Monday, November 9, 2009

Doors Closing, Windows Opening, or Something

It was magically in the 70's here this weekend, 60's and sunny today - a gift - and we have been trying to spend every single second outside. Just today, I walked Annie to school, ran around the lake, walked to pick her up from school, walked to the grocery store with the girls, walked to a friend's house, and walked back to school in the evening for Annie's parent-teacher conference.

Yesterday, Jason and I took advantage of his parents being here overnight to scoot down to "The Cottage" and rake/blow all the leaves to the curb, and it almost didn't seem like a chore at all but instead like a late-summer drive and a beautiful afternoon to do yardwork unfettered by children or bugs. We spent much of Saturday at various parks and with the neighbors in the front yard. It's our usual summertime space, and by the end of each summer, the whole "it takes a village" thing can wear thin. This weekend, though, the adults stood around drinking coffee and idly raking while the kids were gleeful in their short-sleeved shirts on their speedy scooters, and it wasn't old at all.

It gets dark early now, though, and we've been watching our share of old home movies of the girls when they were babies and young toddlers. Almost every night during bath Annie asks, "Can we watch a baby Annie video? Just one?" and so we squeeze onto the couch with wet-headed girls in their jammies, watching those same girls cry their first cries in the delivery room or taste their first popsicle or blow out birthday candles.

The main effect this video-watching has on me is to make me feel as though my life is moving at warp-speed. I literally look at at the television screen, where one-year-old Annie tries to blow the fluff off a dandelion, and then down at the gangly girl next to me, and it is confusing. How did THAT become THIS? And so quickly?

Watching a montage of all the lovely moments - set to music, no less - makes it all look so rewarding and effortless and just plain happy. So much so that, of course, it makes me think we could do it all over again. I almost want to, just for the delivery room magic alone (and my delivery rooms are especially un-magical, but there is something so unspeakably sacred about that very first day of life). But, you know, we probably won't. Not because I don't want to, exactly, but because I KNOW that it wouldn't be like the home videos we've been watching. Or that it would be like that, 1/1000th of the time, and the rest of the time it would not.

Ever since Jemma was born, we've entertained the idea of a third. I think part of me even assumed that we'd do it eventually. I thought that at some point, things would feel "settled" again, or life would be obviously easier, or it would seem like TIME. But Jemma's going to be three next month, and it's never felt like that to me. When the girls were very little and I felt sure that it absolutely, positively could NOT get any harder/more chaotic/more stressful than it was at that stage, I'd look to friends or neighbors with older children and think how easy they had it. I may have, perhaps, mentioned these assumptions to those friends and neighbors. And what they said was, "It doesn't really get easier; it just changes." And they were kind of right. Life now IS definitely easier than life with a newborn and a two-year-old, but it is not easy, per se. It has changed. The time I no longer spend nursing has been sucked up by art projects and reading aloud and strapping on bike helmets. (Also: the time I no longer spend getting up all hours of the night to tend to a child is now spent SLEEPING, a change I very much LIKE.) There have been so many times during daily situations when I have looked around and thought, where would a baby fit into this picture?

When I watch those videos and look at myself in them (instead of at the girls), I remember that the current "me" who has time for running and yoga and cooking and writing and friendships and travel and reading was not there. My hair is never not in a ponytail, and I am wearing a nursing tank top under the same green hooded zip-up sweatshirt an alarming number of times. That me made it through most days in a blur and counted leaving the house to go one place as a major success. That me, frankly, was not that happy, and sometimes forgot that her situation was not, in fact, permanent. I do not miss that me.

It is strange to watch this particular door creak closed. It is sad. I could almost cry about it, if I wanted to. I think some women are at their best when they're surrounded by the chaos of a big, loud family; I even wish I was one of those women, but I don't think I am. I want to be present for my two gorgeous, hilarious, feisty, smart, ridiculous children. I am blessed and lucky to have two. It is so much, really.

I want to be a calm, centering force in their world. I want to sit, like I did tonight, at my daughter's conference, incredibly proud of her strengths, and have the time to come home and praise her tonight as well as the time to work with her in the coming weeks. I want to tuck them each into bed every night individually - story, cuddle, song, kiss, hug - and know I have given them my attention fully. I want lots of big possibilities for them, and for me.

"And she turned out the light-
And closed the door-
And that's all there is-
There isn't anymore."

from Madeleine

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