A couple weeks ago Pat, my mom's long-time best friend and my Godmother, came across a rendition of T'was The Night Before Christmas that my mom had written when I was six. (Incidentally, it was the last Christmas we kept as a family. We sort of got religious after that.) It was about our sweet family and simple life. She mailed me a copy, hoping the kids and I would enjoy the sentiment and the trip down memory lane. The following is my response to Pat (also sent to Mom):
Well, thanks a lot for the cry-fest! I got the letter Tuesday; sorry I’m just now getting to writing. Seth brought in the mail in the middle of my soap-making and I set it aside as a treat for when I could get off my feet and relax. (I’d also gotten the belts for the washing machine, so that had to be fixed first.—Awfully nice to have that working again!) How sweet to read my dear momma’s words, a snapshot of our family life when she was only a few months older than I am now.
I have been thinking a bit lately about that tricky business we call Time. Some days I marvel at the fact that I’m one of grown-ups in my house—how did that happen? Who are all these incredible little people and why are they calling me mom? And in a weird, over-lappy sort of way I can see Mom at my age, raising my siblings and I, working on a partnership with Dad, working the homestead, fostering friendships, milking life (and goats and cows) for all its (they’re) worth. I know her. I know that woman. And yet I don’t. She keeps growing and I keep growing. I never seem to catch up and yet in a way I’m always right there. So many of my footprints overlap hers.
Not that I need to prove my point, but I’m going to share a rambling portion from my just-to-be-writing journal, dated the 13th of this month…
Mostly sunny and 60 today. Moist air from the south. Reminiscent of spring. Hard to believe a few days ago it was icy and cold, dark gray skies spitting rain. I think we get this warm spell every January and it amazes and thrills me every time.
Took a couple kids with me to town to do the monthly shopping. What a pleasure to walk out of the stores and into the springlike weather, to skip and smile with Atira and Blue. We drove home with the music up and the windows down. I sang along to a song by Sublime. Atira gave me that look that only twelve year olds can give their parents when their parents are being youthful. Sort of a, “Really? A little over the top, don’t ya think?” look. It’s a classic. To see it on one of my sweet kids just makes me laugh.
When we arrived home the whole crew fell into our routine. Some bring bags in from the car, some begin unpacking and putting away the groceries. The little ones love to open the containers of oats and boxes of pasta to dump them in the 5 gallon buckets used to store them. (We used to buy bulk packages; it’s not been very convenient for awhile because we can’t get it in our town, but we will again soon.) They flatten the cardboard containers and pop them into the empty chicken feed bag under the counter for recycling. We have a nice system. It pleases me to see how everyone works together. They grow more efficient every month.
We do lunch and I suggest a walk afterward. While Blue and Farra clean up and wash lunch dishes, I ask Royal to help me outside. I cannot resist doing a little gardening on this delicious day.
We were so busy in the fall with other things (as per usual) that we didn’t pay much mind to prepping the garden for the coming year. I figured I’d work on it a little bit through the winter. Not ideal, but it’s something. So, Denny had made these garden beds at his cabin using a technique called hugelkultur. German in origin, I think. Basically raised beds with heaps of buried wood rotting in it. The soil he brought over from those beds when he moved was amazing. The tap-root of the kale he had grown in it was over a foot long. I am determined to try this.
The area to the west of our garden is kept pretty clear by goats, but has a good bit of rotting timber that came down in the The Storm of ’09 (inland hurricane). Bobby had bucked some of it up but we never got it split and brought to the woodshed. Using this rotting wood in the garden serves a dual purpose: we make fantastic garden beds and clean up the goat yard. And this is a pleasant time of year to do it, if we get a mild day. All the weeds and nastiness have died back, we desperately need the vitamin D and fresh air, and the only bugs around are the ones hiding under the rotting wood. Royal and I tossed three wheel-barrow loads over the garden fence.
I am beginning to day-dream of freshly turned soil, earth worms, crisp sugar snap peas and fresh lettuce.
