Wednesday, July 4, 2012

To Fly Solo

The Craft Room
My favorite chair is here.  The one I picked all by myself and totally disregarded the cost.  I’ve never spent that much money on furniture for me before or since.  Now it is partially covered with red sharpie marker courtesy of my little girl.  I’ve tried to scrub them off with stain remover; they are faded yet persistent against the white fabric.  They scream, “yes” I let great grandma and granddaddy watch the kids and they thought it was perfectly normal for a two year old to be quietly occupied for 30 minutes.  Clearly it’s been a while since they had small children. 

It’s white and has large gray flowery swirls all over it in a random pattern.  Has a separate large comfy ottoman that can be used as a seat in a pinch.  Just the ottoman alone was almost $300, what was I thinking?  Yet even now knowing how broke I am, if I had to go back again?  I would respend it, in all its six hundred dollar glory. For one chair.  It’s the one despite the marker that grabs every woman’s attention who walks in the door to my craft room.  Other moms have threatened to steal it and I have warned them that there would be repercussions.  

Jesus and I meet in this chair morning after morning.  Sometimes he is there waiting for me when I rise too early to appease my body’s desire for sleep.  He always gets up and gestures for me to sit.  Sometimes he perches on the ottoman next to me and holds my hand while I talk about the dreams I had the night before or listens as I rattle off my long to do list for the day.  And sometimes he sits on the floor next to me, silent as I drink my coffee and the sunlight. 

The walls are the perfect blue for a sunny room, too dark for any old room, but perfectly shaded for a room with tons of morning sun.  The carpet isn’t perfect not at all what I would have chosen but soft nonetheless and encourages those without a seat to make their home upon it.  My brother has fallen asleep snoring upon it once or twice. The filing cabinet is misplaced in the corner of the room next to a large stack of frames I need to hang up or put away. There’s a collage of pictures of my oldest on the wall with an appropriate Irish quote underneath, a bow to our heritage.

The room smells of all the potential crafts contained therein and candles and laundry detergent.  The counters and cabinets and shelves are in a perpetual state of slightly askew organization.  There are two or three projects halfway begun on the counter and clean laundry piled in baskets hoping for someone other than me to fold it.  The door to the bathroom and washer is pushed all the way in its pocket and still waiting for that second coat of paint.  There are bare wires for a light fixture above the mirror in the bathroom.  The floor needs to be mopped. 

The sound is silence, except for the birds chirping in the back yard.  The sun streaming in from the windows is almost too much this early in the morning.  I should finish hanging those curtains.  This is my home, my safe place, the one that soothes my heart.

The Pittsburgh Zoo. 

I haven’t been there since I was a small child.  We talked about taking the kids here but it never happened.  Now I’m here, with my Dad at my side, kids running ahead.  It smells zoo-like.  Harvey pinches his nose, yuck!  But not until we’re halfway around the first circle; I try to pinpoint for him which one stinks, but they all do. 

The animals are gorgeous and awake and to be seen.  The walk is hilly and tiring for all five of us, but new sights propel us forward.  I hear snatches of conversations and feel dehydrated most of the time.  Wonder if the kids need water, they wouldn’t stop to drink it if I offered silly kiddos.

My children’s smiles are like sunshine, again too much for me.  There are baby ducks on the path I see my and other children terrorize them slightly detached and suddenly realize I should engage and stop them from chasing those poor ducks. 

The way is unclear but I assume circular as every zoo I’m usually attending is that way.  The animals are not in an order that I understand and there’s an opportunity to pet an elephant.  I do not quite jump at the chance.  She hits me with her ginormous ears three times while the pictures are being taken. She’s chewing and I’m trying to smile for the camera and hold the baby.  When her ear brushes against me I feel the movement of the breeze and something gentle and forceful against my arm, moving my hair.  Almost as if simply her ear could knock me off balance. But her skin.  I’ve never felt anything like it.  As I run my hand ever so softly over her side I almost jump back in surprise.  It’s as rough as a leather jacket left out in the sun for a hundred years.  Cracked, pocked like gridlines etched into the side of her belly.  Maybe she has given birth and these are her stretch marks.  Her tattoos of honor and life. This is nothing like what I thought it would feel, rough and yet completely gentle at the same moment.  Supple and yet dry.  She seems to shift a millimeter with my touch, can someone who weighs a ton or two feel my touch?  I wonder if I hurt her.  Dad says that elephants’ skin is very sensitive.  

I walk on.  It’s not too hot just overcast and cool enough for a long walk to be appreciated.  I carry the baby off and on and herd the boys.  It’s like an out of body experience almost as if I’m watching all of us.  I stay on the phone, texting and try to remember to speak in order to keep my feet on the ground and prevent myself from floating off.  That would be awkward.  I feel like I need a lead balloon to tie me to the ground.  

Of course leaving is problematic and I’m alone again.  Managing solo.  My dad walks ahead as Harvey throws his fit.  He was never comfortable parenting me, a bachelor for too long and he certainly isn’t comfortable watching me parent in a difficult situation.  Harvey has a hard time transitioning out of things he loves and he loves animals almost more than me.  At first I kneel down with him and encourage him to obey.  Then I make him aware of the consequences of not listening.  He melts into a puddle on the ground.  I pass off the baby to Dad and kneel with Harvey once more.  Dad keeps walking distancing himself as far as he can from the situation. 

“You realize Harvey you cannot swim today at Uncle Scott’s if we don’t leave now?” 

“I don’t CARE ABOUT SWIMMING, I WANT TO SEE THE KIDS STUFF.”  Yes, he’s screaming, tears streaking down his dirty, gorgeous face. 

“Harvey, I understand that you’re really upset and want to stay at the zoo longer but we have to go now, everyone’s hungry and we need to eat lunch.”

“I don’t care about LUNCH, I’M NOT HUNGRY.”

“We’re going to McDonald’s.”  Yep, that’s some stellar parenting.

“I DON’T WANT MCDONALDS; I WANT TO PLAY AT THE PLAYGROUND.” Not sure anyone but me could have understood what he said at this point.  I was just trying to get him to walk out of the zoo on his own two feet. 

Harvey and I make it through but not without some bruised egos and idle threats.  I’m longing to feel like I’m not walking through Jell-O or floating away.  The sun is high and hot now, we are sweating and sticky and mad.  Life is unsimple and I just want peace.  I near tears and beat them back.  

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