It’s another grey sky morning* and I sit cross-legged in the middle of their room changing Nate’s diaper. The directives spill out of my mouth and hit the wood floor clack, clack, clacketyclackety, clack, like pouring out a jar of marbles.
“Your pants. Don’t do that. Watch out for the baby. Don’t step on him. Don’t step on me! Put your pants on. I don’t want to hear that word. Look in the basket. No. Come on, it’s time for breakfast. WHERE are your pants?”
Nate stands, still in that baby way, first feet under, then downward puppy, then walk it up until he is before me, his fat Buddha belly inches from my nose. I zerbert his belly button, a requirement for baby belly buttons everywhere, and he giggles and pushes my face away from him.
“No. Teacher Brenda Day? Quinn goes Tree Blossom**. Saige and Garrett go Kindergarten. We go Teacher Brenda?” He leans over to put his face, cocked to the side, eyes wide, directly in front of mine. The fourth of four learns early and well, if you don’t have eyes, you don’t have full attention.
“Yes. Teacher Brenda.” My children are list-makers, infused with my Type-A genetics. Only one might escape, though she learns it by osmosis.
“Next year,” I say brightly, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, “you’ll go to Tree Blossom like Quinn with Teacher Mel and Teacher Jennifer.”
“NO. NO.” His bottom lip quivers and his eyes fill with instant tears of despair. Oh the horror of change. Also passed down on the X chromosome.
Why did I say it? Why rush them? Why feed them every morning an infused black tea of my tendencies for anxious preparation? Why teach them to be always looking ahead to the next thing instead of reveling in the things you have. If I pull the vine of my fear and follow it back to its root, I find a need to nail down the future and make it stay.
Our neighbor’s twenty-four-year-old son died in a car crash yesterday. It’s not my grief. We aren’t emotionally close. But physically, two houses could not be closer. Our windows whisper secrets. Over seven years, I have watched scenes of their life play out on their front porch from my perch at our dining room table. I winced at teenage attitude and smiled at graduation and wished luck over the fence when cars were packed for college. I know she changed his diaper just like this and gave zerberts to tight bellies and I know my boys will be twenty-five and driving cars tomorrow.
Nate keens in my ear. “No Tree Blossom. No Tree Blossom.”
“Is that scary?” I ask him, “to go to a new school?”
Before I can gather my broken thoughts and backtrack to soothe and distract mode, Quinn is there. Half dressed, his round baby belly – the only baby left on his whole, lean, little boy body, sticks over the top of his pajama pants. A smudge of black dirt sits under his left eye, a testament to my poor bedtime face-washing skills.
“Yeah, Nate,” he lisps, “I was shy when I stawrted Twee Bwossom too, but you down’t need to worwy because when I got there I found out that it’s all fwends.”
If only I could be so eloquent. If only I could hold onto such a simple life motto. I want to put it in pretty font and pin it to Pinterest.
When you get there,
you’ll be among friends.
Instead I searched for one of my favorite quotes that I haven’t thought about in a long time and transcribed it to my “to do” notebook.
To do: 1) contemplate the connection between joy and sorrow; 2) shut my damn trap about next year.
*Hat tip to Vertical Horizon’s song “Best I Ever Had.”
**Changed to protect the innocent, but preserve the lisp.