just to peel the potatoes

Bob is standing behind me, he sits and stands during the fireworks display here along the river, long hair and beard and biker leather jacket and riding chaps. Behind him Dana and Steve and then next to me Robin like a flower, a large blooming iris, sedate but wry good humor, here on my blanket. She’s beautiful, but shy about me taking a picture. What’s funny is our little group has accidentally situated ourselves under a speaker playing music – loudly – and there is such a crush of people in attendance there’s no point much in moving ourselves. This speaker plays a relentless series of increasingly patriotic tripe, including a country song about a three-day beard and cooking rice in the microwave and how awesome that is (what?), and then I think it’s Beyonce showboating “God Bless the USA”. Chris joins us on the blankets a bit later and hums or sings along the music, to much consternation from some members of the group, but upon the Armed Services Medley I know all the words to “Wild Blue Yonder” and “Anchors Aweigh” and such back from Veterens’ Day performances in choir. Then there’s Neil Diamond belting out “Coming to America” which inspires a vague wave of simultaneous nostalgia and nausea. “Jesus CHRIST,” groans Robin under her breath. And I laugh each comment she makes.

When the fireworks slam up ahead I feel increasingly astounded and it has nothing to do with the crowds or pyrotechnics or the friends or the hot coffee in my hand or the cold grass beneath my seat. I feel the presence of God, or Divine Chance, or whatever or whomever you might name unless you’d maintain none of that is real, but for me God is pressing down on me like squashing an ant, for the first time ever, in a way that surpasses experiences of pleasure or pain and carries not even a strong emotional response. How is it I am alive? is all that occurs to me. BOOM BOOM BOOM thunders in the sky and in my body. How is it I’m here to be this way, sober now some time and of a clean (enough) mind and on a blanket with friends and I’m given breath to draw. Normally I’d be heckling and hassling or running up to be with Ralph and the kids (who are scattered off at the playground with other kids and teens) but instead I stay on the blanket like I was assigned there and this particular duty was of utmost importance.

The fireworks finale is even more beautiful than the year before, or perhaps it’s just my state of mind and body and spirit, then people clap and I fold blankets and I hug my friends and wait for my family to join me. “Blood Moon,” the kids tell me when they arrive and I look and perceive the deep-red sliver they’re pointing to. Walking to the car and the air is cold but ripe with possibility and promise, and people run off to fight or drink or fuck (or all three) or maybe just slip into a hot bath and then to bed (as I long to do).

It was a good day.

scattered leaves

My mother brought us over two stuffed chairs for our living room for some indeterminate amount of time. She needed more space in her cluttered living room. The cats, of course, took to the new furniture as if it had been gifted just to them. Wrestling, grooming, play-fighting for a time and laying tangled in one another’s legs with slack jaws fastened on necks, lazy.

It was one of these chairs I sat in at a few hours ago and watched my kids play and wrestle and hug and kiss – much like our kittens, come to think of it. The kids were waiting for Ralph to take them to their destinations tonight (separate sleepovers). My babies are growing … so fast. Nels stands tall and slim, belying the little tot he still is in my mind at times; he’s grown right into the coat I made him ten months ago that I smugly thought would fit properly next winter. He is thinner than ever, no longer my roly poly breastfed baby, and the feelings this brings on are deep and sad and scary but also incredible, awesome, joyous.  My daughter is older-looking even still; regal and sophisticated in comportment and vocabulary, then suddenly silly and clowning like now with her brother. She rarely allows me to clip her nails or brush her teeth or clean her ears or even wash her hair, preferring to do it all herself. Tonight she is packed for an overnight stay with her friend M. – M. is eleven, older, like most of Phoenix’s close friends, and Phoenix fits in well with these preteens even though she’s only eight. From what I tell they get up to a lot of drawing and singing and bike rides out to the beach and fort-building and Justin Beiber (yeah, I said it).

Watching my two children, now, and thinking of them out the door in just a few minutes I feel a dull depression. Sometimes I think my kids don’t “need me” and sometimes I’m not ready to have this be a reality. I still find myself often startled in daily discovering how well the children thrive now we’ve reduced management and interference and increased support and deep, nurturing practices. The children make friends and navigate their social circle, visit the library and check out books, do their own grocery shopping (meaning those important extras like candy, ice cream, and small toys), seek us out when they need love or want to tell us something; they come and go with us as they please so every time we go somewhere together it’s willing on their part (except for the times we make mistakes) and this means they are a pure delight to spend time with. I used to find parenting kind of exhausting and pinched; now I find it the best kind of daily life I’ve ever experienced. I mean shit happens now and then but mostly it’s just daily incredibleness.

Nels originally planned to stay with his grandmother and Ralph and I, with kids out of the house, originally planned to – well. Anyway. Nels came home about 10:30 and I was happy to see him. I don’t get to decide when he’ll want affection and time to cuddle but I appreciate when he does more than I can say.

We do not possess anything in this world, least of all other people. We only imagine that we do. Our friends, our lovers, our spouses, even our children are not ours; they belong only to themselves. Possessive and controlling friendships and relationships can be as harmful as neglect.”

Tonight at dinner Ralph told me he feels like he hit a fork in the road with parenting and marriage a while back and he made a choice, and that he’s never been happier.

I feel the same.