Although I remain covered up with work, I was able to jet out a touch early today, arriving home before 5pm. I drove through a wild summer storm, hazard lights blinking click click click, the sky dark as night, going 30 mph and blinded by the driving rain. Upon reaching my own home driveway, I dashed from car to garage, then hopped up into the house, one step at a time, to greet the boys I hadn’t seen but maybe a max of twenty minutes on each working day this month.
It had been a quiet day – no emergencies, few emails, just a steady, solid nine productive hours. I cannot remember a single workday since I have returned that had no emergencies. Today was vital, and vitalizing. If I have another one like it I might just – gasp – manage to get to the gym again.
Meanwhile, I have just a few moments before Jack and his dad return from a birthday party. I have put the younger two to bed, drunk my one glass of red wine, and now I’m on the couch and the house is quiet. The dog waits by the door. The windows are steamed from the humid summer rain.
We’ve had some summer activities, and it would be nice if one day soon I get to go back and post a few pictures, give a more complete update. But for now, a few snippets of the past few weeks:
- A week vacation at a beach condo with the Professor’s family, a trip which will always be know (by me anyway) as The One With The Waterslides. I work long hours the first few days, drive the longer commute from work to the beach so I can at least sleep with the family. Late in the week I finally get my turn to join them for an afternoon. Clad in my Popina one-piece, I sit at the top of the ladder, plant a child between my knees (probably Liam), push off and weeeeeeee down the twists and turns. It is too soon after having the baby – after the third run, I feel my pelvic bones diverge in all directions upon impact with the water. I am held together by loosey goosey rubber bands, my ligaments have given up the ghost. It’s been weeks and I’m still not right, I tell you.
- Crab and ricotta stuffed shells. Company chicken. Grilled snapper fillets as big as your thigh. Kids on benches at the kitchen peninsula, parents at the large round table. Out our living room wall of windows, we see boats on the sound, some anchored near the sandbar. Commercial fishermen in the first light of morning.
- One day I am on the porch, taking a work call, and a cell phone falls from the sky above me, bounces off our balcony railing just inches from my ear, tumbles to the ground four floors below. Its teenaged owner thumps down the many floors from his room to the ground below, gathers up the pieces, hooting raucously at his mistake. His reaction makes clear it is not a mistake he will have to pay for himself. I spend the rest of the week looking above me nervously.
- An afternoon at the lazy river with my sweetie and me, while the kids snooze back in the condo.
- We all pack up and drive home, them much farther than we. On our way we stop for breakfast. The waitress has a Star Wars apron on. The boys eat pancakes, the baby sleeps soundly in his car seat on the floor, tucked under the table by the wall. Then we come home, launder clothes, prepare for the week, which comes too quickly.
- Ah, but that week is short, and on Thursday we find ourselves driving to the pet-friendly hotel in Birmingham where we have stayed a dozen times at least, on our way up to Nashville. The boys are wired, but eventually fall asleep, the pair of them tucked into a queen bed. The baby sleeps in his Pack and Play without a sheet. I sleep fitfully with all of them in the room, and the morning of the Fourth of July comes early.
- A long weekend in Nashville. Fourth fireworks from the mall parking lot, where we tailgate, spread out blankets and beach towels on the very hard asphalt and eat fried chicken and various picnic salads. It is chillier than we were expecting – by the end of the night, most of the women are wrapped in the beach towels. When the fireworks come, the boys react in their different ways. Craig doesn’t much notice, but gets passed from one set of arms to another. Liam deals with his nervousness about the booms by ignoring them, pretending they are not happening, playing games instead. Jack begins to flip and I can see him winding up for a freakout. We get him some ear plugs. He burrows into me. I wrap him in a blanket and tell him he can leave any time, we can go sit in the car and not look. ”I’m scared. I want to look.” We end up staying. He is tense, cannot relax, but also in control of the situation (he is permitted to leave and chooses to stay) and that somehow allows him to retain control of himself. Little by little he is practicing, learning to deal with sensory overload. ”Look, a heart! I love the heart. Mom, I’m afraid they’re going to fly at my face and burn me. I don’t like the noise. Oh, that looks like gold falling from the sky. Please don’t let it burn me.” ”Do you want to go in the car? I’ll go with you.” ”No. I know it won’t burn me but I’m still afraid.” He watches them all. I’ll never forget having him tucked in there, watching the fireworks cheek to cheek.
