I haven’t written in days and I’m starting to twitch. We’re moving in T minus two days. And when I say “moving” I mean we’re packing up our Brooklyn apartment, putting most of it in storage and going to stay with my dad in New Jersey, and then, after we trash his house, on to our upstate place. We were supposed to close on our new home at the end of August and move in just in time for school to start… but that’s not happening.
Why? Because life is not some stylized photo shoot. You can’t plan or stage it. You can’t decorate it with pretty props. Life is not a pristine layer cake, like the kind that populate Pinterest and fancy foodie blogs, with frosting smooth as shellac, fondant decorations, the whole thing resting on a porcelain platter atop of a rustic wooden table all beautifully backlit with a vase of flowers and a glass pitcher of milk.
Nope. Life is messy, chaotic, ruthless. Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes. The kind where the layers are uneven, the whole thing leaning precariously to one side, crumbs litter the frosting, a mess of sprinkles dumped on top, a lumpy slice slapped on a plate with a plastic fork. More like this:
Life happens and you’re supposed roll with it. Or you don’t. But there is always choice involved in how you deal with your sloppy cake. You decide if you’re going to freak out, blame everyone else, scream your brains out, yell at your kids/spouse, tear out your hair, cry, rage, throw yourself out the window (or just threaten to do so). You decide how to look at the mess. Is it garbage or a hidden Picasso? This has always been my problem. I tend to choose the dark side. I blame, rage, cry, yell, lash out. I let it take over. I let it control me.
I’ve been having some unfortunate bouts of insomnia lately, as our departure approaches. And in those late night eyeball wide moments, I see everything so clearly. I see the right way, the light way. I think, okay, I can do this! I can choose not to dwell and complain, I can choose love over anger, I can choose to see this new twist/roadblock as an adventure as opposed to a disaster.
But then I wake up. And I’m bone tired and my kids are hungry but won’t eat anything, and I’m wiping butts and making smoothies, and before I know it, all those good intentions fly out the window and my impatience and anger rolls in. I lose it and then feel sunk by my failure. By my inability to change.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I am changing, or at least trying. I’m having enlightened moments in the darkest hours of the night, even if they often disintegrate by morning. I see glimpses of difference, other ways of being.
Yesterday in between the usual child tantrums and parental misery, we had a magical moment in the park. I took Little Guy to pee behind a tree (the kid is like a dog, loves peeing outside) and it happened to be a pine tree and it happened to be populated with dozens of fireflies. It was dusk, later than we’re usually out, and we had just been talking about how we hadn’t seen any fireflies this season, and there they were alight all around us, pausing to rest on blades of grass, on the needles of the tree, inches from our faces.
I pointed at them and said, do it again, and they did. Little Guy was entranced. We brought over Bunky and her dad and we all watched with wonder and awe as dozens of people streamed into the park for a concert, oblivious to our little piece of magic. Then my husband looked up and there were two baby raccoons in the tree, lounging on the upper branches, rolling around, but mostly resting and watching us watch them.
Moments earlier we had been sitting on a cement ledge at the entrance of the park across from the apartment I lived in with my husband before we were married.
We looked at it, trying to remember where our apartment was, in the back or on the side, what we saw when we looked out the window. We told Bunky about how we used to hear the concerts in the park from our living room. We talked about how she would always remember Brooklyn, but Little Guy would not. Just like my husband, who had been three years old when he left Brooklyn.
I looked at my husband over the kids’ heads and we shared a silent bittersweet moment at this realization.
We told Bunky she could tell him stories about Brooklyn. We talked about how wonderful our time had been here, that we had a good run, but we would begin fresh adventures in New Hope. I smiled as I said these things, which are all true, but it’s not my natural tendency to look at change as adventure. I usually look at it with doom, or at the least, trepidation.
But having kids changes things, people. I don’t want my kids to soak up my lifelong tendency for negativity. I’m trying hard to do what my mom used to tell me to do: see the glass half full, make lemonade out of lemons, choose sweet over sour. But it is not easy. My poor mom, I can see how I must have broke her heart with my bouts of gloomy sadness. How I refused to choose joy even when it was laid out in front of me.
I see so much of myself in my daughter and it kills me. I want to save her from myself, from herself, but I can’t. I want her to love herself and love her life and choose love, but I can’t make her do any of those things just as my mother couldn’t make me. Being a mom is brutal that way. You relive the hardest moments of your life through your kids. And the best ones, too. Like these.
So, life happens. But I’m learning to roll with it. The fireflies will be there no matter where we go. We just have to look.