Yesterday started out just fine. My mother was here and played with the kids while I went to an early morning yoga class. Then we went together to a friend's house who is moving and was looking to give us some old clothes and toys. All good things, right?
But then we bid adieu to Gramma (after the usual drawn out goodbye, during which Frances clings to my mother's legs like a determined barnacle). I remembered that Mike would be working all day, and looked at the piles of laundry and dishes to be done, and suddenly the mood turned south.
Gabriel resisted his nap. Frances declared she was mad at me (for reasons unknown). I started in on the laundry, marching a little too loudly up and down the stairs. Later as we walked Frances to a neighbor's house to play, Gabriel moaned, Why didn't you make me wear my gloves? And Frances said Why won't you let me walk by myself!? And then a minute later, Why aren't you going to stay with me while I play?
Because I'm a bad, bad mother.
And the bright orange nail polish I put on the night before wasn't quite dry when I went to bed and now my garish nails were the texture of fine grit sandpaper. And I left the brownies in the oven too long (tragic). And Frances was devastated by the menu for dinner and in response sang her own very rude lyrics during our Johnny Appleseed grace and had to have a time out. And I really need a new wardrobe. And an iPhone. And a week on the beach. And where did I get all these gray hairs from, anyway?
Everything was unrelentingly bad, bad, bad. Our nightly poem (like nearly all poems, as it turns out), was about love and that old goon, time. It was beautiful, by W.H. Auden. Here are a couple of verses:
'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.
'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
Suffice it to say, in my small, mean way all I could do was let my hair fall like a curtain and cry a bit, listening to Mike read it aloud to the silent, still children, and pretend that I wasn't crying.
At bedtime Frances complained about the way I did our routine and I snapped at her. Then I went to the bathroom, feeling awful remorse, and finally slipped back inside her darkened room to make it right. I love you, I whispered and smoothed her hair. She laughed.
Mama. Did you only come in to tell me that?
But Mama, you've told me that like 10,000 times!
10,000 and one, now.
Well, okay, but I don't think you should sneak in here after my bedtime just to tell me that anymore, just when I'm trying to go to sleep. Next time wait until the morning, okay?
On a good day I would have smiled at her response. But in the moment it was more than I could handle.
Some days are like that. Even in Australia.