Thursday, June 23, 2016

A new day.

"A new day:  Be open enough to see opportunities. Be wise enough to be grateful. Be courageous enough to be happy."
-Steve Maraboli

I often wonder what I'll miss the most when these days of having a house full of kids have passed. When it's just me and Dave and our empty house, what memories will stick out the most? Our day-to-day stuff? The routines--meals, naps, bedtime. The mess--toys, clothes, shoes, crumbs, art projects scattered about. The noise--whining, shouting, laughing, bare feet slapping against the floor, doors slamming. Or will it be the extra-ordinary days? Camping, river nights, county fairs, vacations, road trips, one-on-one dates.

What will I miss the most once these days are in the past? I suspect it'll be a mix of both--the ordinary and extraordinary. While seated around the supper table I'll see the ghosts of three small bodies, each taking a turn telling their favorite and least favorite parts of the day. In the morning I'll hear whispers of boys tiptoeing into my room before the 7:00 a.m. wake-up time and I'll feel the indent of a warm baby's body curled up next to me. While readying to leave the house I'll begin to yell the warning to go potty and put on shoes before remembering there's no one to remind anymore.

And when the county fair rolls around every summer, I'll see the faces of my children all lit up, hair blown back, as they whirl around on rides. Each time I roast a marshmallow I'll remember the sticky, gooey mess upon my kids' faces and fingers. As we drive across the country in a quiet car, I'll hear the voices of contained energy and boredom. I'll look back at the empty seats where once three small butts sat, and I'll smile, their presence hitching a ride on our road trip.

I often wonder about the passing of these moments, consider that this right here will be my golden years, the ones I remember fondly and miss dearly. But I also know I can't dwell on bottling up each moment for fear of missing them. That's why every time we load up in the boat, sandbar bound, I take stock in the some day memory, but then allow myself to live it. Such was the case a few weeks ago when we went out on the river for the first of the season--Jillian's very first trip. We pulled up on a sandbar one night after work, munched on pizza, and played. As I look through the photographs of that evening, I smile at the memories--Ashton's wide mouth devouring pizza, Jillian's tiny frame juxtaposed against the river's expanse, Dave pulling the boys on an inner tube--and I realize that this particular trip will blend into all our past and future times on the river, bleeding into one big video montage of river trips. This is a beautiful thought. Our years together won't consist of concise, vivid moments rolled out like a video reel, but instead be a collage of significant and insignificant snippets of our days and years pieced together. Future Angie will have many rich memories to live off, and that's something to look forward to.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A bit of childhood that can never be lost.

"A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost."
-Marion C. Garetty

I grew up in the midst of a large extended family--lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. And we all lived in the same small town community. Coffee and cinnamon rolls at Grandma Faye's every Sunday after church, where the adults played games of Skipbo or Cribbage or chatted at the old wooden table that buckled in the middle, and the children hung off moms or huddled in corners, giggling and whispering, or retreated outside to play on the tire swing that once hung in the tree framed perfectly in the living room window. Holidays were spent crammed into a teeny house, the kids camped out on the laundry room floor with our plates between our legs, grumbling about how unfair it was that we weren't granted a table for our meal. We spent many childhood years with our cousins, scheming, laughing, fighting, forging our first friendships. Now we're all grown and we have the pleasure of watching our children forge those first friendships with their cousins. Except in our case, the extended family is much smaller and second cousins--the children of our first cousins--step in to fill that role.

Ever since my cousin had her first baby last fall, a month after I had my third, we've been exchanging daily text conversations about all things baby. We cheer when one baby sleeps large chunks at night. We empathize when one doesn't. We send pictures of blow-out diapers, the kind that need no caption. We share milestones and woes and new baby food ideas. Basically, we are each other's support system during this whirlwind called Baby's First Year.

Since Jaci and her family live in another part of the state, our interactions are mostly limited to conversations with our phones. When the opportunity arose to meet up, we hitched our campers and set up camp at a state park. The little babies sat side by side on a blanket, stealing toys from chubby hands, crawling over the other like their own personal jungle gym and squealing back and forth in a secret language only babies know. It seems these cousins may form that same special friendship.

It rained that weekend. A lot. Like the kind of rain that drenches you in seconds. We spent a chunk of the day hiding in my camper, chatting and tending to tired, restless babies. Later, once the rain peetered off, we strapped the babes in strollers to stretch our legs, only to be caught in a downpour. The trees lining the street served as a canopy, just a hint of the rain falling down. Once we retreated from under their cover, the rain fell hard on us and the babies covered under makeshift umbrellas made from sweatshirts flung over strollers. We ate supper that night piled into my camper eating the meal my husband made--sans potatoes, a mistake he won't soon live down.

Earlier in the day, before the rain swept in, the boys went kayaking. They returned a muddy mess, smiles lighting their faces. And later that night, once all the kids were fast asleep--all but one stubborn baby nestled in her mommy's arms instead of her bed--the adults sat under a canopy with tiki torches close by, the fire sizzling in the distance. It's these memories, these experiences, that stay with you long after babies grow into young adults. I'm hoping to make many more of these memories, preferably without as much rain, though.