Night begins to encroach upon the edges of my windows, and the slackening sun is orange and dull, but the front room is illuminated in its entire Lego-spilled splendor. And I am searching for a pacifier for the baby.
He is clean and warm, in fresh jammies—extra soft from hand-me-down wear and the recent dryer—and is holding a bottle in his hands, noisily suckling, waiting for his books, for me to put him down for the night… with a pacifier.
But we cannot find it so we linger. And we listen to a story about a soccer game. And we rub lotion on an itchy bum. And we accept illustrated “movie tickets” that will later need to be collected for hole-punching. Note to self: it’s in your front right pocket. We dole out dinners I do not approve of (chicken nuggets and cold cereal) and sigh only minimally at the lazy regard for homework.
(And the curious lack of pacifiers.)
I smile at the baby—he’s babbling amid the evening bustle and grateful to be awake. I smile at him again. I kiss his cheeks. I help with a math problem, a spelling word definition. I ignore the kitchen mess, the floor that reveals so much about us (what we eat, how we are messy), the counter buried under the strata of the day. Newspapers, art projects, school assignments, the mail, ketchupy napkins.
It bears little resemblance to what I think a house of order should reveal, but I know it’s not laziness that prevents my broom and rag. I am simply doing what needs to be done first. (Kids.) Also, I am tired, and I crave my bed obsessively tonight.
I have been hard on myself. I have felt guilt over many things that I’m not doing, the least of which is writing. I bought new pens a few days ago to try and tempt my fingertips, but my newest journal is sparse of writing, and the binding is still firm, the pages blank and unembossed by my excited pen. I don’t know why this alarms me so. It’s as though I feel like if I don’t use my words, or practice them, or try, they will be taken from me and lost forever and ever. But where are you, words? You are ignoring me, and cruel: inaccessible, elusive strangers, disembodied shadows in the corner, naughty hiding pacifiers.
So I go through the motions of the day, and the night, and the piling up weeks, without the words that for my whole life have just come to me. I don’t hear sentences these days, don’t hear the meter of a perfect phrase, don’t hear their whispered images that conjure themselves from nowhere, my brain and heart coconspirators in a bit of magic, and me just a willing hand to scribble what it dictates. And I miss those organic origins—that pure art.
In the beginning, God created the earth. And if we think about it, he sort of created it slowly. He didn’t whip it all together in five minutes—which he probably could have done since he’s God and all—but he did a couple of things a day: light and dark; then firmament and water; then water from dry land; and after each of these he rested. When he saw it was good, he rested.
He focused on what needed to get done first and then went to bed on it. The next day, he woke up and built upon that. Productive, but not frantic. Thoughtful, and a little bit like how the elementary teachers remind my children to “do your best, take your time.” The simple perfection in this deliberate method has always escaped me; have I really ever paid attention to the nature of the Lord’s creative process?
I think that creation is innate to the human spirit and to the godly spirit, that it’s part of our divinity to create—and thank you, President Uchtdorf for reminding us. But heretofore, I’ve always considered my creation to be words, or maybe a lovely pile of cookies cooling on racks, perfected from a years-old recipe I know by heart, or maybe unsightly produce grown in the backyard garden bed. The creations of my soul the very expression of me: writer, baker, lover of summer tomatoes. But all this time I’ve essentially ignored the tip of my nose (and where is that pacifier amongst the Lego’s?) in an attempt to create something about me.
Because is creation ever totally selfish? Or is the nature of it a rolling stone, the byproduct larger than the firstfruits? I think of one artist painting a masterpiece in the setting of the renaissance; how that masterpiece affects Christianity forever. I think of my neighbor who has a way with yeast and always shares her puffy loaves of bread. In reality, it’s never really been about me, it has always been about something outside of myself… some FOUR things really:
And while I can’t take credit for my childrens’ eventual glory, I can rest assured knowing I helped to create self-sufficient beings: people who could make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at least, and hopefully (hopefully) knew how much they were loved.
That, to me, would be more than good.