Beeps and I are about to cross from Hoquiam to Aberdeen when we hear a strange beeping. We slow up on pedaling and coast; moments later a tall, silver-bearded white man slowly crosses a block ahead of us on a segway. Slowwllly he crosses as his siren sententiously announces his passage.
A beat, and then I say to my oldest: “Being on the bike, you are thrown into humanity a bit more,” and halfway through the sentence they are nodding already. We’ve come across a rude cashier, teens cutting eyes at us as they walk home from school, and two young men who pulled over and asked us to buy them beer. And then there’s the distraction of people just doing their thing: mowing lawns or taking out the glass bottles. These few days on the bikes have been incredible for my mood; the sunny days are ecstatic, and the rain and the cold – well, those days I’m glad to get home to the heat and my pantry and my kettle.
My grandmother would be proud of me. I made this lovely maxi dress on her old Singer 15-91 and I love to think of honoring her every time I sew in that machine. But I also like to think she’d be proud of the brass-bottomed bitch I am today! The fabric is from @stylemakerfabrics and I recommend them unreservedly. This frock is for my friend @abicree – a gift I will be mailing to her. And may she wear it well! Sinclair vegan boots by @nicorashoes; third generation female shoemaker. #sewing #vegantailor #dressmaking #bespoke #bespokehogaboom #customclothing #vegan
I finished two dresses today, and washed and dried a gorgeous two-tone linen for a pair of trousers. My stockpile of fabrics for upcoming projects is, incredibly, slowly dwindling. Another great thing about the bike is it forces me to stop working, and to an extent stop thinking about work. I’ll take what I can get!
When I leave yoga class I pop on the phone and see a series of messages. “Mom… MOM… Mom it’s urgent please come pick me up… MOM help”. I know my son is smart enough to get professional assistance in case of emergency, but.
(Nels has always had panache when reporting traumatic events. A few weeks ago while tucking into some ramen I got a call: “Mom. I just fell off a cliff. I’m covered in cuts and bruises. … well. You can’t see them, though.”)
Home and Nels shakes his head at me, silently. For some reason he doesn’t want me to tell his father what the emergency was: some older high school boys, threatening Nels and his friends, and using horrible language. Nels wants to know if people can tell he’s different, because he’s homeschooled. Based on the homophobic and misogynistic slurs these boys were using, I can confidently tell my son he wasn’t targeted by any fault of his own.
It’s gorgeous out. Hot. My mother-in-law sent us artichokes; those have to go from their pots to the garden soon. My hosta is looking wonderful; a new hydrangea has popped up in the back corner. The mint plant is looking well, and my succulents need transport and cutting. Last year’s strawberries are looking spry, and the pumpkin bed is ready for this year’s crop – potatoes. I picked up two bales of sweetgrass today, to seed them. Phoenix and I backed down my way-too-narrow driveway today, and pulled the bales out for readiness. That’s about as butch as I get around these parts.
We’ve been down to one car for almost seven months. Today we limped the other to the shop. The fellow there grimaced and waved his hands, preparing us for the worst. Well. Our surviving car needs quite a bit of work, at that. I’m down in that studio stitching and cutting and ironing and getting things out the door, and getting paid. Supporting teenagers and all that: today Nels tells me: “I can’t *believe* how hungry I am!” as he steps into the living room with a sandwich, piping bowl of soup, and cut-up fruit.
A candle, incense, a hot shower. Night falls once again, in our warm and safe home.
This last week my son took care of kittens at a friend’s, while the family was on vacation. Tonight was his last night “on duty”, so the four of us travelled up the hill to help – I, to play with the kittens while my son cleaned their litter boxes. My daughter drove the BMW with Ralph as passenger; Nels and I walked so Hutch could get a walk too.
It’s a steep trip, and for me a slow one. The summer night air is balmy and gorgeous; I can feel at the edges of my restlessness and know I am working too hard, too much. I am not slowing down to enjoy all that I can. I have dozens of bills – medical bills, veterinary bills, and household bills – and I’m letting these things creep into my mind. They’re my responsibility, true enough, but somehow it’s twisted and they occupy my head.
