I have been slow to relinquish summer. My hands have been clenched into tight balls, white knuckles grasping at lazy days at home, not ready to trade bathing suits for sweatshirts. I love fall, really. It is my favorite season for all sorts of reasons. But the summer that had me terrified in May made a better friend than enemy. I have to remember that this new season likely will, too.
The Little Ones, luckily, don’t have this same angst that I do. School began. The Eldest was happy to find a few familiar faces in his new class, and always puts on his best self as he hangs his bag in his cubby, squeezes his arms around mine in a tight goodbye. The Middlest was brave as she stepped into her first school adventure, and with her style and story, I know that she’ll captivate those teachers, like she has captivated me. No tears, no worries. Just that swagger that saw some good looking donut holes and a trunk full of dress up clothes. Likewise, I paused only a moment at the door before the Littlest and I left our missing pieces behind in that school building of circle rugs and wooden chairs.
We’re only a week in, and here’s what I can say: I can tell you that I’m trying hard to make peace with our drive to school. Four days a week, now, I’m hoisting bodies into car seats, buckling our morning into place with a click, as we sit together in traffic and wait our turn to go. Forty five minutes on our way there seems pretty normal, and though my whole being wants to stomp and shout, I made this choice knowingly. Round and round we went in conversation about finding somewhere closer, or staying home altogether. Ultimately, this is the choice I made: four mornings in rush hour traffic, flipping the radio between NPR and “Wee Sing Silly Songs,” all of us giving up a little something, giving in to a little something. I’ve tried to be all zen about our drive, really – something like seeing all these cars as fish in one big river; about finding my breath, making peace with time. But mostly it ends up that someone is hungry, and someone is falling asleep at all the wrong times, and someone is poking with legs and fingers and arms. Mostly, someone is not unbuckling the car seat when they should be, or some IS unbuckling it when they shouldn’t be. Mostly, it’s just four of us stuck in a car together longer than we want to be.
Only a week in, and I’m staring down the barrel of three snotty noses. Just as this, the long week, was coming to a close, and I was almost lifting my hand in victory, grasping at the trophy of a weekend, the Eldest trudged down the stairs, flopped himself on the couch, and pulled a blanket up over his shoulders. Because I was already in the middle of making peanut butter crackers for the Middlest, and listening to the protest of the Littlest, in his crib and begging to be set free, it took me a moment to even notice him. But when I did, it was all there for the telling: the hot-to-the-touch forehead and cheeks, the weepy looking eyes. I cancel plans; I dig out the saline nose drops. And in our house where we try our best to share everything, this too, of course, gets passed around. The weekend that was supposed to be a reprieve merely pushed me further into my own exhaustion.
Then today, when I exiled everyone to some corner of the house, I exiled myself, too. I took my cup of coffee and sat in my pajamas on the front stoop. I sat there, on the chipped concrete, watching the cars whizz up our hill. It is a busy road. There is no lazy, quiet porch rocking here. The cars speed dramatically by, like bumblebees on mission, and the trucks engage in war with their gears to push themselves up the incline. These motor noises echo and reverberate against the hill and the house. I sat on that step, listening to the cars, and asking God: “what would you have of me, today?”
Sitting on that step, having drained my coffee, and about to gather my wits to go back inside, I watched a butterfly flit about our butterfly bush. The purple wands of flowers aim this way and that, and all summer long I’ve been battling them. When we planted these bushes two springs ago, we never had any idea that they would stake such an aggressive claim in our front garden. I’ve pruned like a maniac, becoming addicted to following the wooden stalks down to a crotch, finding the next invasive arm and making a clean cut. We’ve worked hard to keep this beauty in check, and though the thick piles of green and purple that I’ve hauled into the woods has sometimes given me pause, I can look at the butterfly bush this morning and know that I’m doing right by it. It’s filling out in all the right ways, and it is less accosting as visitors walk up the steps to our house.
This is what I heard God tell my heart this morning. He told me about the pruning, about the cutting, about the raw ends being exposed. He told me about the beauty and strength that are already here, waiting to be given some sunlight and some room. I felt Him whisper to me about growing into who I am meant to be.
The Middlest had finally grown bored with her books, and her curiosity propelled her off the couch. When she pushed open the screen door, I stood up from the front step, calling together all who had been exiled.
It all begins somewhere.