I almost over-did it. Of course. My back was fussing a little bit. So discouraging, knowing how much pain gardening is going to cause me. I will have to find new ways to do things and learn to be content with less. Denny has been great so far in helping me slow down and not hurt myself. He is very compassionate and genuinely cares about my well-being, but if he needs to he lays on the most logical guilt trip I’ve ever heard; “When you hurt yourself and end up in bed for three days it affects me; I have to pick up the slack.” Point taken. I promptly sit down and crochet or something.
The kids thought it would be fun to pile in the car for the 2 mile trip to the Castor River Shut-Ins where we could walk one of our favorite trails, so we did that instead of taking the van. We looked like circus clowns piling out of Denny’s 2-door Hyundai. I love to hike in late fall for somewhat the same reasons I like to garden in the off-season; the ticks and other bugs are gone. And I like to hike in early spring before the bugs come out, and on any mild days in between. So much beauty to be enjoyed, even in the “dead” of winter. The light is especially stunning.
I take Denny’s hand in my left and Justin’s in my right. Little takes Denny’s other hand. The other kids run ahead. Blue comes back and works her way between Denny and I, so I fall back with Justin (the path is only so wide). Seeing the three of them joined together just ahead of me melts my heart. These girls adore this man and he adores them. Not a day passes that he doesn’t acknowledge his appreciation for and amazement at the privilege of being in their lives. Meanwhile, Justin pauses and points at every clump of leaves in the branches above us, telling me about the bird “mests,” his big brown eyes full of wonder and his is mouth running with constant expression. He loves words. He learns and tries out new words continually; he has a stunning vocabulary and command of language for an almost-3-year old. You can imagine how he keeps us in stitches with the things he says. Adorable.
Soon I am holding Denny’s hand again and Farra is walking with Justin. The others are investigating and climbing and, well... frolicking. It’s a day for frolicking. I squeeze Denny’s hand and we share a smile. He gets it. Our hearts are full of these children, of this family.
It’s all going so fast. It’s so easy to let the days pass and not notice the things that make life worthwhile. Last Saturday I had a few really sweet minutes with one of my wee ones before bed. After I’d tucked them all in I cozied up in bed with Denny. I got to thinking about how little time I had spent with each of my children that day. Did I take time to really connect with each one? To look them in the eye and appreciate them? Homeschooling seven kids while both Denny and I work from home, the days can go by in a crazy blur. I rarely feel like I am doing enough or prioritizing wisely, but what bothers me more than putting off soap-making or fence-repairing one more day is putting off genuinely engaging with my children. As Denny and I talked about it I fast-forwarded six years. In six short years Farra will be 20, Atira 18, Seth 16, and so on until Justin who will be 9. Then I had myself a good cry. Though I look forward to every age and stage, I can’t imagine life without a two or three or four year old in the house, with the uninhibited smiles and love and easy-to-fix boo boos and the unbelievably adorable things they say all day long. It’s going so fast and some days I neglect to see it, I get caught up in other things. Then I hug them tight and cry a little and they look at me like I’m crazy because they don’t understand yet about time.
We’ve had a lot of snow so far this winter. Government school kids had quite an extended Christmas vacation. Half the parents I know on Facebook were posting about how their kids were driving them crazy, willing school to start back up so they could have a break. Some parents were burdened with having to bring their children to work with them, terrified that their children would grow bored with the movies on their iPads and get underfoot.
I can’t imagine. I see it, but it baffles me. I cannot put myself in their shoes. My children are a pleasure to be around. I wish I had more time most days to work and play by their sides. I wish there were more of me to go around. They are incredible people, the biggest right down to the smallest. Next to Denny I would choose the company of any of them on any given day to anyone else I know. Yes, it can be a little tiring sometimes, but I know my kids; they are responsive, and it doesn’t take much for me to redirect them if they should happen to get rowdy or fussy or bored.
Well, that’s as much as I’d written before I was summoned back to life. I was going to wax eloquent about the limited amount of time we have here on earth, etc., etc., etc.. =)
Thanks, Pat, for sharing, and thanks, Mom, for being you.