Today I am going to begin a new weekly writing tradition. I’m going to practice noticing. I’m going to, as Frederick Buechner said, listen to my life. I’m going to try to let Life speak for itself, in an attempt to coach my eyes to see again.
Yesterday we took all five children to a Brewers/Cubs game in Milwaukee. I overpacked a small blue and black backpack, stuffing down diapers and extra clothes and formula. I jammed three pieces of white bread and two bananas (just call me Betty Crocker) into a jewel bag and forgot bibs. I changed and re-changed Everett and Mae, finding tiny old shoes that haven’t been worn since Sophie and Cohen donned them years ago. They both kicked them off within seconds, but I appeased my need to control the situation by balancing the shoes in the carseat, telling myself they would wear them in the stadium, right?
After waking up too early to binge-watch Elena of Avalor, the kids were operating at less-than-optimal levels. Fights ensued before we even wrangled them all into the car, Cohen furious that Sophie had “stolen” his seat. Amidst kicks and cries and wails, Jacob attempted to calm the temper of our eldest: “Buddy, buddy, just try and use some strategies to calm down” he said from the driver’s seat. And then- without hesitation from the backseat: “I don’t LIKE STRAT-TEH-GIES!”– the words spilled from Cohen’s mouth, so loud and primal his voice rivaled the throaty grovel of a seasoned rock singer. We laughed (because really, what else?) and ignored him (until we couldn’t ignore him because he was kicking Sophie’s seat). But then we ignored him some more and he got tired of being mad.
Our drive continued, and Jacob noticed his receding hairline in the rearview mirror and Ellie noticed the cattails in the fields outside. I researched road trips on my phone and Jacob said “seriously?” and I’m proud that it only took me few seconds to discover the irony. With our destination 10 minutes away, GPS lost its marbles as we encountered new construction, and we marveled at the height of the crisscrossing ramps and swore and barked at the kids to stay quiet. But even with GPS off the table, we found our way (like people do).
Upon arrival at Miller Park, we squashed the babies legs into carriers and Ellie clutched my hand as we made our way up the escalator to our seats in the upper-deck. We caught the opening home run on a TV just before finding our seats. By the bottom of the first inning, Everett had pooped. By the top of the third Sophie was whining for food. I changed Everett in a stinky bathroom and noticed another mom waiting for the changing table. She was kind and said “take your time.” Ellie called out from a nearby stall that she didn’t have any toilet-paper and the woman in the next stall over slid her some, saying “I have a daughter her age, too.”
We gathered our free hotdogs and apple-sauce and made our way back to our seats. There was a moment when Everett sat on my lap munching on his bread, when I slowed down and breathed in the warmth of new spring air. The sun glinted off the west end of the stadium, turning everything beyond his little head golden.
There were requests for ice cream after cheering for the “cowboy” in the sausage races. We ran into an old college friend eating our mini-chocolate cones. I was scarfing cheese fries (because a hotdog isn’t enough), and Everett was eating breadcrumbs off the ground. We said we should get together over the summer, and I think we will.
We made our way back to the car just before the bottom of the 9th. Ellie and Cohen raced across the footbridge, weaving their way in and out between the throngs of adult legs. “They’re with me,” I would say to the onlookers, my own feet shuffling along, Everett’s head bobbing in the carrier. The kids poked each other with an umbrella on the way home, but we didn’t have any tears (except from the babies.) Everett bit Jacob’s thumb with his two little front teeth, which made Cohen laugh uncontrollably. We ate spaghetti and then wiped spaghetti off the floor and picked spaghetti out of hair. We fell into bed.
After all was quiet, I found myself in my darkened room. The windows were wide open and the summer-like wind was strong. The stillness was broken only by the occasional, gentle snap of billowing curtains. After my breathing slowed, I could also hear the faint sound of a clarinet playing, the wind carrying its melody gently from a neighbor’s window to my own. The music lasted for at least twenty minutes; it changed– or perhaps revealed– the atmosphere in the air; it conjured a gentleness that could only be felt. I fell asleep to Rhapsody in Blue.
Everything speaks. Everything. Tiny baby toes too small for shoes, a big brother’s indignant shoves, swaying cattails and slightly cold hot dogs. Fly balls and foul balls and home runs. Summer winds and tired limbs, silence and song.
It all comes together in the marvelous symphony of what IS– each smell and sound and sight, each taste and touch coming together to create a life.
May we See.