Friday night and I’m frustrated and grumpy. (I’m always grumpy when it’s hot.) Sometimes I wonder if the sun is anchored to the morning, if Joshua is somewhere in time commanding the sun to stand still, because how is it only 1:48 in the afternoon, for the love? Today was filled with too much bickering, accidental injuries, frustration, disobedience, it was just a day, a day, a never-ending day. By the time Evelynn’s bedtime rolled around at last, she had been yelling – not crying, yelling – loudly for nearly an hour. My nerves were frayed and I piteously questioned the universe how two non-yellers like us managed to produce three such impressively loud tinies. I changed the baby into her pajamas, changed yet another diaper, brushed her 10 small white teeth, I was bitten twice for my trouble. Brian loaded the older two up in the car, the Fraser River is flooding and, of course, he wants to go see it. I rocked Evelynn as the garage door went up and back down below the floor, I was stewing, steaming, boiling, eager to put her to bed. I wanted to sit down with a cuppa tea, in the quiet, to open the windows and let in the cold night air, to read, to clock out. But she nursed and squabbled and nursed, my milk wouldn’t come, I was too tense, too frustrated, too wrapped up in my own frustrations to truly give even this small gift.
I’m here, darling. I’m here. You’re all I see, you’re all I see, there now. I see your furrowed brow, your little paws holding tight to my bra strap, you have a dimple at the base of every finger. I see your soft orange elephant jammies, covered with little pills of fabric, they’ve been washed so many times. And I see you, I’m here, I’m here. There you go, here, let me hum a little for you, it always slow my blood right down.
And with that relase, with that deep breath, with those old hymns in the hum of my throat, I filled her, and she sleeps even now, as I write.
I have these moments a hundred times a day. I’m not sure who is raising who in this house sometimes. Because when Anne is storming, and I pray and I teach and I guide her back to centre, I am guiding my own storming self, there, on the inside still. Because when Joe is not listening, and I am tugging on his ears, telling him to pay attention, to be gentle with others, I am tugging my own ears, pay attention, woman, pay attention. Every time you complain, darling, I will make you tell me two things that make you happy and thankful, and yes, maybe I should try that, too. Because when I am harsh and busybusybusy, too caught up in saving the world or cleaning the washroom and who can tell which is which, their souls are bruised and these tinies, they are my barometer for this: is there peace, is there joy, is there love, patience, kindness? goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control? Over and over and over, throughout my days, these moments happen, the moments of clarity, of realising that I am a mother, yes, and I am a woman, and I am so desperately in need of His grace, and sometimes I don’t know what to say except that God is meeting me here, and it is bright and unforgiving and healing as a prairie sun.
Because when Evelynn needs me, needs something as simple and basic as nourishment, and I am too busy, too frustrated, too wound up, to release even my milk to her, and then, when she teaches me, again, to slow, to breathe, to pray again for grace for this act of giving, when I release and my arms hold her pure trust, pure contentment, capped with damp baby curls.
Because when they are stuffing witch daises into mason jars beside my bed, when they are singing the songs I teach them, I feel like an axis, like gravity, like the force of their universe, and I want to be a compass, a clarity.
I am reading Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” and last night, I read that legendary sentence, ““I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” I had to shut the book, sit in the darkness, in the silence of the knowledge of this very thing of the thing. You can go your whole life without realising who you truly are, and yet, a hundred times a day, I am struck, and everyone feels the lifting.