Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bananas





"I already ate all my bananas," Joe says. Jammie clad minus the t-shirt, bare chested boy lopes into the living room and drapes himself over an arm of the couch.

"A-all of them?" I say, the ones he bought himself.

"Yeah," he says. I wipe a dried coffee spot off the counter.

"How many where there?" I say.

"Eight."

"Eight? Since yesterday?"

"In TWO days," he says.

"In 12 hours," I say, washcloth slack.

"Yeah," he says.

"Well, how do you feel?" I say.







"Great." He grins, now sitting upright on the faded red couch arm.

"Very nourished," I say.

"Yeah," he says. "I just need two more dollars."

"To buy more bananas?" I say,  my eyebrows rounding upward,

"Yeah," he nods, the responsible accountant nod.

"Wow," I say.

And so it is nonchalance and small talk unfold in gargantuan swaths.









Gratitude:

6460. Joe continues to unfold in full blown boyhood.

6461. Betsy demands a stool in front of the stove. Jack rebuffs then refuses. "Betsy is as stubborn as Balaam's donkey," Jack whispers under his breath. And yet the two find a duet of sorts as Jack prepares dinner.







6462. My new devotionals for this new year arrive. I promptly sit down and read to catch up. Nourishment fills my soul.

6463. I plan an overnight with Jane. We whisk away to house sit for a night and fill the time with chatting, the leisure discussion that unfolds between a woman and her almost woman daughter. This is a pleasure I had not fully pictured. So. Good.

6464. Jane steps into the role of no-longer-child with so much grace.

6465. Jack continues to prep and prepare meals and desserts. I feel like I live with a chef.

6466. Craig replaces the bathroom toilet when plunging, snaking, and heaven forbid, reaching his arm down the mouth of the toilet, can no longer cure its ills. He replaces it with a champion promising to flush up to 18 golfballs at once, should we ever have the need. Brilliant.

6466. I continue to teach myself to reach for contentment. Projects linger and progress at the slow steady rate of things that actually get finished. I let this be music to my ears and harmonize with its strains.



Sunday, January 7, 2018

Air




"Whelp, it's the 22nd of December, huh," I say.

"Yep," Jane nods, the two of us planted on a stool and a five gallon bucket, kitchen island under our elbows.

"Wow," I say. "What a hard year."

"Yeah," she says.

"Huh." We stare across the long swath of kitchen now finished, almost. A camaraderie of burdens shared, we watch, detached fascination between us. Lucy and Myra pour flour into the breadmaker. Strains of Peace on earth, good will toward men waft up the stairs. Twenty seventeen unfurls like a sigh dissipating, leaving us pulling for the fresh air of a new year to our lungs.

"But," Jane says, "we can stand to meet 2018."

"Yep," I say. "Huh."

And so it is. We stand.

May the love of Christ carry you like an ark through the waters of this new year.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmastide





"Is it good Betsy?" Jack cackles. "Is it GOOD?"

A mouthful of horseradish, she crunches a condiment drenched chip, the confidence of an executive all hers.

"No," she says. "It BAD." She hops off a five gallon bucket, her perch/stool at the new kitchen island. The skitter of babyish feet, the chuckles and chitters of siblings, she makes for the bathroom and a blasting faucet drink.

Pot roast and potatoes, a smattering of dips and side dishes, Betsy tries everything on the table glops of salsa, titanics of cream cheese, globs of beet horseradish.

All rainbows and unicorns, she returns and slings herself back on that five gallon bucket. Eyes blinking, bites of dinner squirrled in their cheeks, elbows slung on the island, siblings grin and grin, mirth and affection their tambourine in the band.

"Git, me more olives," Betsy points, a tiny bowl of kalamatas.

"Um, no, May I please have more olives?" I say. Siblings draw up their faces until every dimple is shouting, hilarity scattering limelight. Betsy slings it across the room like glitter at a party.

"Yeah," she chirps, dimpled cheeks rounded with giggles. "May I please have more olives, Mom?"

