Thanks to man child for the inspiration.
This time of year holds so much promise.
The dandelions and lilacs are in full bloom, both filling the air with a sweetness that compels us to remove them, one fervently mowed down for being a plague upon green lawns and one gently cut for fresh indoor bouquets. The maples and firs are softly fattened in the distance, as if you could almost wrap your arms around them in an embrace. The air across Aroostook County is a heavy blanket of nearly summer.
I drive home with my sunroof open, deeply breathing all the smells of new green life. I’m reminded of my favorite Adirondack lawn chairs and how good it feels at the end of the day to sit and look upon the same green river valley, the same double-peaked Quoggy Jo Mountain and the same country road I’ve looked at for ten years. My eye always catches something new, a difference in nature I never seemed to notice before. I look forward to sitting in my chair after supper, perhaps enjoying a cold Blue Moon with a slice of orange while my youngest shows me all his latest bicycle tricks and my older kids sit with me, telling me about their Middle and High School adventures.
I think about this on the drive home, looking forward to this end-of-day moment I’ve created for myself.
I get a call from my daughter, telling me she stayed after school to help a teacher and will need a ride home in an hour. This reality temporarily shifts my thinking away from my end-of-day moment and I look at the clock, calculating who needs to be fed at what time, who might possibly need to bathe and who needs to get from one place to another. I mentally plan, secretly wishing she would have been ready to come home when I was ready to pick her. And when satisfied in the shift of plans, the reordering of evening events, I let my mind slip back towards that place I created earlier, the place shaped like an Adirondack chair overlooking a warm late spring landscape.
I get another call, this time from my oldest son, letting me know he missed the bus and needs a ride home now. I would begrudgingly turn around, envious at how nice it must feel to have somebody at your beck and call, but my youngest son is squirming in the back seat, five minutes from exploding into a puddle of small bladder mess and if he doesn’t get to a toilet soon I’m going to have the kind of problem that not even a glove box full of napkins can fix.
“Start walking,” I tell my oldest in half-jest, “your brother has to pee.” He responds with annoyed disbelief, as if it’s my job to save him from his own carelessness and I feel a tingle of exasperation creep up my neck like a big hairy spider. And even though I’m driving towards my home, closing in on the Adirondack chairs, they seem to be moving further away.
After the bathroom emergency is successfully attended, my youngest runs to the refrigerator, eager to refill the now empty space inside his belly. In an instant where two small hands and one full gallon of orange juice collide, my kitchen floor is covered in a sticky sea of citrus. I don’t have time to head out the door to gather my stranded teenagers because my mind is reeling over how fast the smell of sweet spilled juice travels and how fast ants can run towards it.
The floor is mopped, on hands and knees because my mother wouldn’t have it any other way and also because it’s easier to hide the frustration on my face if I’m facing the floor. My youngest happily eats his snack while chattering on about something I want to hear but suddenly can’t because I just realized I didn’t take the chicken out of the freezer like I had intended to when making my first morning cup of coffee. I glance up at the clock as I plop a frozen chicken breast into a bowl of water.
Mentally pour a glass of wine.
As the brick of frozen chicken swims in my sink and my freshly scrubbed tile gleams, I get a text from my daughter, frantically telling me how she forgot about her spring concert tonight and that I need to find her white shirt and iron it for her. And also, when am I coming to get her?
Meanwhile my youngest son, who, during my state of distraction, has since eaten half the giant box of Goldfish crackers and is now complaining of a stomach ache and is demanding I follow him into the bathroom and wipe his butt.
It would only make perfect sense that my oldest son texts me “where r u?” “Hell” I reply.
I can hear the gears inside my head grinding from 5th to 1st and suddenly, without warning, my brain punches its way out, back flips off my skull and does a reverse dive into the bowl of frozen chicken water.
I wiped his stinky little butt, found and ironed that damned shirt. She’s just lucky I acted my age and didn’t wipe his butt with her shirt.
As we get back in the car and head down the driveway I caught the beautiful sun lowering itself towards the horizon and thought about the end-of-day moment I had created earlier, wondering how much of that moment would still be mine today. The Adirondack chairs were still on my lawn, the wood warm from the sun.
There was no roasted chicken and vegetables for supper that night but my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were really something.
The concert was lovely and my daughter was beautiful, just as she always is with her big bright eyes and joyful spirit in song. I was moved to tears, and not just because the large man two seats over smelled like boiled cabbage.
Everybody was transported from the place they were to the place they needed to be, everybody was fed and everybody bathed. Well, although I personally helped scrub my youngest boy from head to toe, I can only say with some ambiguity that I heard my oldest turn the shower on. From that point on I have no idea.
I poured that cold Blue Moon, grabbed my hoodie and walked outside to my chair, hoping to grab a moment of my moment. The sun had almost set, the air had turned chilly, the black flies were hungry and I’m sure my hands and arms still smelled like a gallon of spilled orange juice.
I didn’t care because it was just another day of raising my children and running my home. This was my job and the fantasy of relaxing in my favorite purple Adirondack chair after a long day, sipping a cold drink, my toes pulling at blades of grass as my little one laughs and entertains me was always there in my mind and I was thankful for these few minutes of…..
And as the left arm of my chair fell off, revealing two nails and a rotten piece of wood I realized the fantasy will always be more delicious, more perfect than the reality because it’s not real. It’s what we create to amplify our boring, usual lives, our beautifully uninteresting lives that we often take for granted.
I stood up from my wobbling, clearly broken chair, drank my Blue Moon while swatting at the constant barrage of blood-thirsty mosquitos and watched the sun fade, thinking about how I really needed to mow the dandelions tomorrow.