It’s happening. I sit in the silence of my orderly if not clean house, showered, the dishes done, the laundry humming a floor beneath my feet. Late afternoon sunlight makes prairie-pattern squares on the hardwoods and my papers sit in neat, unmolested piles on the dining room table. I can hear the house. I can hear my thoughts. I can hear the sound of sweet, spring sunshine warming the maples outside, waking them.
The wise ones who know these things call early motherhood “the trenches.” Oh well, you’re still in the trenches, they say. Sometime in the last four months, the shells stopped falling and I scrambled up the muddy bank to take a look around. The damage isn’t too bad. Like a shell-shocked soldier, I almost don’t know what to do. There’s too much space. Too much time. I stand frozen in my new freedom, wondering when I’ll have to duck for cover.
The three oldest are registered for full-time school next fall. The “baby” will be gone three mornings a week.
My New Year’s resolution was to do my hair. Blow it dry and straight every time I wash it instead of sticking it up in a bun to dry frizzy and awkward and unmanageable. I stood in our perfect new bathroom a few mornings ago, running late, but determined. The hair dryer buzzed like a demented horsefly, drowning out the sound of my children destroying their bedroom and not getting dressed on schedule. Hands raised to run my fingers through my hair, I caught the reflections of Saige and Nate standing in the doorway. They held hands, waiting patiently for my attention. Saige smiled widely into the sudden peace of the silenced dryer.
“We’re dressed,” she said and waited quietly brimming with pride.
“Who dressed Nate?” I met her eyes in the mirror.
“Saige!” Nate chortled out the secret that they had brewed between them. He hovers at the line between toddler and little boy. His new buzz cut screams preschooler but his chubby hands and diapered bottom still soften the edges.
“Wow. That’s amazing. But we need to change your diaper, huh?”
“No,” Saige said. “I changed it. I can help. I can do chores.”
I ran my finger around the waist of the diaper, checked the tabs, buying time to adjust my equilibrium as the space around me expanded again. Air whistled in my ears. Stars and galaxy whirled past my cheeks. The universe really is expanding constantly. I can feel it happening. The me slowly fills the gaps where it was all them before.
“Perfect,” I told her. “That is so awesome. Thank you.” They skipped away to find breakfast and I turned the dryer on.
One minute the bombs fell and I reinforced trench walls as fast as I could dig and the next minute they’d stopped. A small and ever expanding part of my time is again mine. I don’t know what I’ll do with it yet. For now, it’s enough to bask in it. It sounds like sunshine. It smells like time passing, rife with the salty tang of the sea. It feels like the laugh lines in the corner of my mouth when I smile. It hurts like laughter through tears, but it’s only growing pains.
Their growing. My pains.
*Title credit goes to Michael Franti and Spearhead.