My children, though, still have the right sense of proportion about things. My daughter picks a cornflower before dinner – she is thrilled when I put it behind my ear, peeking out from beneath my head wrap. At dinner, in the booth of an Italian restaurant, she triumphantly slides in next to me than comes in close and holds my hand, her fingers wrapped around mine. I am often stunned how this little daughter, who was a blonde little thing with beetled-eyebrows and a sharp voice, has turned into this lovely bloom, this slender reed. A strong woman and a gorgeous one; a fierce and compassionate bloom.
At home my sewing studio is well-organized. I am halfway through a project today; I hang up my rulers and click my scissors onto their magnetic storage bar. I open the door to my son’s little computer room. He’s curled up on his chair, gaming. He is eating popcorn from a paper bag and his little bundled body in a too-loose striped shirt fills me with an inexplicable surge of affection. “Get dressed – we’re off to dinner,” I tell him. “‘kay,” he responds, his eyes on the screen, his hand reaching out for me. The kids are always hugging, reaching out for me, holding me, kissing me. My most profound blessings.
Later, on the walk down from our last kitten night – the family returned home while we were there, so we got to exchange warm salutations – I tell my son about tonight’s meteor shower – the Perseids. He is as joyful as if he’s never seen a meteor shower before, smiling and looking up, his hair shining blue-white in the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I think to myself I want to feel the way they feel, I want to see the world the way they do. I want to know I’m as beautiful as they see me. I want to return to that Place they inhabit. As long as they walk beside me I know there’s a chance I can.
A cardboard box filled with kraft paper; I remove gifts, setting them on the counter. Wrapped in tissue: findings from another sea. Teas, candied ginger. A paper-wrapped parcel of fine chocolate. Two bolts of sumptuous flannel fabric – a pea green plaid, a yellow plaid. Set aside and I run my hands over them each; fine robes for Christmas.
A wooden box, masterfully if plainly constructed, with a fire-branded logo. A note. And opening the box: a plastic shark. I recognize it as nearly identical to the one my children used to play with in the bath.
Then when I call my brother – to thank him and his wife, for the package – he laughs about the shark. “Do you recognize it?” I am confused for a moment. He can’t mean my children’s toy, as he never gave them baths and wasn’t there when they were small.
He says, “It’s just like the one I gave you a black eye with!” He is gleeful.
I am thinking, Oh that’s right. A childhood fight – we were still living in the bus, so I was seven years old or younger. I am set back for a moment. I am blinking at the road ahead, the phone on speaker in my lap.
What I say is: “That’s the only black eye I’ve ever had.” But now I’m thinking of a man who beat me. He never gave me a black eye. I think when you’ve been terrorized it can come to you, visit at any time. On a sunny day, in a lighthearted laugh with your brother.
The shark is now installed in my bathroom, hovering above the glass bar lighting fixture. I cooked and cleaned today, instead of leaving it for my children and spouse. I am coming out of a state of living where I was caring for the children, the home. We are moving and growing; I am working more, and the children are learning how to run a home. They are willing participants, and they are strong.
Yesterday they waited at a bus stop and went to the dentist. The children were gloomy; I woke them up and scolded them when they did not do housework quickly enough. We sat in the living room and we talked about the challenges in the household now that I work. The children listened, and ate the simple breakfast I made – creamed wheat, coconut oil, brown sugar. They put the dishes in the sink and I cleaned the kitchen after they left, then moved to the studio to finish my work.
After their appointments, my mother returned them home – food in hand, of course. They quite circumspectly did not eat hot foods for a couple hours, as the hygienist warned them off. Once they were home we piled in the car and off to the beach; meeting with a new friend who was visiting from inland. I realized well into the meeting that I hadn’t taken a break for quite some time.
After a coffee date, we two women and our four children climbed the jetty down to a little partitioned beach. We showed the visiting girls the tidepools: anemone, barnacles, limpets, chitons, starfish – and the little crabs under any rock you overturn. Every size – from a pinhead to a few inches across, and every manner of color: white, blues, greens, deep purples. The anenomes we instructed – you could touch them. Be gentle! They are gentle to you.
