Tonight Jacob stayed late for parents’ night at his school. Would I survive? I prepped myself with a very-berry hibiscus on my way to pick up the kids. (I never feel more suburban than when I am jamming Everett and Mae in their carseats with the bribery of scones from Starbucks.) Before making it through the drive-thru, they were cashed out in their carseats. Both of their necks tilted to the right, both their chins touched their chests like, well– like twins. (Except Everett was sweatier.)
I waved enthusiastically to Soph as she made her way to the car in her mint green, horse-patterned dress. She lost her glasses this morning, and her hair was down. She skipped a bit when she saw me. As we drove up West Main, we saw Cohen and waved. He waved back, but with the cooler reserve of his new 4th-grade-walk-to-school-self. We pulled into the driveway where my mom, Cam, and Ellie were sipping freeze pops. After saying bye to Gaga, (and waking Everett and Mae up with a freeze pop of their own), I asked them the daily litany of questions about school. Ellie sang two songs in music and “ran” in gym. “Did you do anything else in gym?” “No,” she said. Sophie was allowed to pick out free- reading books today, and she informed me incredulously that someone was allergic to raspberries, plums, and milk in her class. Ellie said the spelling of “all of her colors right” but just because Gaga told her the “secret” of looking at the word on the crayon. Cohen is going on a trip to the library– he played gaga ball at recess and had strawberries with his hotdog at lunch. I listened and got distracted and tried to listen some more.
I made spaghetti for dinner and made myself feel better about my motherhood by adding cucumbers and green beans that no one would eat for sides. The kids chased each other with blankets over their heads back and forth across the family room a bit.
Soph and Ellie eventually came up for baths and determined that they would play “Kiara and Kovu.” After prying them out of the tub 15 minutes later, Sophie admitted she had forgotten to play because she was “daydreaming about Christmas.” After baths, they became “tiny eggs” under their towels and Mae demanded that I “boe-dyer” her hair. We tried to all read in bed. We tried. Everett got kicked and Ellie got shoved and Sophie quickly left after her Samantha Saves the Day chapter was over. But there was a moment (approximately 30 seconds) when they all were lying quietly as I read Don’t Forget the Oatmeal for the hundredth time and there was a bit of peace.
I rocked Everett and Mae. Everett climbed out of bed, then Mae climbed out of bed, and finally Everett started snoring. Mae sobbed by her door when I went to tuck in the other kids. I “blanket-tucked” Cohen in his “cave” (the small column of space between his bed and his wall). I tucked in the girls and Ellie started to scream. Sophie demanded headphones which made Ellie scream louder and I said “Mama’s gonna blow a gasket!” Soph said, “What’s a gasket?” and I said “It means I won’t be able to control my temper.” And Ellie said: “What’s a temper?” I told her I’d come back in 5 minutes for more kisses.
Today we heard a speaker at school (the annual “kick-off-the-year” assembly) who cheerleaded the crowd of high school students into “leaving a legacy” by “helping others when no one is looking.” Here’s the thing though– I’m sort of done with the leaving a legacy advice. It’s not that any of that is bad, and we should help others when no on is looking. But maybe the really heroic thing is to find the joy and sacredness with or without the legacy. The joy and the very real ache of being human, co-mingling side by side. Nothing– no action or vocation or travel or service– will completely fulfill you; there will always be moments you feel empty. But being okay with this might be the closest you’ll actually get to feeling full.
Ellie told me to come back 10 times, so I’m off. Jacob- are you home yet?