you get what you need
The kids are next door at the neighbor’s. I am stirring a pot of soup on the stove – the kind we call “everlasting soup” that gets reinvented every night with a new vegetable. It’s twenty degrees outside and the sun is inching low in the west, poised to inject the clouds with pink magic.
I might as well have selected “melancholy mix” tonight on Pandora, what with Paul Simon crooning “Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused,” while the sun signs off for another night. I can hear Col and Rose and half the neighborhood kids shrieking happily next door while I stir my lonely and spattering melting pot of all the vegetables contained in the nation of our refrigerator. And there’s this cliche whooshing through my mind like wingbeats in a quiet sky. It goes so fast.
Maybe it’s that it’s winter and the outside world is open for business so briefly each day. And even once we’re suited up in our acres of layers, ready to venture outside, I feel a little like a shady real estate agent bringing Col and Rose to the frozen backyard. “Well kids, would you look at how that ice positively shimmers!”
Or maybe it’s that I actually miss the small people who’ve spent much of the day requiring the largest slice of my pie graph of patience. These small people who just traipsed out the door leaving the words, “can we pleeeeease go play with the neighbors,” hanging in the air like a portent of things to come.
“Don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered, or driven to its knees,” Paul Simon ratchets up the sorrowful lament while I stir the soup with the microphone of my spoon. I remember anticipating the day that Col and Rose would be able to run independently with the neighborhood gang. For so long it loomed shinily on the far horizon of motherhood summits. And now it’s here.
And I love it, I do. I love that instead of paying babysitters while Dan and I try to have the cheapest date possible (yes, that was us eating a picnic dinner down by the river this summer), now we simply set up playdates with other families where nobody pays and everyone wins.
And this middle childhood—between the toddler years and the teen years—is like a sunny land-bridge spanning two stormy oceans. Col and Rose are still so fundamentally sweet. Also, they think I know everything. Recently I was giving them a primer on yogurt-making, going on ecstatically about how the bacteria transform the milk into yogurt, and how—can you believe?—we have the same bacteria in our bodies that makes the yogurt! And then I mentioned that the bacteria were like little animals, but not actually animals, but not really plants either, but certainly alive.
“Well, what are they?” Col stops piecing legos together to ask.
“Well, I don’t actually know, they’re -”
“Of course you know. You studied the human body.”
“No, not really.”
“Sure you did. You taught us about it.”
“Sweetie, I studied blood so I could teach the homeschool co-op. If the human body was a glass of water, I studied one tiny drop.”
“Wellllllll,” Rose puts her hands on her hips, “you do know about some animals. You know about monkeys.”
Today the kids interrupted my shower to ask if they could eat their chocolate hearts before breakfast. Well, no. But at least they asked! Someday they’ll be tossing back low-quality booze in ridiculously large bottles in a park, if they’re anything like me at 16.
Rose streaks through the door, gulping huge mouthfuls of air while explaining, “we need our stuffed animals for the party!” She grabs sealy, baby sealy, rammy and polar bear and runs out the door, but her happiness and exuberance linger like perfume.
Paul Simon is followed by The Rolling Stones, warning me, you can’t always get what you want. Yes it’s true, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
* Ginger-ale fermenters: 2nd step now up and photographed!