Right now, my house is littered with take-out containers, unpacked luggage, dust, and tomato plants. Hanging behind me are a couple of roman shades I bought online. I’m not sure I don’t hate them. I’ve got an errands list I’m ignoring. I’ve got sixteen days of spring-semester school I have barely looked at. I’m waiting for marks on a course I hated, involving a paper that I wrote and sent after days of research, exhaustion, head-aches, and misery while planning the biggest birthday celebration of my daughter’s life so far.
I run a dayhome, which means I look after other people’s kids for a living. I enjoy it. We do educational activities because I believe every kid deserves a solid head start. We do lots of free play because I know every kid needs to climb and run and yell and pretend and figure out how to be friends without grownups getting in their way. We follow a schedule that meets a line-of-best-fit through the shifting needs of a whole bunch of kids and requires adjustment from all of them. Including my own. Especially my own. And sometimes it is hard for them.
I’m in my second and hopefully final year of graduate school. My kids lose me for a couple of hours a night while I get that done. They lose me for a couple of days, once every month or so, while I research and write final assignments. And recover. They get cuddly, clingy, whiny, demanding, lonely and worried and scared. If I had known, a year ago, how much of this MA they would have to go through with me, I’m not sure I would have enrolled.
I’m a quiet activist. I weigh purchases against their lasting value and the ethical practices of their manufacturers. I cook to avoid food waste and packaging trash, and compost to feed our front-yard gardens. I’ve been washing my hair with natural bar soap for three years and treating my acne-prone skin with cider vinegar and green tea for almost as long. I own four pairs of shoes and two coats. Once upon a time, I was a vocal, self-righteous, card-carrying Activist for environmental conservation and social change. Now I work harder, trying to live that change, instead.
Last Saturday, I went to a shoe store to buy my kids new “summer” shoes for baseball season in advance of my daughter’s Super Secret Birthday Surprise. They got Pumas, because they are part Jamaican and consequently must wear Pumas like Usain Bolt. (That’s just not an argument I’m ever going to win.) I got Merrell barefoot ballet flats with those neat-o Vibram soles and a cute little angled strap that make them not-quite like Mary Janes and also cuter. (What? Not Keens urban loafers? What?!?!) When I wrote up the grocery list, I included commercially manufactured conditioner. With actual chemicals in it. Which makes my hair feel soft and smell nice for the first time in too long. (*gasp*)
And then? On Wednesday morning? After an afternoon of full-on panic induced by one almost-expired passport and an evening of hectic secretive packing? My husband and I drove our daughter to the airport for “the best Timmie’s birthday breakfast in town”, and casually asked her if it would be alright if we had brunch in Disneyland instead.
I spent the last four days riding roller coasters and spinning things and splashy rafts and slow boats and water slides and submarines and climbing nets and VR simulations and monorails with my kids. Twenty-four hours a day, every day, we were together and whatever we did was all for them. We ate M&M’s and corn dogs at ten pm and watched tv in our pjs every morning. We laughed a LOT. We screamed and giggled and didn’t worry about anything other than how long the next ride queue will be and whether we wanted to stay up for the light show.
We had such a good time.
Back to work and school tomorrow, we have a hill of catching up to do. A week in our busy lives feels like so much more lost time, especially for me. We’re done with take-out and restaurants for awhile, and fried things in general. There is only so much a body can take, and so much garbage I’m willing to buy…. I’ll keep the soft hair and the pretty shoes, though. If nothing else, they’ll remind me what I’m working for when I’m flopped out exhausted from work and school and ESL tutoring, and the life I take far too seriously.
Thanks, kiddo. And happy birthday. I never dreamed this gift for you would mean so much to me. <3