Because the kids stayed home sick on Friday, we are coming off a four day weekend. Also, because the kids stayed home sick on Friday, we all got at least a little sick over this four day period…As they were getting ready for bed and we were closing out the weekend I could stand back to appreciate it all, the laughs, the tears, the grumpy moods and even the squabbles already have the patina of a memory, in place of the raw need of it all actually happening.
This has led me to think about some of the things I didn’t fully appreciate until after they were over.
1. Sleep overs in my own sister’s room – sometimes, though not often, when our kids have a slumber party with each other in one of their rooms, I find them curled up close to one another in one bed. Usually our 8 year old still has a book across her chest or by her hand while our five year old is stretched from one side of the bed to the other like a starfish. They sleep that way independently but when I see them transposed like that it melts my heart, because I know they can be themselves exactly with each other. I remember many nights in my own sister’s room, making up stories or brushing her hair for her while she fell asleep. At the time, I thought of it as unpaid labor and always threatened to quit, but I never did. And when there were terrible thunderstorms or I couldn’t sleep, I would crawl into a tiny corner of her four poster bed and without ever saying a word, she would always toss me a pillow.
2. Having someone else cook all of my meals for me – our kids will recoil in mock horror at the mention of certain dinner suggestions, as I am sure I did when my mom made stuffed peppers (again?!). But one day, not so far from today, our daughters will be responsible for not only thinking of what to eat, but shopping for it, paying for it and cooking it too. Many mornings when I ask the girls what they would like for breakfast they answer by saying “What are my options” which used to drive me crazy. But lately, I can see that this is the time do just that. This is a part of my gift to them. I can see now, that it was a gift to me from my own mom. Each time she made it a priority to prepare grits and soft cooked eggs, when it would have been easier to make a bowl of cereal, she was gifting me with the experience.
3. Falling asleep and being carried to bed – this does not encompass those times that one drinks six margaritas and has to be forcibly removed from the dance floor and deposited into their hotel room on spring break. I am talking about the times after eating a fantastic meal in the company of your family; when you fall asleep in the backseat of your parents Volvo where you watched the moon chase your car until your lids got too heavy. When the car comes to a final stop and you know you aren’t quite asleep because you can hear your mom gather her pocketbook and click up the driveway in heels to unlock the door before your father opens the car door and lifts you up close to him. I would always will my eyes to stay closed as the crinoline from my party dress scratched my legs, full of shrimp scampi and Shirley Temples, safe in the knowledge that this would surely last forever.
Tonight, as bed time approached, I had it all timed out perfectly. Dinner was already cleaned up, a movie was ending right on time, teeth were brushed and jammies were on. The kids had picked out a few books for story time and I had volunteered to read them aloud so they could lay back and just listen. After the end of the third book, we could hear thunder rolling through and I offered to extend bed time just a little longer for a few more stories and cuddles until it subsided. Everything else could wait, because I don’t want to look back on moments like these years later and see them as scared because they are over.
I also don’t want a lifetime to go by without acknowledging how much of a gift people’s time truly is. Thank you for reading this, yes, you, thank you. Thank you to my big sister who never really kicked me out of her room (she may have said, for example, GIT OUTTA HERE, but didn’t actually physically kick me out of bed and all). Thank you to my mom for all the meals she made (even the stuffed peppers) and everything else that she did for us. Thank you to my Dad for never insisting I walk like a big girl after those dinners. Thank you to my little sister and brother who taught me everything I know about reading endless books to kids, then singing them every show tune I knew until they finally fell asleep, I wouldn’t have believed it then, but it has certainly come in handy. Thank you to my own sweet girls who will one day read all of this and see what exactly I was doing in the office all those times. Thank you to Mr. It’s going to take a year, who continues to meet me exactly where I am (coming down with a cold, unwashed hair, wondering what the H I am doing as I take on creative projects that scare and overwhelm me, stuff like that) with unending support and unwavering belief. These are the gifts that you’ve given to me that outshine all the others.