The week is nearly gone in sick kids, soccer practices, tae kwon do lessons, and end of the term pushing, constant pushing, “Is that ready to turn in? May I see it, please?” The boys try to end-run around me and turn in work that was rushed through just to have a piece of paper to hand in next day; without regard to how it and they will be judged the following evening by an earnest young woman over a cup of tea. There is one of me and there are three children. I am outnumbered, especially at the end of the term. I do the best I can which never feels good enough, never as good as the mothers I most admire. Still, I am glad to have them as inspiration, drawing me ever-forward to something better.
Spring has come and the cherry trees are in bloom and the air is delightfully fragrant. Dog walkers are out en masse and they all seem to have spring in their steps, like folks do when the sun comes out to green everything after several cold, soggy days. All the world is pretty when the sun warms it. The air is fresh and clean, and young children are given to bursting into song. Even the boys pick ‘walk the dog’ over ‘screen-time’ in such weather.
We come again to the boys and their sister, and to a mother’s worry. We have two years before my daughter is checking her email neurotically for those college acceptance letters as some of her older peers are now. Those same two years, are Little Man’s last in elementary school. It’s no wonder I’m feeling worn, finally broken in and comfortable, like a solid boot.
“You don’t think very far ahead, do you, Annie?” a friend gently chided recently. No, actually I don’t. I’m really just trying to get through the day, one at time, then the week, the month, and get these kids raised. Then I can think ahead. I’ve been encouraged by various partners-in-crime to look after my romantic life “before it’s too late,” but I can’t fathom changing a thing right now. The balance is too delicate and I haven’t time for upheaval or energy for extra drama.
I am older now and more frequently seen as who I actually am. It’s like I’ve finally been removed from the package, a package which was pretty on the shelf, but cramped and airless. Aging was something I never thought I would do, and as is my custom, I came late to the party, late and ill-prepared. I am coming to know and love more people I would have once called old, and maybe they are old, but to me they just seem interesting and beautiful. Even a 4,000 year old mummy, most every molecule of moisture wicked away, is truly, breathtakingly lovely. Her thick eyelashes frame dark sockets, her long auburn hair falls delicately across her feminine cheek bone and shoulder. She was someone’s queen and someone’s mother. Her ghostly beauty haunts my sleep.
“Are you taking care of you?” the therapist asked. Of course, I am. I’m healthy, but vulnerable as all mothers are, especially the single ones. I try to be brave, but I lock my doors even in the daylight. There are many strangers in our inner-ring suburban neighborhood, and crime is on the rise; it’s always like that when the poor are pinched.
The news is nearly all bad. There is radiation leaking into the sea and hundreds of thousands are homeless and without necessities in Japan. There are more oil spills and more dead dolphins and turtles and more sick people in the Gulf region than anyone wants to talk about. More blood spills daily in the Middle East as civil unrest is met by governments with violence, which ruins countries for everyone, as unrest becomes war, destroying lives and property, scarring the place and it’s people for generations. This country feels more divided than ever as Republican Presidential hopefuls head to my home state. Many say and do things that make me worry for my children’s futures. How will this government respond if students and poor and working people fill the streets here? Let us hope that it is not with violence and intimidation. Worry crowds the cherry blossoms.
I take solace in beauty and am blessed to know much of it. Beauty is in a five year-old’s pronouncement that trees make air for us to breathe. It is in a father swinging his young son up to stamp dry leaves down into a paper yard-waste bag at a garden workday. It is in a child picking up a bit of trash, unasked. It is on soccer fields and in churchyards. It is in playground laughter, scuffles, and shouting. It is most certainly in loving and in breathing. In the embrace of our own flawed humanity there is hope, and as long as there is hope, there will be beauty.
The days bleed like ink on soggy paper, one into the next, and I wonder how long that little wrinkle has been there. It makes me look like I’m still smiling, even after the occasion for laughter has passed. It’s not so bad really, being an aging Annie in this troubled world, not so bad at all.