To Do, To Be

I feel a little guilty because it’s the middle of the afternoon and I’m still in bed. I’m in my son’s bed, actually, lying beside him as he drifts in and out of a fevered sleep. Poor kid has got a stomach bug and he’s riding it out the best he can. I’ve done a few things today – had a phone interview, scheduled a new piano student, finished the dishes, responded to some emails and tended to some office work – yet I’m still in my pajamas too, and I’m feeling like I should be doing something more.

But if I leave the room for long, I hear Elihu faintly cry ‘Mama’… He just wants me near. And honestly, if I can shush that silly voice that keeps beckoning me to ‘get something done’, this is exactly where I want to be. And I understand that just by being here I’m doing my job. I know it, but it’s just that we’re all so conditioned to do, do, do, that simply being can feel unimportant and unproductive.

So for now, I’ll just stay here, next to my son. I’ll listen to him breathe, I’ll feel relief when he sleeps and I’ll be here to stroke his head when he wakes. Today, my job is just to be… right here.

Ho Ho, Huh?

In our four years here we haven’t kept a lot of holiday traditions; each year has been slightly different – and in fact this year is the very first Christmas for which Elihu will actually be here with me. Each year we try to make that important visit with Santa, and to watch him light the town tree, and each year we grow narcissus bulbs. That’s about it. Yeah, we get a tree, but never even do that the same way twice. Last year we cut one from a field and ended up modifying it a bit; I drilled holes in the trunk and stuck in branches to fill it out… (you can see pics of that tree under December 2011 in the archives to the right). Some things remain simple and routine, yet each year we’re met with a nice surprise or two that continues to make a believer of me.

When we arrived home this afternoon we found a Christmas tree leaning against our kitchen door. Huh? I just love that first moment after such a discovery… our jaws drop, we look at each other, then our mouths close and turn to smiles… And while it may be offensive to some, yes, some hearty expletives are uttered too (Elihu is skilled at this, he knows exactly when and when not to, and when he does, gotta say, he’s right on). So holy crap and hot damn, we have ourselves a tree. Although we don’t keep too many rigid traditions, I will admit to being a late starter at Christmastime, and I really like it that way. (Remember please that the three wise men didn’t even get to the manger – and give their gifts – until January 6th – Epiphany, ya know? And much of the Christian world correctly recognizes this day as the big one.) Plus, I’m kind of a control freak. I like to choose a tree. It’s kind of a big deal. I take pride in having my home reflect my own aesthetic choices, and the size and shape of a Christmas tree is a pretty big one – plus it’s one which comes only once a year. So ironically, in this holy moment of true giving, my less-than holy self is having a tiny tantrum.

How can I be like this for long? Elihu and I both know that somewhere out there is a person who is so excited for us, who couldn’t wait to bring us this gift, whose whole day was uplifted at the thought, who is right now happily wondering what we are saying and thinking at the surprise. And this makes us laugh. How can we not honor that and be just as joyful? After some preparations, we get the tree inside, and my able nine year old adjusts the bottom as I hold it straight (just love that my kid can finally help out like this – he does too.) We stand back. Hmm. It’s short and stout. It’s not quite the shape or size we would have chosen, but we note that it’s a good tree for a country cottage. We also remind ourselves that a tree hadn’t even been in our budget this year. It smells so nice. We thank the tree for giving her life to us, and we promise to love her and dress her up beautifully. We take a moment and just admire the real, living tree before us. Wow. Christmastime indeed.

We put the clues together and we assess who might have done this. I have an idea, and yes, it’s becoming more evident. After a trip next door to tell Grandma and Grandpa our news (this is too good for the telephone) we pick up the phone and call our suspect. We have her on speaker, and she’s good…  She brightly exclaims that we’ve been ‘elved’! – and tells us that she too had been elved last year when she came home from work to find the pole at her driveway wrapped in Christmas lights… I listen carefully to her voice. Yes, she’s good. And I like that she is, cuz way down deep she’s got me believing. Course the kid’s here too, so she’s gonna do her best, but damn, I really do believe her. It makes such sense, ya know?

Ho Ho Ho! We’ve been elved!

Touchdown, Takeoff

It was almost midnight when I picked my son up at the airport last Thursday. I arrived a few minutes early, so went to the observation room in hopes I might actually see his plane land. The huge glass walls mostly showed the reflection of the room itself, so I had to lean way in and raise my arm above my head to register the inky black airfield. As I looked at my reflection in the glass, superimposed against the blinking lights of the tower beyond, the strange mix of the archaic and the futuristic struck me. I was in my farm jacket, my hair hanging messily about me – an untidy figure in a clean, modernistic room of glass; the farmer come to meet the sky ship.

This time I was lucky, for as I casually turned my head to the right I saw two lights approaching at what seemed to be a breakneck speed. I couldn’t see the plane itself, but knew my son was there somewhere in the darkness between the two lights. I watched as it zoomed past, wondering how on earth something like that can possibly stop in time, and never taking my eyes off of it as it then turned and taxied briskly back towards me. As the plane came closer, I saw big, fluffy white snowflakes in its lights. My son was home safe, and it was snowing. Perfect.

As I expected, Elihu seemed taller. But more had changed than just that. No longer did he run into my arms as he had at nearly every other reunion. He stood, shy, waiting, giggling somewhat uncomfortably. Huh? I hugged him, I exclaimed how happy I was, and after thanking Dave (our friend at Southwest) we were off to baggage claim. But what’s this? Tears? Already? What the hell just happened? This: apparently I made ‘too big a deal’ of seeing him. I ‘treated him like a baby’. Oh man. Are we here already? I mean, really? I swear sometimes there’s a teenage girl lurking somewhere close to the surface… sheesh. But I try to honor his feelings, after all I remember very well that horrible kind of embarrassment that only parents can create, and it’s made worse because they keep telling you you have no reason to be embarrassed… Well, yes, you do! If a kid’s embarrassed, no matter how hormone or insecurity-induced, if it’s what the poor kid’s feeling, it’s real! So I have to respect it at the very least. I let him talk, cry, explain. Might also be the late hour, I think, but I don’t say that. Eventually, we reach a new understanding. I’m not to call out his name, run towards him, nor open my arms in hopes of a huge, public reunion. I will simply stand there, arm around him as I sign the release, maybe give him a subtle sideways squeeze and a quick kiss atop his head.

In my mind’s eye I play the scene of my adorable six year old boy squealing with delight at seeing me again. I remember his little lisp, his tiny body. Did I savor those moments? I guess I did. I can’t have regrets. I just need to switch gears, because those days are over, and we’re entering a new chapter. As we drive home through the fluffy flakes I wonder at the new stories ahead of us. This week alone there will be plenty, from lessons to chores to his first school assembly (he sings the harmony part and will likely carry his section with great pride and confidence…) and the many other unexpected events that will pop up before us. We two live a full and interesting life here, and now that we’re both refreshed from a week away from the routine, we’re ready to begin it all again…