Friday, April 28, 2017

The Land Where the Rain Never Stops

Rain fell steadily Saturday morning. As Elise zipped to her 8:30 Zengo class, I led the troops through their weekly chores: vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, swiffering, and sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. Initially reluctant, the kids no longer protest when I announce we have to do the weekly chores. Elise had told me chores give a child a sense of purpose and, in feeling useful, personal worth and security. This seemed to me counter-intuitive. How could doing manual labor make a child happier? How could this routine be more likely to bring harmony to the home than the path I usually guide them down on Saturday mornings of pancakes and cartoons??

As usual, Elise was right, and Saturday mornings are now -- if only slightly -- less chaotic than they had been. The long weeks had made kids fighting exhaustion -- both mentally and physically -- by Friday night. Sam frequently completely melted down upon returning from school Friday afternoons. Now, he has soccer practice Friday evenings, so instead of burrowing himself in the corner of his bed, hiding behind a veil of angst and tears, he's running drills around cones in the grass with the wind in his hair.

That afternoon, Elise and I found ourselves sitting in the living room before she and Sam were to make a run to Target, the rain continuing to fall outside, audible through the open windows, the wind fluttering the curtains there. The rain makes everything greener, and when stuck inside as we are, it can often feel like we are in a terrarium surrounded by moss-covered rocks. Not an entirely unpleasant experience, if we have to be stuck inside.

It's hard to find times to talk. Even in the least busy of moments, the kids have an uncanny knack of lining their head directly in my line of sight of Elise. Though I can still hear her, it makes having an actual conversation difficult. We find even less time to talk about my mom, not wanting the kids to hear too much. We haven't told them much about my mom, but I know they hear more than they let on, and even as careful as Elise and I are to keep our conversations quiet, there are inevitably times we talk when a kid is lurking around a corner.

Elise is the one who often broaches the subject. I am wont to avoid it if at all possible. "Any news out of Florida?" is how she often brings it up.

The conversations are filled with terms I don't understand, acronyms I don't know. Last night when I got home from work, the house was empty and I cracked open a beer and started making dinner, an endeavor which should have brought calm. But I found loud noises and bright lights intolerable. The second time something like this has ever happened to me. The first was a month or two ago when on an otherwise quiet Saturday afternoon filled with folding laundry, I started seeing spots. Elise chalked it up to stress and told me to lie down. I demurred. I had to much to do, I told her. She insisted, so I laid on top of the covers on our bed for twenty minutes, and it helped. The spots were gone. I don't get stressed out generally. So, when I start to see spots or can't deal with the sound of pots banging together I don't identify it for what it is and often ignore it for what it is.

We talked for a few minutes. Pete and Clementine played in their room. Peter was making a cruise ship out of legos. Sam worked at his desk downstairs, disassembling a coffee grinder we bought at the consignment store for two dollars for no other reason than for him to take it apart and see how it worked. They drifted in and out of the room, like random particles, atoms floating through the cosmos or motes of dust in the ray of sunshine that was noticeably absent.

"I love your mother," Elise told me. Her eyes welled up. "She gave me the best gift ever."

I can't stand to see Elise cry. Can any husband watch their wife cry and not be moved? Or to hear that you are more precious than a diamond engagement ring or a new iteration of an iPhone?

Last night, after dinner, I made the conscious decision to leave the dirty dishes in the sink, the dirty pots on the stove, and the school lunches unmade. I helped everyone into their pajamas (forgetting to put a pull-up on Clem. No worries, though...she made it through the night without an accident!). I laid on the floor of their room and read to them from "Where the Sidewalk Ends".

The rain did eventually stop. But not before taking most of the pink flower petals from our dogwood. Now, it looks like it rained flowers.

We'll take that. 

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