- He does not do so well with the dinosaurs exhibit at the zoo the next day. Two years ago we saw this same exhibit at the zoo, and the same thing happened – the first one is awesome and amazing and fun, but the second and the third and all the rest lined up along the path make him lose it. Unlike the fireworks, with the dinosaurs he is not able to keep ahead of the fears, and my sister basically jogs through the exhibit with 60lb Jack climbing her like a tree, trying to look all directions at once to protect himself from dinosaurs that he knows are not real. But . . . he enjoys the elephants, and giraffes, and monkeys and such. It is a fun trip to the zoo, all in all.
- We play games, of both the video and board variety. The boys build a racetrack that extends from the banister of the top stair down through the air to the floor below – the big boys, that is, while my little boys do their level best to destroy it with their enthusiasm. They play in the paddling pool outside, play soccer and keep-away with their uncles, cuddle with their aunts, and even go to Chuck E Cheese. The adults have whiskey punch – Minute Maid fruit punch with whiskey and real fruit in it, oh mah lord it was delish. Steaks one night, tacos another, and green beans fresh from the garden for every meal. Craig gets as much love as he can handle. We have all learned how quickly they grow, how fleeting his babyhood, and everyone gets their fill of 5 month old.
- The Professor, the baby and I head home on Tuesday, leaving the big boys to stay for the rest of the week. Both halves of the family are spoiled by this arrangement – the boys by trips to the pool and splash park and ice cream store and movies in the park, and we adults by having only one sole solitary single child to care for, and one that sleeps a lot at that. I am glad for the respite. Our house is soooooo clean . . .
- The night the boys return home from Nashville, we are getting ready to throw them both in the shower, and Jack is humming Chim Chiminee, Chim Chiminee, Chim Chim Chereee, a sweep is as lucky as lucky can be . . . He had watched Mary Poppins at Nana’s house, and has the song in his head. This kicks off a singalong that lasts at least twenty minutes – all of the Mary Poppins songs I can muster from the deep recesses of my memory, Jack watching my face intently so he can catch the words. Mary Poppins is more haunting than I remembered . . . it is a sweet evening, singing Feed the Birds, Stay Awake, and the Chimney Sweep song. Jack asks “Why does it sound so sad?”
- At some point after returning, apropos of nothing Liam says to us “I love everything in the whooooooole world. And also mushrooms.” I think my parents must have introduced him to mushrooms on pizza, because now he is all about them when formerly he was a Cheese Only kinda guy.
- And today, while Jack is out with dad at the birthday party, Liam is so tickled to have it be just us three – him and me and Craig. We take turns eating the baby’s face noisily, while he absolutely SCREAMS with delight. We watch Spiderman movies and eat pizza and even splurge on Cinna Stix, since my original delivery order didn’t meet the minimum purchase and I had to throw some little extra in there. We all take a bath together, the boys and me. I gently scrub Liam’s scraped knee – always a scraped knee on that one – and he rubs a washcloth through Craig’s hair. Craig tries to eat the bubbles. We read one book, and then another and another. Craig tries to eat the book, and Liam pulls it away patiently. I let him go to sleep with the book in his arms, music playing softly on the CD. Funny how so many nights the nighttime routine feels like a prison, and then once in a glorious while it is magic, like I thought it would be all the time before I ever had kids.
I feel as though I have missed some things, but this will do for now. A snippet of summer 2014. Not a whole lot different for me, but I get some kicks out of the boys’ good time.
To bed, now. Last night a local lawyer in his early forties died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Just a couple of days ago, a flight was shot out of the sky while it flew along a route that I myself took a decade ago – Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and from there to Melbourne, and from there to Sydney. Same airline, same trajectory. Here I sit with a belly full of terrible pizza and good red wine, boys snoozing in all the rooms around me, and isn’t it so unfair that I should be so lucky, and others so tragically unlucky? How it can be, I do not know. Chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cheroo, good luck will rub off if I shake hands with you. Or blow me a kiss . . . . and that’s lucky, too.