Cleaning Day

“I should be mad at you for not letting me take the car,” she says. Her brows arch in surprise. “But I’m not.” She smiles. A small, sweet smile. The one I would sew a thousand tiny doll dresses, go on a million trips to the park, and bake a hundred chocolate cupcakes for. A yesterday smile.

She is mine for a few weeks. She told me so before finals. She said, “I will be hanging around the house for five weeks.”

I know that won’t happen. She already has plans. There are friends, events to go to, and a dance workshop.  There is a boy. There is always a boy.

Her schedule fills up so fast I can barely squeeze in her dental appointments, an eye exam, and a doctor visit. And she really should be evaluated for that persistent weakness in her ankle. She twisted it at school months ago, stumbling on the theater stairs.

“You were right, Momma,” she told me then. “I should have tossed those boots.”

The worn down heels made her ankles pronate. After she fell that day, I snatched the boots away and trashed them, sending her to buy new shoes with her ankle wrapped tight.

It’s summer break. Today she stays home. We clean. The guys installed an exhaust fan in my bathroom, and the white powdery dust from new cut holes and whatever else they did invaded the master bedroom. It coats everything.

We wipe with damp cloths. I wonder aloud, more than once, why they didn’t consider covering my work space with plastic sheeting. She shrugs, grown wise in the ways of women, knowing I need to grumble and fuss at the mess, knowing it will not make the least impact on our men.

First years are hard, and Baby Girl isn’t so special she dodged the common freshman bumps along the road. Stress and grief dogged her, on too many days panting hard at her heels, snapping. More than once with blood-drawing teeth.

Yesterday she came upon me, armwrapping me from the side. “I feel content,” she said. Has she ever said that before? I wanted to breathe it in, cradle her contentment like an infant-holding  momma smelling her baby’s hair. She still has that peace about her, end of semester relief not yet morphing into boredom and the fidgety unsettledness. We rest in this moment, the place between.

We wipe with the damp cloths. It’s so dusty. The rags have to be rinsed, over and over, water turning milky.

I go through the neglected stacks of papers. It wouldn’t be such a chore if I had kept up with the endless flotsam of every day life, but I couldn’t. Clutter accumulated without notice until now. The curtains needed washing, as did clothes left too long in untidy, neglected mounds waiting in vain to be folded away. The washer has been going all afternoon into evening. There are a pile of rags and towels in it now, waiting for tomorrow. It’s too late to start a wash now. Rugs are clean, floors mopped, ceiling fan dusted. The room practically echoes with good, simple clean.

I found things that have been lost for months. It’s good to wipe away the dust, to rest in the inbetween, finding contentment in the stripped down rooms of home.

Why Momma Cries | Beauty From Pain

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When she asks me why I am crying, I can not speak. I send her away with the words all mommas use so often it’s second nature.

“In a minute.”

She has come upon me unexpected, caught me in the grip of a journey’s end emotion.

I redirect her, unable to untangle my thoughts and feelings.

“Don’t you need to get ready for dance?”

She looks at me sideways, then nods. She knows me well and gives me the small moment of peace I need. I know her, too. She will be back in two heartbeats. I breathe.

When she returns, I am ready and not ready.

I start out OK. I tell her how proud I am of her. Half a sentence into the conversation, words have trouble squeezing past my heart. They come out wobbly but march on.

Baby Girl has had hard, hard times. Life is harsh to our young. No one grows up without a heavy dose of pain.

If I had one real come-true wish I would make the world gentle for her, but I can’t. The enemy is often invisible, but the battle scars are there, plain to see. When she lets me.

On this day she is going to rehearse a dance she choreographed to Beauty From Pain. One she will dance on stage in front of the whole world and everyone who is watching. She will dance with all the grace she can muster. She will dance with all she has, speak with movement and make the song sing a new way.

I tell her, “I know what the dance means—I know what this cost you.”

We can’t look at each other in the eye because now is not the time to puddle up.

Instead, I wrap my arms around her and she rests, enveloped. Her hair is in my face. It should be pony tailed or bunned. She needs to get ready. I don’t release her yet. I tell her to make sure she takes a water bottle. An experienced dancer, she does not need this advice at all.

She nods and I let her go.

 

 

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What Is Real? |Five Minute Friday

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Every week, bloggers from around the web come together and write for five minutes on one word. Join us!

Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is Real.

 

 

The things that are the most real are the ones hardest to quantify. You can’t hold them in your hand, unless you count holding hands.

When I was young, if you had asked me what was real I would have said houses or land, money in the bank, but I would have been wrong.

The real things are quick silver wispy bits, of no physical substance even while they are the weightiest.

