Did it really just take me three weeks to remember that I love my life?
I huddle in the backyard on the edge of the picnic blanket ("huddle" because there's not much room for me; I share it with three sprawling children) under the ligustrum, half-listening to childish chatter, marveling at the happy collusion of the breeze and the sunlight. I'm not giving a thought to the temperature, except to think what a relief it is to not be thinking about the heat. This time of year I always say to myself, "This is why people live in Florida."
The flying things are out, a pair of cardinals chasing each other in and out of the hedge, dragonflies darting and hovering. Every now and then a butterfly crosses my sight, unexpectedly, like a personal message from God.
Later, in the front yard, though it's almost November, the girls have a sudden passion for running through the sprinklers in their bathing suits. (High of 75, baby!) And I have a passion for lying in the shade on the sidewalk watching them. M wants to get me wet, so badly. She fills a cup and walks toward me, giggling. I beckon her to come closer so I can reach out and dump it on her head. S, soaking her hair in the sprinkler then coming to paint with it on my pants, has a better method. After a few trips, she's made a lot of progress - still, not as much as M could if she prevailed. We're all laughing. J is asleep inside; when I'm ready for a break, I tell them to stop trying to get me wet or we'll join him. So they find a new game, pouring "tea" for each other, complete with accents and exaggerated body language. They're actresses! Where did they get that from? They're so cute it hurts.
I love how they burrow their feet in between my knees when we sit together on the sofa. Saturday morning, I dozed between them while Pink Panther played. Every so often I'd wake up and laugh enough to convince them I was watching too, then zonk out again. After maybe fifteen episodes (only six minutes each, in case you're worried), we went to wake Daddy up - "Time to make 'peh-pakes', buddy!" - and baby J too.
In the kitchen, with all of us gathered around the stove, the girls mixing batter and otherwise "helping," J in my arms, I hugged my baby close and said, "Look at us! This is our family! I'm so blessed!" And I felt it.
The pace of this life is its challenge and its glory. When you've been gone from it and come back, you want to run right back out, and keep running, or else you're pacing, pacing, pacing, restless, in your mind, looking for a way out, infuriated with your children for slowing you down. I was worried I wouldn't get past that phase. It took me too long. But with relief I find that it's coming back to me how to let myself down into this sticky flow, how to let myself down and be impeded by it, how to plod along thigh high in this viscous substance. It's all starting to fit around me again, like clothes. Suddenly I have all the time in the world to nuzzle that cheek - can I even hint at how soft a child's skin is? - or nibble that ear, or smell that earthy, human smell of my life.