My Work: A Good Day
I wake up, already feeling the weight of responsibility like an elephant sitting on my chest. I commit. I rise out of bed and stumble into the bathroom to dress my tired body and camouflage the anxiety that is obvious in the muscles of my face.
I re-commit, and I remind myself that this is a daily sacrifice that will always, always yield a return. Perhaps not within my desired timing, but always. Always there will be a reward for this exhausting work.
I greet my children quietly, letting them wrap their arms around my waist and putting my hands on their cheeks; I lift their faces to best see their brown eyes, and I kiss their cheeks, their noses, the swirly spot on the crown of the head. I will myself to be present, to drink them in, to experience the purity that will soon enough be fleeting.
I make them food; I nourish their small bodies with my small hands. Scoop it up, put it in the bowl, watch their hungry eyes and their eager hands as they partake.
I make myself pause and watch them a little longer, looking long enough to remember how beautiful they are. The sparkles in their eyes. The laughter all the way from the depths of their bellies.
I remember when I was little like them, and that it was not golden--what childhood is completely golden? What a crock--but I remember that much of it was carefree; carefree enough that I felt safe, loved, nourished, and protected.
We have a good day, dotted here and there with the very human moments. My August boy suggests at one point that we put his May sister back into my belly, from whence she came, because she is being a bad baby. The suggestion has its merits, given the lonely state of my womb....but we gently explain that our May daughter is here to stay, and all is forgotten.
There is the usual: emotional sparks, physical scuffles, and willful resistance. But overall, peace. Overall, allowance. Allowance for laughter and questions and stories and impromptu lessons. A sort of enchantment over our house today, one that I know probably will not last too long, in the up-and-down swing that is day-to-day life. But I savor it, cradle it; hold it in the palms of my hands, like the faces of my children. When they smile, their cheeks curve against the curve of my hand, and it is like holding a perfect golden apple. Precious fruit of my womb.
In the evening, when dinner has been served, a rare family home evening lesson taught, and warm cookies consumed, I turn on the music.
They, all three, are transported. They move their bodies in whichever way the music dictates. They are at once graceful, amusing, pretty, sassy, genius. They dance in the most natural way: unfettered, no consciousness of self, no censorship. I watch them, my three living breathing masterpieces, and I can't help but feel a strange mixture of emotions: pride, and an odd little aching. The temporal nature of this particular brand of bliss is palpable. One day they will not dance with such abandonment; external factors may dictate the way they choose to move their bodies through this world and their most free dancing will probably be done only when they are alone.
I remember when I danced by myself, behind my closed doors, with joyful abandonment. Breathless and brave, I moved through my world with no eyes on me, becoming myself. Then, having exhausted my need to exist with no censors, I'd collapse on my floor and lay quietly. Aching to be a child again, when I could dance with no fear in a room of people.
I tuck the children into their beds, making sure the blankets cover their thin shoulders. My children are long and sinewy; they are strong, but thin, so that I never believe they are warm at night. Even when they sleep uncovered in wild postures--strewn like a fallen marionette over the bed. I have to sneak in and cover them back up.
My November son plays with my hair as I lean over his smiling face. He makes me look bald, and we both laugh hysterically. Then he says playfully, "What, do you have cancer or something?!" I think about how innocent he is. That he has no idea what this really means; I am for the moment happy that he doesn't know this sort of boldness is near-taboo. He ruminates that if I had cancer, my husband would have to leave me because I would not be "sexy" anymore. I gently and playfully explain that there is much, much more to sexiness than appearance....and wonder how on earth we came to this spot in the conversation.
I will tell you how: I was gentle today. My November son trusted me today, enough to say exactly what was on his mind, and ask me the strangest questions, the ones that make me squirm (or glow with pride) and wonder what he has been thinking for the last several months.
And although I am still trying to figure out what brought him to that line of thinking--cancer and sexiness? It evolved into a discussion about polygamy and divorce, even--I am reveling in one of the rewards of my work.
My boy--my boy, born in November, during the coldest months in Colorado--my boy, who will close his lips as tight as an oyster if he feels any sense of judgment--my boy talked to me in complete trust and peace tonight.
In this small and miraculous way, God Himself taps on my shoulder and whispers, You are making progress every day.
Every day, visible or not, I am doing this. I am here. I am not always acting with abandoned joy, speaking with gentleness, or living totally in the present. But I am doing this. Day in, day out, submitting to the Lord's timetable.
And for that, there is always a reward.