We walked early this morning, just after breakfast. No toy vehicles allowed- which elicited a wave of fury from Everett and Mae. The sky was blue, without an interruption of cloud, a blank canvas rather than a finished painting. Cohen walked 100 feet ahead of us, and Soph decided to stay home camped out on the roof of the playhouse with Jacob instead. But even still- there was peace. Everett held his planes as we walked, and Mae cradled Elsa in her elbow. Ellie noticed a small bird on the corner of garage roof and we stopped to watch it for a while.
We came home to sit outside on the empty patio, winter’s fallen leaves still covering the corners of the deck, small green shoots of perennials nearly invisible along the fence garden. Cohen swung on the giant swing listening to music while Soph and Ellie perched on the playhouse roof with notebooks, pencils, and baseball caps to indicate they were “spies.” When the older girls would vacate the roof, Everett and Mae would acquire the space, pulling themselves up like monkeys and then calling for help to get down.
We spread a large green blanket across the cement, and I brought out paper plates of cucumbers and carrots and chicken nuggets for lunch. Afterward giant piles of books were hauled outside, and everyone found a “nook.” Cohen returned to his place on the swing, Soph and Ellie found chairs on the pool deck, perched with The Penderwicks and a 2016 Briargate yearbook respectively, and Mae and Everett pulled up small chairs next to Jacob while he worked on his laptop.
Reading only lasted a few minutes for the twins, who quickly found a new game to occupy their attention, and “baseball matching” was laid out on the ground. We called Gaga Jayne and didn’t need to talk. She rocked on her swing and listened to us find matches. Everett would flip each small circle to discover a different MLB logo. “Miami Mah-lins,” he would say, “Not, Cah-di-nuls, SAINT LOUIS Cah-di-nuls.” We called Papa Gary and heard about his hearing aids but mostly just put emojis of skeletons and bears on his forehead.
We came inside to bake a box cake- funfetti. Cohen cracked the eggs, Soph measured the water and oil, and Ellie nearly sprayed her own eyeballs out with the PAM. They fought over who got to lick the bowl. In our foray through the pantry, Cohen found a tub of powdered Countrytime Lemonade and quickly managed to get all of his siblings to chant for the beverage in unison. “LEM-ON-ADE! LEM-ON-ADE!” I walked up from the basement steps and found them huddled in the doorframe, giggling, knowing they had the one-cup-of-juice-a-day rule beaten.
There is the temptation to write something profound today, something that will satisfy this thirst we are feeling for answers, to discover a new truth that has been gleaned from these uncertain times. But more often than not, we remember rather than discover, we remember that what we need is really very little, very simple, and has indeed been with us all along.
A few nights ago, on a walk by myself, I saw what was in front of me. So many people looked me in the eye. The first man I passed spoke with a direct address: You have a good day he said looking right at me. The next woman I saw from afar, walking slowly. Her gray hair blew in the wind and she found my eyes and said with triumph “we will not be defeated.” I watched a dad play baseball with his son in their backyard. The boy was in full uniform, white baseball pants, jersey, cap. There were no bleachers, stands, or fans. Just his dad, poised and ready with a bat, waiting for the surely off-kilter pitch.We held eye contact for longer than normal, these strangers and I, perhaps because these changes remind us of what is constant- of that which never changes- that we are here together.
And as I walked a little bit further, I thought about how we are typically like horses pawing our hooves at the ground, ready to burst forth from the starting gate- itching to go, to be any place but where we are. But the Now is pulling us inward for the time being, back into ourselves, back to the discovery of the still small voice that has never left us. It is the spark amidst all sorts of change that remains constant. It is the voice that says I AM.
Last night the boys crawled in bed together, and Jacob snapped a photo. He told me as he showed me the picture: “God help us if that’s not the cure to everything in the world.” Which of course, it’s not. But in other ways, perhaps in the ways that really matter, it surely is. Grace upon grace to you in this uncertainty- in the boredom, pain, and beauty of it. May we have eyes to see what is in front of us, and ears to hear the Voice that has been there all along.