Have you been eating mushrooms?” He has that alert tone I recognize since he was about three. Like, The Cobweb. Like “Kibbleland”. He’s ten years old and so bright, but he’s still my baby.
Because I know what he means about the mushrooms. Sure enough, Nels now tells his grandmother: “There is this one kind of mushroom, if you eat it you feel okay at first. But then you get sick and die. And there’s no antidote.”
“Oh!” my mom says, taken aback. A bit impressed, really.
I’ve been so tired lately it’s like something’s wrong. Maybe more rest? Maybe more walks? I think of red meat, I think of fresh fruit. I think of Cher in the film Moonstruck, fixing a steak: “You’ll eat it bloody to feed your blood.”
I spent our Christmas money – I spent it on food for the family, and I “spent” it in the form of a loan to a friend who had to move. I don’t regret either, although sometimes I think I am not practical. I’d offered a loan back in the summer when she was imminently homeless and I had a little bit of savings.
But since the money is gone, I am oddly at peace. Mostly. Some moments, my mind chews on things. The seals in my car are gone and it makes the car wet, cold, and truth be told a bit unsafe to drive. My daughter needs cloth menstrual pads and new bras. There is something about puberty, it’s like leaving home with your baby and finding you are without coat or shoes, it doesn’t feel decent not to immediately provide – and provide as best as one can.
I need to fix my cracked tooth (going on two years – ha!). My husband needs jeans, and I’d like to get him a new wool coat (the green one he has, I bought it for him before we had children together). These little things, it’s my job for them to swim in my awareness, swim away as I rise for the day, wash my dishes, take the dog for a walk. Feel a profound gratitude for all the good things we have, not least of which are these children. They are my heart, they are anything that was ever good about me.
My children, I know, will have a wonderful Christmas. I sometimes get sentimental like most parents: wish I could be lavish and ridiculous and buy them something incredible. It’s okay to think on this a bit, because again the thought floats off and I’m left in the sunshine, in the cold, walking along the bay – I’m left at peace.
And I think to myself how fortunate I am we are satisfied with the life we have. Enough ingratitude, enough envy – and the fattest bank account won’t do the trick. Like Nels’ beloved poisonous mushroom, there is no antidote.