Those Were the Good Old Days, And So Are These

We are gearing up for a big transition at our house: In less than forty-eight hours, Will will be on his way to Madagascar, and we will be navigating life as a family of five– minus one.

This means that there’s lots to do these days, and there’s lots to think about. Around the errands and the frequent small celebrations and send-offs, there’s retrospection. And there are blog-posts like this, which, pennies or no, might be pretty much the way I’ve thought about things all along.

There is Joy, because this next thing is so exactly the Right Thing for this son of ours. 

And there is a small corner of my heart that wants to hit “pause,” or even “re-wind,” to have back just a handful of the days that were his childhood, their childhoods, because the pennies run out too soon.

But somehow I found this little gem tonight, searching for something else in the annals of my blog. For some reason I never “published” this post, but it was a gift for me to read just now: a snapshot of twenty-four hours or so, recorded back in February of 2006. In those days, I was a part-time grad student and a homeschooling mother, a regular member of our church orchestra and also of the 66 Dogs Book Club. 

And my children were ten, eight, and ever-so-nearly six. 

I’m not bragging or complaining, so don’t ask me. But I will just tell you that I left my house yesterday afternoon (five children in tow, two of those being guests) just before four o’clock. I arrived at the church building a little after four, just in time to help create a video that will be used in the church service this Sunday.

After this, I ushered my sons to choir practice and my daughter to childcare, and saw our guests off with their mother. Then I went into the room where the orchestra was rehearsing, only to discover that my A string was badly in need of a tuning, and of course rehearsal had already begun.

I tuned it, and it was all fine. Fine, anyway, for someone who plays as badly as I do and who sight-reads as miserably as I do and who forgets from time to time, even at important times, to Count.

Bill arrived just around the time rehearsal was over, which was none to soon. We traded cars, he took the children, and I ate my peanut-butter and raisin sandwich and carrots and drank my milk as I drove my stick-shift over winding roads on my way to Duke.

I made it with ten minutes to spare, and for the next two hours and forty-five minutes was lost in the world of Thomas Mann and the decadence of European bourgeois society in the late 19th century. Delicious.

After this, I went directly to Beth’s house for a long overdue visit. We chatted quietly for over an hour until my cell phone rang and it was Bill, informing me that I had forgotten to tell him I had plans after class and, moreover, had left the phone off the hook for about six hours. He had just discovered the miscreant phone and so was finally free to try to find me.

I went home.

At which time I wrote out my paper proposal and e-mailed it to my professor, then proceeded to fold laundry, clean up the kitchen, and generally tend to messes that had accumulated while I had been trying, madly, to finish reading Buddenbrooks. I went to bed a little after one.

All of that to say that my children woke me with their laughter this morning. And when school was over (a delightful few hours during which we became acquainted with the early part of the Middle Ages, learned a little more about carnivorous plants, tried to get a firm hold on object pronouns, and worked on various forms of arithmetic) and I finally had time for a shower (yes), I looked about me and saw More Messes.

And this mattered because all 66 dogs of the Sixty-Six Dogs Book Club are coming to my house tomorrow morning.

But I heard my children laughing again, and this time they were laughing outside in the cold, clear winter light.

So I went outside, too.

We played freeze tag, which is tricky with only four people of varying speeds.

Then we played “house,” and Emma Grace was the mother, her brothers were her somewhat disinterested sons, and I was her devoted sixteen-year-old daughter, which I think satisfied the noticeable height discrepancy. I helped my mother make lizard soup, which we ate with zest (yum!), and then she tucked us in to sleep on the platform of the backyard play structure.

After this we turned to “army,” a game that is only vaguely organized. For the most part, I followed the directions of my commander, who was Everett. Both of the boys were wearing their fatigues today, and each of them had a plastic weapon of one kind or another. My gun was actually a plastic violin, the neck of which, when pulled out, becomes an electric guitar. With the help of a battery it plays Beethoven or the Jackson 5, depending, but I didn’t make use of that function today. Instead, I ran around the backyard and pointed it at imaginary foes and made firing noises with my mouth, something girls are not genetically disposed to do.

We were in a fort, we were in a helicopter, we were behind enemy lines. At one point we ambushed the enemy and took over their headquarters. All the while, Emma Grace was a superhero who needed no weapon, and possessed the Highly Useful ability to heal injured persons without even touching them. This was good, because I was shot several times.

This late afternoon Everett had a karate class, after which we wolfed a quick supper and then headed off to Bible Study. I am about two-thirds of the way ready for our book club meeting tomorrow morning (well, I haven’t read the book), but I know my friends won’t mind if the vacuuming isn’t done.

Because instead of vacuuming this afternoon, I ran with my children in the backyard. And I watched, as I crouched in our fort, the marvelous way the sun reflects off the pine needles and how– so lovely– it has the same effect in my daughter’s golden hair.

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