Sunday, November 6, 2011
Mike and I took stock in the car this morning on to way to and from church, in between unrelated observations from the backseat. Family life: it's challenging. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. He has so much work. I take on too much, and, as longtime readers may already know, want a lot of incompatible things.
It was sobering, as confronting the limits of time, money, and good humor only can be. A new pair of fancy shoes, a new job, a private school and a new baby simple do not line up, not in this universe nor any other, no matter the contortionist fantasies I concoct in quieter moments (an unknown rich relative will die, leaving us a small fortune; a high powered literary agent will stumble upon Homemade Time and beg me to sign a book deal, leaving me free to write, start a community-oriented bilingual nonprofit, and have one, or six, more babies; an unknown well-resourced nonprofit down the street will come knocking, offering me a lucrative part-time social work job; etc.)
But dearie me, I am a grown up now and should know better! This life has its limits, and in truth that's a good thing. All the better to appreciate and be creative within the context we are given, which in my case is a wealth of blessings. The whole sober gray cloud lifted and scudded away before too long. Here is what happened:
The day was gorgeous. The yellow paw paw tree glowed in the sunlight, standing sentry as we played nearby. Gabriel took a nap, Mike went to the gym, Frances composed poetry on the computer, and I washed the windows that face onto the backyard.
The pleasure I take in cleaning the windows is admittedly weird and certainly unexpected from this lackadaisical housekeeper. But I do love to wear myself out every few months with newspaper and vinegar, rubbing circles til the smudges disappear and the sun shines unimpeded into the house once again. Outside, I removed the screens and spiderwebs and scrubbed away at the big picture window that looks into the living room. The sight of our home from the outside caught me unawares.
There was the table strewn with newspapers and children's books, my clogs on the rug, the sweater I'd been trying to fix on the couch, the multitude of jackets and bags hanging on hooks by the front door. As I cleaned, Mike came back and settled into the couch with a section of the paper. There he was, my husband, in a blue sweater and glasses.
It was like the experience of seeing an intimate at a party, on the street, or some other unexpected place: for a split second, you see them as any stranger might. Oh my goodness, you think, that's what my parent/spouse/child looks like! You see them afresh: their self-possession or humor or beauty or gravitas just about blows you away, and you are flooded with gratitude because this strange alluring person is yours.
The portrait of the family I saw within was, dare I say it, a tiny bit beautiful. Messy, funny, bookish, scrappy. Why, I thought, I would like to go inside and know those people. And then I realized that I did know them, and they were mine, and I was theirs. I wanted to laugh. But instead I just scrubbed away a little harder at the reflection of the golden trees superimposed on my husband's beloved face, still on the other side of the glass.
These brilliant autumn days make it hard to hang onto what we're missing for too long. Dear readers, I hope you're beginning this new week with a sense of plenty, too.