Friday, December 19, 2008

Two Points in Time

A Random Day in 2004

She was cleaning in the kitchen with her 4 month old in his bouncy seat, while the two year old came in and out from the backyard freely through the patio door. The spring air in Colorado was cool and dry, but it was sunny outside. A radio was playing on the countertop.

She was drinking a cold can of Pepsi. The rush of caffeine and sugar helped fuel her schedule. The day consisted of rotating time slots of cleaning, feeding and napping. It was an endless cycle.

The toddler came in and announced "I have egg!" That meant he had a full load in his diaper. He started saying that after he overheard his mom announce that his brother had laid an egg when he had a lump in his diaper. He would continue using that phrase until he potty trained right after his 3rd birthday.

After changing his diaper, she noticed that he had unloaded all the books from the bottom 3 shelves of the bookcase at some point during the day. She put them back in their place, getting more and more frustrated with the cycle of the day and the repetition of the tasks that consumed every moment.

The buzzer on the dryer went off. After folding the tiny clothes on the bed and putting them away neatly in the drawers, taking extra time to straighten up the room, she knew it was time for the baby to eat. Throughout the day there would be no deviation from the to do list that continued growing inside her mind. Things needed to be checked off. The rug needed vacuuming, the stupid Mega Bloks were all over the floor again, the sippy cups needed washing, the baby's nails needed trimming, the litterbox was starting to smell, and the dishwasher was ready to be unloaded. She wanted to sit outside with her oldest and play, like they used to when he was an only child, but there were so many other things to do. Sometimes she felt trapped in the confines of her own expectations. There was never enough time for everything.

A Random Day in 2008

She hurried her 5 and 7 year old sons out the door to get to school on time. They would probably be late. It happened a lot. They followed a wooded path that led them almost directly from their house to the school, watching out for slick patches of mud. The weather in England was cold and wet. Even though it was almost 9 am, it was still not bright outside. It was as if the sun barely made an appearance at all during the day, arching slowly above the horizon as a fading version of itself and then without hesitation, beginning its descent.

She listened to them talk about booby traps and Star Wars. Based on their conversation, she could sense when her youngest was going to have a tough morning, throwing a tantrum for the teacher when she had to leave him there. Those mornings were like having painful dental work done. You just had to get it over with and hope that nothing was permanently damaged.

When she got back to the house after bringing them to school, it seemed quiet and dark and strange. She had coffee in the living room and looked at the Christmas tree. It sometimes still seemed surreal that this was her house and that she had two rapidly growing boys and a Christmas tree that looked strikingly similar to the trees from her own childhood, with mismatched decorations and colored lights. It was the tree of a family.

She noticed there were handprints on the living room window, but felt no desire to clean them. Instead, she was content they were there, because one day the kids wouldn't be leaving little handprints on the window and that would be kind of sad. There were games and photos and "projects" the boys had made in every area of the house. She realized how a house can feel empty and how a house can feel full.

During the day there was no to do list, or if there was it was short. Things were usually flexible. She was able to shuffle tasks around, based on importance, although frequently some things were forgotten. The laundry always sat at the bottom of the list in a big, neglected heap.

In the afternoon she hurried along the path to pick up the boys from school. It was the best part of the day. They would all make their way back home, both of the kids talking at once and trying to unload papers and books from their backpacks along the way. It would be dark soon, but the house would be full of light and sound. She suggested different things they could do together when they got back, but the kids usually wanted to unwind with the video game. Then they would eat dinner together. At the table they talked about school, and the boys either loved the food or hated it. Afterwards, the lull of bedtime always came around fast. There was never enough time for everything. But she was learning that time had a way of expanding and contracting and turning the things that were made most important into well-worn paths of memory.


Nit said...

I loved this post! You are a wonderful writer. Time really does fly by. I often think back to 3, or 4, or 5 years ago and this about how much has changed & how much really hasn't. :)

cameo said...

i needed this tonight mroe than you'll ever know.
for awhile now i've been feeling burdended by the way everybody needs mee.
i'm tired, and i want someone to take care of me for awhile.
i'm going to sit here for a spell and breath.
and then i'm going to walk into the living room, with the four needy beings, and try and shift my thinking.

April & Pedro said...

i loved this! time for a new post...?