I know I live in a beautiful place. I never forget it. But I don’t often see it as it can be seen to visitors. That itself, was quite a blessing.
This morning, a moment after my husband left the bed, I sensed our son climbing in beside me, under our comforter and quilt. He came in close to me and, half asleep, I put my arms around him as I’ve done thousands of times. We held one another close for a while, then we turned away from one another and fell back into our own kingdoms, our own sleep sanctuaries. For all the years we’ve known one another we’ve shared sleep, every night.
I think this is so incredibly special.
My son turns twelve today. I used to think of twelve as the “age of accountability”, the age of reason according to Scriptural sources. Later I discovered there was no such age set-upon in the Bible. But the impression has stayed with me. At twelve I remember coming to believe I was more a citizen of the world. I remember feeling by turns fierce and gentle, elated and despondent. I talked back to my teachers and was reprimanded. Twelve was the age where I began to sense this was bullshit. I also began to experience depression. This is The Way Things Are?
My children are given more freedom than most, at least in this country. I am glad of this. It hasn’t always been easy to live so differently, but it has been the right thing for us. All of this experience is showing, coming to fruition, as they near adulthood. It has helped heal me, as well.
This time last year my son was in his first year of public school – his only, so far. This morning as I stroked his hair – right before or after I took the above picture – I told him, “I’m glad you’re not in school this year.” He asked, “Really?” and I responded, “Yes, because I missed you.” Then thought a beat, and added: “and you seem happier now.” And he said, “Oh, yes.” without hesitation.
It came to me that his choice to stay enrolled for a full year was a fair-minded one on his part. He stuck with it and gave it a shot. He has learned more through that process than I could.
Today as I type this, and my son finishes sleeping, I am doorman to a host of boys in the neighborhood – three, one of them twice. They all want him to play. They want to tell him happy birthday.
Perhaps the most precious thing to me about Nels this last year concerns these boys. When we first moved in, several of them were throwing rocks, catching voles and cutting their heads off, smashing insects. That sort of thing. I felt a reflexive anger at these boys but then tried to soften. After all, it was their fathers who hadn’t been teaching them better.
From the beginning, my son was a model of different behavior. I remember early on in our tenure here, he rounded up a few boys in our backyard raking leaves. As they unearthed humus they came across large soft caterpillars, and the boys began destroying them. Nels intervened, told the boys not to harm them. He made a little hut out of twigs, with a hydrangea roof and a small square of dried moss as a welcome mat. He relocated every grub there and within only minutes the boys did the same.
Several months later these same boys are kinder. One of them today, as I talk to him in the doorway, spies a spider dangling from the doorknob. I tell the boy to relocate the spider to the nearby bush. “Spiders like bushes,” I tell him, and the boy does so, without hesitation. These children have learned our cats’ names and are very tender to them, instead of chasing them or grabbing them.
It occurs to me that children are quicker than adults to want to do better, to leave off old harmful habits. They just need to be shown, with love, another way to do it.
Now my son showers, and watches a bit of Minecraft on YouTube. He makes some breakfast and walks the dog as he waits for the dishes to finish their cycle. I know that after he finishes his morning routine, he’ll be outside all day playing. I know even if I catch him up and apply sunscreen that in a couple weeks he’ll be brown as a nut. This time next year he will be taller than I, if not sooner.
I would cry a little bit and sometime today I expect I will.
Every year I post Nels’ birth story on this date. Several families have told me the story has influenced their birth choices; several women that it was the (beginning) inspiration for their home birth! Thank you to all who read. Much love, to you all.
Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story
Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix] 1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long
April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?
A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.
April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing
My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.
Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.
April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote
Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.
April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!
Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of the child’s head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.
April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born
With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.
April 7th, early morning – getting to know you
I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.
I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.
My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.