You cannot actually see sorrow or hold passion, but there are few things greater and more substantial.

There is an unbendable strength to what is real.

Real things are absolute and do not change. Nothing can erase them once they exist.

Real things are evident when the heart looks.

Isn’t it odd how the firm and solid things, the truest and most concrete things of all are not definable things at all?

Yet they couldn’t be any more real.

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Lessons That Matter

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My highschooler comes home from her new part time job, Tuesday through Thursday, at lunchtime. The chatter is non-stop for a while. I love to watch her as she talks.

She works as a pair of extra hands at a private school.

A helper was needed for two special needs kids, teenagers. When the job posting came up, I thought it might be of interest to her. Patience with certain children is one of her attributes, and she is not scared of different. I asked her if she was interested and she said yes.

Our homeschool schedule had to be adjusted, but that is fine. We can well afford to be flexible with the hours.
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Important lessons take precedence, and some things need to be experienced. (Tweet This)

I felt this would be an excellent opportunity for her.

After the first week she says to me, “I’m really surprised by how much I like it.”

“I knew you would.”

I am too smug. She wrinkles her nose at me, then rolls her eyes. I pretend to be affronted, and defend myself.

“Well,” I say, hands on hips and trying not to grin,“at least I didn’t say, ‘Told you so.’ ”

This earns me a skeptical sideways glance and a lifted eyebrow.

“OK,” I admit. “It’s kind of the same thing.”

“Kind of exactly.”

We laugh.

Over the following days I learn that The Wiggles and Minions are her students’ favorites, about words missed and corrected, and many other things.

I listen to it all.

We are in my room after she gets home one day and conversation goes as usual. She pauses for breath, hesitating.

“Do I talk about my kids too much?”

My kids.

I shake my head no. “I want to hear,” I tell her.

She smiles and speaks of how much her boy student likes to color all the pictures in, not just the right number to get the answer, of gentle tugs on her sleeve and sweet laughter finally earned. She isn’t looking at me as she describes the laughter. There is a particular light in her eyes.

When she still rested in the womb I placed my palms on my naked, swollen belly. With fingers splayed out across the roundness, I wept and promised her she could be who she was, not knowing what future would come.

Here it is. I watch an unfolding woman’s soul begin to enter into being.

“My kids,” she said.

Just when I thought she couldn’t get any more beautiful.

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Beautifully Fragile

I feel very fragile lately.

I have been fragile for years, but it was a moment of clarity and surprise when a medical assistant shook her head and said so to me.

You’re so fragile.

The idea was foreign to me. I was the girl who dug trenches in hard, red clay to bury water lines, planted gardens and carried heavy loads. The girl who bathed dogs and people and wiped up vomit from the floor.

When she told me I was fragile, I laughed.

Who has time for that?

Now I have time. I’m not a girl anymore.

It’s a strange place, but not bad. Tears dampen my cheeks almost daily. But what days they are.

My daughter comes in from a trip to the movies.

“Bree asked me if I was a daddy’s girl.” She bites her bottom lip, trying to hide a smile. She looks at me from underneath her lashes but I can see her eyes, the way they shine. “I told her yes.”

And here I go again, wiping my eyes with a tissue.

My middle boy, the one who drives me crazy, the one too much like me and too much like his father, says to his little brother who is now a man, “I am proud of you.”

Their conversation continues to flow around me while I am stayed, becalmed in the current, bathing in that singular moment, hardly able to breathe and not really caring if I ever do again.

I cry at the note taped to the television, “Watch anime with me,” and at the memory of how he always laughs at my lame joke about anime and anemone. An invitation into his world is a prize. This is not a carnival prize, but a gold medal prize to be carried and worn over the heart.

My husband comes in, weary from work but too stubborn to admit it. He stands, reading the endless to-do list on the refrigerator. When I see him with the youngest man-child and get a glimpse of the crazy, terrorizing love that comes with being this boy’s father, the wild rawness, the manliness of it, moves me.

Against such things it’s hard to keep fists clenched tight around the small threads of bitterness gathered up over days and years. Maybe that is where the salt for all these tears was being held, waiting for release.

There are always ready tears for my eldest, who does nothing to make me cry, and so I do. What can I say? Mothers understand.

It took a long time to get here. I always, always knew it was all worth it. All the books and articles and wise women said so.

So the fragile girl laughed and wiped up vomit and held tight to little (and not-so-little) hands whether they wanted it or not. She waited by the phone and did not yell. She saved her keening for another day and stood as tall as five foot something allowed. Love made her strong.

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Who knew being overwhelmingly, beautifully fragile would come from being so strong? (Tweet This)

It’s not a bad place. Not a bad place at all.

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