"Hmm," my pursed lips pulling a dimple in my cheek.

"Say, YES," she giggles.

"Hmmm," I snicker.

And so it is, something better than food alights on the table. Audacity, unguarded affection, the jesting of siblings, everyone laughs. The applause of affection refreshes our spirits.





Gratitude:

6456. Dinner together. The prep, the eating, the clean-up, the togetherness, we gather a harvest of goodness.

6457. Meat for the freezer.

6458. The simple goodness of kitchen towels.

6459. We celebrate Christmas with my extended family. Seventeen children, ten adults, we all bring food and gifts yet we all just come as we are. It's a symphony of contribution and belonging, unguarded affection with all the complexity of twenty seven people. We rest in this unspeakable gift while we celebrate the most miraculous gift of all, a Savior. It's an ark to carry us through the year.



Monday, December 11, 2017

Renovations





"And sometimes I probably haven't been the best example," I say.

Nose to nose with Lucy, I gaze into her wide and watery eyes. An almost invisible nod.

"It's probably really easy to see when I do it," I say. "But it's wrong when I do it, and it's wrong when you do it. Will you forgive me?"

She shatters into tears. "Yeah," she says. We both nod arms wrapped in an oaken hug. With that we carry on. With the face of fresh morning she smiles into my eyes.

"Ok," I say. "Let's go out and help finish the dishes."

"Ok," she says and we return as if feathers alit our shoes.









Gratitude:

6448. Mom returns from Montana. All the assurance and love that trails an invisible wake behind her sets my world straight.

6449. Jane has her first babysitting job. She steps into the new responsibility outside of our home with grace and confidence.

6450. I find the perfect tote bag to carry our adventure needs as these children get older.

6451. A dear friend brings me a plate of oxtail.

6452. Another dear friend connects us with Blue Apron and sends us some meals.

6453. Nourishment finds us. I sit in the stillness of this kindness and drink it in.

6454. My dad, like most Saturdays, comes over to help us more on the kitchen. I'm growing fond of seeing him each Saturday.

6455. Bit by bit we work away. Now we do most of our dishes up at the new sink by hand. As we stand, the many of us filling the kitchen, washing dishes, clearing the table, finishing food, I look and marvel that it doesn't feel crowded, just clean and simple. The nine of us being together fills me with nourishment.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Jack





"Yeah," Jack says, "they have bat dung in this one."

"Huh," I say. Me knitting on the couch, leg elevated, Jack attends to my every need, vein surgery finally complete. He pages through a garden magazine.

"It's apparently extremely fertile," he says.

"Like for fertilizer?" I say.

"Yeah," he says. He looks up from the wholesale supply catalogue, "It's extremely fertile." His face leaned out, the remnants of summer freckles still dabbled over the bridge of his nose, all long limbs and angled elbows, he's suddenly a flash of manhood.

"Huh," I say. He smooths a crinkled page, eyes combing the details. I nod, precision and facts a mantle he wears easily.

I soak it in. The straight back and clear eyes, the leisured reading. It's the tic-tic of moments waiting for my leg to heal, and it's the rare and rarer each day, slow moments, the ones you remember 50 years from now. I memorize his countenance and how things are easy between us. And then suddenly I've mentioned hot chocolate and he's loped downstairs to froth up my sixth or eighth cup in two days.

This. These are the days.

Grampa passed away this week. Grief. Such grief. Whole horizons of moments with him gathered up, the memories like these, now, that's what we have left. These best moments, I don't want to miss any of them.





Gratitude:

6446. Grampa. A man who live a good life and left a long legacy. A real class act.






6447. I have a fifth vein surgery. Craig pushes forward on the kitchen remodel so we have running water upstairs. And yet I see the best of memories unfold right in front of me despite the mess, irrespective of inconvenience, oblivious to background and expectation. There. The moment right in front of me. This is the gift of life that one day when the papers, and laundry, socks and hangers, miscellaneous yarn and shoes and child spindrift are all put away I might be full. Full and grateful. Everything else is just props.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Turkey





"Jooooooooeeey," Jack bellows. "Joe is eating ALL the cookies," he says.

