I woke with a jolt; my eyes seeking the red digits next to my bed. 4:43 AM. I sat up, waiting. My mind began running my to-do lists; brain fuzzy as I fought through the sleepy haze and sank back into the blankets; my warm cocoon. When at 5:14 AM I felt the bed shake, I found myself in the shared doorways of my sons’ bedrooms; green light bulb glowing in the dark. I was wide awake. The 3.7 tremblor’s epicenter was near our home; the aftershock, magnitude 3.8, twenty minutes later.
I stood in the doorways, quiet. The hubs had remained asleep. When the 1993 earthquake hit our region it was I, calling him, asleep in his childhood home; dog-sitting. I had sat on the curb of my apartment building, the freeway collapsed near my exit. When living in Chicago I rushed to the doorway, each morning, until I became accustomed to the train that roared by our complex. It is my immediate reaction when the ground shakes beneath my feet; straddling the doorway.
And so I remained, watching my sons sleep. I, again, straddle the doorway, one foot planted in the midst of childhood, the other entering new ground in adolescence; life’s landscape shifting. My eyes landed on the hotwheels table; rarely used. Electronics hold my boys’ attention now; the steel die cast cars losing their allure. I am grateful for the books amongst the bedsheets, reading lights left on; the socks hanging from the bedside table pull handle; the K’nex pieces littering the floor. The days will soon come when my house will be sterile; kept up and tidy; ready for visitors. And I will reminisce, longing for the hollering and running; the proof that life lived here. The items I collect in my home may reflect who we are. But they are no replacement for the people who reside here; the personalities that give it character.
My mind wandered. What if we lost our home to a natural disaster? Our business? What would we do then? I think of my insurance policies; how I carry them around with me intending to update them. Our dear uncle recently lost his home to a fire and reminds us to update our policies; something which has saved him sleepless nights as he watches the slow rebuild of his home of over forty years. These are just things he tells us. Some were more important than others. The family heirloom pictures, from the early 1900s, singed. A family dining room table, passed down to us, for safe-keeping. They mean nothing. I stand guard over my precious cargo, chests rising and falling with limbs akimbo, wrapped amongst the bedsheets.
We get lost in the hustle of creating perfect homes, material things, grand careers, perfect children. I find myself going through an identity crisis; much like the teen, re-assessing my values, my mission. I am in-training to change my perspective. It is easy to look back; hindsight making things clear. To project into the future our ideals; our desires. But it is much harder to live in the here; the daily details in life that mark our footsteps on this Earth; leaving its footprints on those traveling on this same path. My family, my kids.
This morning when my youngest asked for this little Piggy to rouse him, I stopped in my tracks and sang. I cajoled the eldest awake, singing our belly-welly song, as he covered his head; stifling his laugh. The middle, dressed and wide awake, joined in singing the words. This season of parenting is easy when our days start like this. But what about the others; the hard ones. When the big one comes; ground shaking beneath my feet, What then?
I am still quite inhospitable. When the eldest requested another family party to celebrate his birthday; I balked. Don’t teenagers go to the movies or bowling? Why not keep it small? I had told him, last year, that it would be the last birthday party I’d throw. So much work. Cost. His younger siblings’ births are exactly two days apart; a family party the norm to celebrate the beginning of summer. And so he stayed quiet; unassuming. Thus, I was on the phone, yesterday, calling family. I know this is last minute, but are you available… We already have a family BBQ this weekend, is there such a thing as too much family?
To this the hubs replied, You’re lucky he still wants to be with family and that he has family that want to celebrate with him. One day I will wish for exactly this. This poem, by Diane Loomans, came to mind:
If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
And so I changed my perspective; the only child. The frenzied cleaning; the cooking, I will embrace it. My time on this Earth will not be spent being a miser; the clean freak waiting to be unleashed. Earlier this morning I stopped straddling the boys’ doorways, bringing my feet together and leaning against the doorjamb. Instead of straddling the line I must plant both feet in the ground; owning my space. It is in this place that I can make my mark; to etch my place in my children’s lives before they hit the pavement; running. I open the doorway to my home, welcoming visitors. Bring it! Just don’t look too closely at my baseboards and tile.