What makes a quiet afternoon, baby sleeping, kids at school, nondescript in the passing minutes, unoriginal in the weather, seem suddenly a sacred thing?
I think it is the quiet. That it affords me a place to string two coherent thoughts together. That I can feel, without interruption, what’s been pressing against my heart, that I can let it out.
Sometimes my heart aches and I’m not sure why, and so I assign the ache to things: My oldest boy’s tantrums, my brothers in general, the fact that I can only button my stretchy pants (What can I say? It was a fun summer), how the Alison Krauss music trickles gently, but deep into my soul, from speakers above me while I sweep up glitter and dust and granola bits.
Last week, I got home from a morning of fighting errands, only $1 poorer spent on a cup of miniature Nutter Butters for my WILD baby, and only kind of sweaty from it all. Which is to say, I did it, I survived, but then I was exhausted. I neglected the mountains of groceries, put the baby to bed without his usual array of too many story books, and I slipped out of my flats and into my eight-year-old’s flip flops that I plunked around in all afternoon, forgotten about until I looked down, and felt the nip of shock: I wear the same size shoes as an eight-year-old boy. Or he wears the same size shoe as me, his mama.
The subsequent imaginings unfold as they always do: days multiplied by years. What will it be like to have a child I used to hold grow bigger than me? To buy shoes the size of shovels? Someday before I know it, I will have to reach up to hug my little boy, only he will not be my willful little boy, who burrows his head, his grubby hands, his kisses into my middle—he will be a man I worry about differently. But the same.
Is the only thing a parent ever wants to know about their child is that they are ok? That they are happy?
The story of the 90 and 9 makes so much sense to me now, and I find that I spend inordinate amounts of heartache on a particular child, given the day. In August it was my oldest, alone in California with cousins and grandparents for far too long, and who, when we Skyped, burst into tears when she saw me. I wanted to reach through the screen and snatch her into my arms, hold her long, 11 and a half year old body in my lap. Last week it was my sometimes-school-averse son—would the teachers see him, truly, and not just his shoulder slouch of apathy? Yesterday, it was my six-year-old daughter, who I sent off with tears streaming down her rosy cheeks, frustrated by a new cast on her right wrist. “How will I write?” She asked me so defeated, “Will I be able to go potty with one hand?” A few nights ago it was my baby, sick again, in the middle of the night. Again. We sleep on the same pillow, my hand on the punctuated rising of his chest, a shudder as it falls again. I am exhausted in the morning. Then it starts all over.
This is the stuff that brings me to my knees. This is the stuff that makes me understand scripture stories I always thought I knew, but apparently really didn’t. This is life. And for guidance that reveals itself slowly, well, I’m grateful that it’s always been there, that I still get to learn.
Do you have any experiences with understanding a Gospel concept only after you’d lived it? Is that the way it always works?