We are getting close.
Closer to diapers and midnight feedings. Closer to swaddles and newborn cries. We all feel it, and sometimes the anticipation feels like when both a mother and son recognize the first day of college is sooner than they think , or when a father and daughter know her wedding day approaches. The anticipation rises and rises and the love we don’t know what do new with in the face of such a new beginning oft presents itself as impatience, frustration, and anxious energy that widdles away at already-shortneed tempers and overstrung nerves.
Today was a day I could feel the anxiousness rising in all of us– in Ellie’s little punches, in Sophie’s refusal to lose in Candyland, in Cohen’s barreling through his sisters’ carefully created puzzles. All of the anxiousness feels kind of like someone holding your throat or squeezing your chest. We don’t need to be anticipating babies to feel it. It’s the state of being overwhelmed, of thinking thoughts like “My children will never listen” or “This house will never actually be clean” or “I will never feel rested again.”
That’s the kind of day it was. A day of thinking about the nevers.
But then we sat down and had soup around the table. We spilled cheese and pretzels and turned on some music. We talked about how the ice cream social is coming up at Sophie’s preschool, and I mentioned how Ellie would be attending not just as a little sister this time, but as an upcoming student. Sophie tilted her head slightly and caught my gaze with her deep, brown eyes. “So next year,” she said thoughtfully, “I won’t get to see Ellie on her first day….” She paused, “Because I’ll already be at Briargate?” She ended what began as a statement with a question, and there was sadness in her inquiry. She wouldn’t be there. With the little sister she’s spent every day with for the past three years– singing and puzzle making and coloring and cavorting with through countless imaginary places. Ellie would experience something big without her, and she was curious and a little sad about such a change.
And I lost it. The dam that held everything together through the day– the barrier bound with impatience and anxiety broke– and I melted at the goodness of the love that was Sophie caring for Ellie and Ellie emulating Sophie. “I’m crying cause I’m happy,” I blubbered as all three kids gave me quizzical looks. “I’m happy, I’m just so happy you have each other.” Ellie got out of her chair at the opposite end of the table and ran to give me a hug. Cohen followed suit and Sophie reached across the table to hold my hand. As I hiccuped to catch a full breath of air amidst my sobs, I felt myself able to truly breathe for the first time all day. What happened tonight at dinner was more real than all the chaos– all the not listening, the impatience, the messiness. It all paled in comparison to what was GOOD in that moment.
After dinner everything looked different. That’s the only way I can explain it. There were still unwanted punches thrown during after dinner wrestling, there was still a back up of dishes in the sink and a major unfinished project in the garage. But my tears at the recognition of goodness kind of made all that stuff look silly. I had prayed before dinner, “Thank you for the rain that makes everything new,”– and as the wind howled and the lightening flashed, I realized the ground was not the only thing made new by water.
In my waiting I had unintentionally created a desert– the arid air convinced me that the mirage of impatience and exhaustion was somehow real. But water let’s you SEE reality in the desert, let’s you see the mirage for what it is: That the nevers are actually quite temporary and ultimately the LOSERS in the game. The reality of love trumps the illusion of bitterness every time.
So we continue to wait– all of us. But I see the air is heavy with spring now– I know that life is waiting to be unleashed.