Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Crannies and Corners Two Years In



Last week marked two years in this house. On the day of our two year anniversary, Alamae James slept on the daybed and I had my niece Jettie in a sling on my chest as I tried to take pictures of this house as it is now.

Once I saw the pictures on the computer screen my eyes went straight to the Skylanders that lay abandoned on the ground, saw the pictures hanging askew.  I figured I would go back and take new pictures later, pictures that showed my house picked up and styled. For a week it hung in the back of my mind to do that. The problem is, however, that my house is never more picked up. It is never more styled. It is the backdrop for a life well lived. A large cast of characters, both major and minor, cross the threshold and are welcomed to eat at the dining room table I just inherited from my grandparents. They are invited to sink into the chairs given to us by our realtor just before moving in. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is pristine.

There are dozens of things that I want to change in my home at any given moment. Rugs I want to replace. Pieces of furniture I wish I could reupholster. Projects that needed finished. This house as an expression of me and my family has been an art project carried out with a very limited budget. And like most artistic pursuits, there are times when I am completely dissatisfied with the results and there are other times when I am thrilled.  The pendulum will likely continue to swing for years and years.  The house will grow and evolve with us. Bedrooms will be shuffled. New art hung. Broken things repaired. Quirky old things purchased.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Farm Mornings

Moments with my family on a farm. Quiet and peaceful, even when life feels like it is anything but. Morning light and baby smiles. A sister who loves her nieces and nephews with her whole heart. A feeling I have only discovered these past few weeks but which has overwhelmed me. Fields of hay. Blooming crepe myrtle. It was as though the landscape took a deep breathe for me and left me feeling just a little lighter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quiet Days

Quiet days spent wandering around the air conditioned house with Alamae at my side. Remembering the boredom that comes with long days spent with just an infant for company. The sense that you will get things done but the inability to actually do them. Having just one is both easier and harder than I remember.

Yesterday we only left the house once. A quick trip to buy soft shell crabs because I find myself craving the sea in every way. I fried two up and brought one to my sister. We pulled apart their briny strangeness and licked our fingers. Then I walked back to my own house to spend more quiet hours interrupted by vinyls I forget to flip and more television than is ever my custom.

All day the dishwasher has needed to be unloaded. All day it has waited. It will keep waiting while I bounce Alamae on my knee as she drips cantaloupe juice down my leg.

***

Hours have passed since the dripping cantaloupe. Now I'm holding my niece as Tom paces with Alamae. These babies fill my hands and heart to capacity, but leave me restless, ready for big kids to return. Ready for the noise they bring. Ready for their help and for their altogether different set of needs.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Spontaneous Ocracoke

Last Monday morning I discovered that I had most of the week off from work. By three o'clock, my sister Molly and I were in the car, headed south with three babies in tow. My mom had left earlier in the day with Sena and Gus, and I planned on letting them enjoy some beach time alone with Oma, but an open schedule begs to be filled with sun and sand and surf. We managed to make the last ferry Monday night, and proceeded to spend the next few days in my happy place. My heart feels bigger but somehow lighter at the ocean's edge. I've read that the negative ions in the air near turbulent water are nature's anti-depressant.  The ocean heals. Looking out at the distant horizon. Floating in the salty waves. Soaking in the sunshine. Playing with the ones you love most. These are the things that bring peace. 

I hesitated before making the decision to pack up and leave. There were so many people to consider. So many feelings to weigh. Although I wasn't scheduled to work at the restaurant, I knew if I stayed I could pick up shifts. After a party, followed by a trip to New York, followed by a crab feast at our house, some extra cash would be more than a little helpful. Tom encouraged me to go, maybe in part because he was ready for a quiet house to himself for a few days, but also because he knew it was what I wanted to do. He reminded me that summer only comes once a year, and that although it seems like it will last forever, it's always gone before you know it. 

As much as I like to make plans, I also want spontaneity. I want to be able to leave on a whim because the opportunity presents itself. With four kids, those opportunities are few and far between, which just makes it all the more important to never pass them up.  As Molly and I quickly shoved clothing in whatever hodgepodge of luggage we could find, I reminded us both of how little we would actually need. A few diapers, swimsuits, and a change of clothes would get us through if need be. Even when I have made an effort to pack, one time I put Sena and Gus in the car without shoes. Another time I completely forgot to bring anyone underwear. Even shoeless and comando, it all works out. 

I'm home with only Alamae, as the oldest three get in a few more days at the beach before heading back for a spell. Now to organize a neglected house. To contend with piles of laundry. For the next few weeks, I'll try to spend less. I'll try to pick up those extra shifts. But I even more that that, I will do my best to live this summer to its fullest in whatever ways and moments I can. After all, a summer well lived makes for an easy winter, or so I will try to convince myself.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Gus and The Big Apple

Last week's short jaunt to New York City was Gus's first time. It involved a whole slew of firsts: first tim on a bus, in a cab, on the subway. His first roller coaster, which he was disappointed wasn't alongside his big sister. His first time eating calamari, which he was excited to brag about to his more culinarily adventurous big sister.  In addition to those notable firsts, there was also so much to be learned. It involved the requisite educational component: we spent the afternoon on the Intrepid. While there, he definitely gained some facts, picking up the sort of knowledge that can be gleaned from books but is some much more memorable when accompanied by buttons to push and spaces to explore. His reaction to discovering that the Gemini 3 was nicknamed the Gusmobile was sweet and priceless: "My name's Gus," he announced to me and Joanna, as though that was a fact that might have escaped us.

But the most profound learning occurred outside the realm of the strictly educational. It came through discovering how different the lives of others can be. What it is like to live in small places, to walk  longer distances, to shop in bodegas, to cool off in city fountains. A life full of elevator pressing, cross walks, and public transportation. At dinner in a basement level Italian restaurant, while talking to a grumpy, old Italian man who teased Gusto the brink of his comfort level , I think Gus learned how alike two seemingly different people can be, when the meal ended with sharing photos of their respective fishing triumphs.

I was grateful to spend a few of days with just one child as my main focus. Gus got the chance to take control of more of my attention than usual. While Alamae was there with us, there were enough adults to lighten the load and the trip catered to Gus's whims, giving him the time and space to shine. My heart broke dozens of times each day as I watched my charming blonde boy interact with the people around him, easily talking with adults and children alike. His words warm and genuine. Watching my boy take a new place by storm left me prideful to the point of sin.