My dreams have been restless of late. Two nights ago my husband and I were entertaining suitors, men and women who wanted to carry off and then marry our girlchild. In the dream my daughter was so young she was still Sophia; her fine blonde hair and had that childish fullness in her cheeks. And in the dream Ralph and I had no choice but to find the best stranger for her, in a whirlwind speed-dating scenario. I remember a desperation, a hopelessness, as I interviewed strangers with smiling mouths but who knew what lurked behind. Last night dreams were not so frightful, but were exhausting nevertheless. I held a man’s hand, or rather he held mine. He was old enough to be my father but he only meant it in the friendliest of way. I still felt odd. As with the child-marrying dream, it was I who was out of sync, out of touch with what the world expected. My own secret life. Being different.
Tonight my daughter and I, tonight in real life that is, we take our dog on a long walk, a mile there and back to Canyon Court where our littlest kitty, Herbert Pocket, seemed to have stranded herself on an earlier walk. We have up to three cats at a time go on long walks with us, trailing us silently and racing through dark yards and up birch trees then back down. Earlier today Herbert Pocket had accompanied Phoenix into the small forest, back out – but not all the way back home. This evening, my daughter and I were unsure if we’d find her, or if she’d already made her way back to our neighborhood. I try not to worry, because what good would that do?
Sure enough, at the precise household Phoenix remembered seeing her hours before, our kitty’s sleek little body – black with dainty white mittens and long white “socks” on her back legs – joins us silently, trotting alongside. We’re as thrilled as you can imagine us to be. Tonight’s other walker, Harris – our oldest, age nine, is along for the trip as well. A half mile from home, though, he starts to flop in the road. Figuring he’s tired, I laughingly pick him up. He lets me carry him half a block then, with no apparent tension in his body or display of tooth or claw, a horrible deep growl wells up in his body. Figuring he might be serious, I set him back again on the cool concrete and he continues on with us.
It is cold out; my daughter is in the lovely down coat my sister bought her, for Christmas. And my daughter wears the warm alpaca hat I bought my husband – another Christmas gift, but many Christmases ago.
My body is tired. I’ve been cold all day; drinking a gallon and a half of water, perhaps that is why. Today my paid work was provincial and satisfying; the situation in the department has sorted itself out miles better than when I first started, half a year ago. I am able to do my duties well and not rush through clerical detail. My husband was home with the kids, and he spent the day cooking a curry – sweet potato, peas, and cauliflower fragrant with coconut milk, ginger, and garlic – and painted a table and scrubbed the floor. The kids spent the day playing; Phoenix is on a welcome break from school. She is drawing and playing Minecraft. Nels is doing the same – until the neighborhood boys are released from school, or homework or whatever, and mill around in our driveway waiting for Nels to enrich their play. Then we don’t see Nels again, just glimpses through our windows, until the boys have gone back to their homes.
Spring is feeling good.
My son is tall; his coat from last year, a favorite, reaches the top of his hips and the sleeves end above the wrist. His hair is growing out from a short cut; in the morning, there is invariably a disturbed cowlick on the left side. I’ve taken to calling him “Tufty” and when he comes in close to hug me, he is fast approaching my height.
He calls my mother this evening and – although I can’t hear her end of the conversation – it is obvious she is asking him on a date. Good; as Phoenix will enjoy undisturbed study time. She has a very hefty Biology book – the sucker must weigh several pounds! – and today we discussed isotopes, radioactive decay, covalent and ionic bonds. The material is familiar to me but the last time I studied it was two decades ago! The rhythm of s and p orbitals, however arcane and antiquated in my memory, is nevertheless a familiar one because that long ago, that was my world.
So strange to be discussing quantum physics with my “little” girl.
I enjoy a walk with a mama and her young son; he is happy and scampers about, mindless and with a runny nose. Then he falls and cries; inconsolable. No one can carry him except his mother, who is heavy with another child. Eventually he calms and he carries his little stuffed bear in a blanket; we retire to his home and he shows me how he puts the bear down for a nap. I’m unsure if there is anything more beautiful than listening to a two year old putting together sentences – crude but, if listened to, easily understood.
The day draws colder; now, with my family and another neighborhood moppet in tow, we head for a lunch of hot noodles and then ice cream for the younger children. Home and Phee and I will hit the books; Ralph will eventually make dinner.
And to bed anon.
A good Sunday.
This morning on my walk back up the hill, with my faithful dog at my heels, I am suddenly reminded of my father. He ran long-distance, so several times a week he would set out for a few miles by himself. He had such a distinctive gait that, if I ever saw it again, I would be knocked into stillness at the recognition. A stride I don’t see reflected in my brother or I, my father’s two children, but it’s such an indelible memory it is a part of me nevertheless.
My dad would lift his hand in acknowledgment when a car passed, or perhaps another runner headed the other way. I don’t know how many times I saw this hand motion – hundreds. Thousands? Sometimes I was the driver, or passenger – it’s a small town so I saw my father running many times. Such a familiar sight to me too, this movement on his part, this acknowledgment. He would be deep in his meditative space – that’s what running was for him – and he’d lift his hand, that’s all. But I can see it, and see the cast of his head on the path, and his mind was elsewhere. But even now if I close my eyes and try to remember much more than the flow of the gesture, or the feeling it instills within to remember it – it vanishes.
The dog and I arrive home and two of our cats ask to be let in; a third sits placidly on our kitchen table and calmly moves off when he sees me. (Naughty!). The dog has a quick drink of water and pads over expectantly for my praise, and a scritch between the eyes. I settle his blanket over his bed and somewhere in all this I realize that to support our family – our too-young college student, our spirited son, our dog, our five cats – is quite an accomplishment. It is a labor of love and nothing else. I hadn’t quite seen it that way, seen what a good job we do. Not for any other reason in that there’s always that next step. Today, for instance, we will be replacing the light above the sink. I have bills to pay by phone, on my work break. Two packages to mail out, and a final late Christmas present to wrap. We get to plan the evening meal – a little trickier as Ralph and I have both been ill and unable to eat for the last thirty-six hours.
The dog now sleeps on his bed – he is chasing and barking at something in his sleep. All the funnier as he does not bark when awake. I suppose a big part of our life, Ralph and I, is delivering safe dreams to more than few sentient creatures.
My new part-time work involves clerical duties and data validation for a local official concern. It is important work, which makes it rather meaningful. It is also skilled labor, although the pay scale is low, which keeps me humble. And grateful. It’s very much “civic/citizen” work, and very soothing. Working it fulltime would absolutely wreck me, but that’s not what I’m doing, so I’m okay.
It is nice to have time on that is not really my own, bits of my life I have slotted away for someone else – no more nor less than a certain precise amount. Today, for lunch, I walked down a sunlit hill to find a good cup of coffee at the quaint little shop on the corner of our county seat’s modest thoroughfare. I’m so used to my little patch of the world I sometimes forget how lovely it really is – and how remote it would seem to those who live in urban areas. Lifting my eyes off the modest street, I see green, forested hills snugging us in. A blue sky booming with cumulus clouds almost too majestic to seem real. The air has an autumn chill but the sun is still cheerfully hot, and warms my cheap work-casual wardrobe.
The coffee shop fellow is friendly and asks, “What’s on the agenda for today?” I am so unused to being asked this by strangers, it takes me a moment to grind into the routine of friendly chit-chat. I tell him: “After work, I’m taking care of the family. Then yoga and a date with friends.” He tells me he’s off to work on the brakes of his car. Truth is, most times, I’d rather hear about someone else’s plans than talk about my own. But even so I’m thinking – I’m terrible at this, at asking people about their day. Maybe I’ve got some learning to do, about connecting to people in a real way.
At the end of workday I file the last bit of bureaucratic ephemera, check the desk for tidiness, log off the computer – then swing my bag across my shoulder and bid adieu to my new officemates. Home and my car has a “CHECK ENGINE” light on. Radiator, still cracked. Brake linings need to be seen to. At week’s end I will owe a phenomenal amount of tuition for my daughter’s new educational ventures.
It’s a damn good thing I know better than to worry – about anything.
Because right now, I have to get home. Feed my family. Ask my kids about the first part of their day. Try to rest.
It’s been a busy few weeks.