Halfway through an elephant documentary, the nine of us lounging across the couch or spilled onto the ground ensconced in quilts and cozies, Craig raises his brow and sighs.

"Joe, how many cookies have you eaten?" he says, the side table weak legged for all the popcorn, cookies, pretzels, dips, crackers, snacks and bowls balanced and skewed over the tabletop. Joe pulls his hand from the gingersnap tin.

"Um, I don't know," he says.

"Hm," we all groan, attention pulled from the elephants to the home docudrama.

"Whelp, then go to the end of the hall," Craig says. "You're definitely in trouble if you don't even know how many you've eaten."

"Oh," he says, his face a chess move, eyes probing Craig's brow for a number.

"Want to try again?" Craig says. "How many cookies did you eat?"

"Maybe twenty?" he says.

"TWENTY?"

All notions of three or four or even ten now dwarfed, eyes ping and pong from Daddy to Joe, we blink.

"Yeah?" Joe says.

"Ok," Craig says. "Go to the end of the hall."

Twenty, just twenty.







"So Zeke and I decided to play with his mummy," Myra says. Sunday morning and we sink into the big red couch, it's wide arms a thick hug around us.

"Oh," I say, George nursing, Myra chattering, her features exaggerated femininity. "What's a mummy?" I say.

"I don't really know," she says, her forehead smooth, her cheeks round apples.

"Hmm," I say.

"It's apparently a little thing made of really special stuff that will shatter if you drop it," she says.

"Ohhhhh," I say.

"Apparently," she says, "and I don't know why, but he got it from co-op."

"Ahhhhh," I say.

And we ohh and ahh, and I listen to George coo and the morning washes over us. Elation and quiet pauses poured out in equal measure.









Gratitude:

6441. Thanksgiving comes and we celebrate with family. I bring potatoes made in the instant pot and everyone brings something and the tabletop seems to go on forever for all the delicious food.

6442. We celebrate communion as a family. Gratitude unspeakable. And yet we celebrate by going around and speaking aloud the things we are thankful for.

6443. Craig and Jane cook a turkey for us the Sunday after. For all the adventures of cooking out of a bathroom, this will live long in my memory. For all it's beautiful appearance, the turkey emerges from the barbecue raw from the waist down. Pink, just pink.







6444. So we scoop out enough drippings to make gravy and eat everything with gravy, tons of gravy. All the side dishes become entres and we eat away. By 11pm the bird is cooked down to it's tippy-tip toes, the children long in bed. So Craig and I eat a second dinner, while we debone the bird. We eat while we work. I pull the cooled gravy out of the fridge and a few potatoes. With grease dripping to our elbows, we eat.

6445. So it is gratitude finds us, the hilarity of a Thanksgiving meal without the bird but gravy filling every crack. And we all reach points of desperation, irritation, exasperation, and stupidity, but there we are all together. The gravity defying act of being all together, it fills every crack. I shake my head for the hilarious miracle and gratitude unbidden rushes in.





Monday, November 20, 2017

Quiet





"Mom?" Joe says.

"Yeah?" The breakfast table splayed with empty oatmeal bowls, I look up from my Bible and coffee, Joe and Betsy paused across the table, picture Bibles flopped open.

"Can you make Betsy be quiet?" he says,

"Hmm," I say.

"I'm trying to listen to you read silently," he says.

"Ah," I say. "Listening to me silently read?"







"Yeah," a nod, eyebrows arced, drawing tiny lines across his forehead.

"Umm," I say.

They lull back to silence and chatter. I slip again into morning devotions, a diver slid into a glass-like lake. Something like communion seeps in between us, what with all that listening to each other silent reading.









Gratitude:

6428. I linger in morning devotions, coffee and oatmeal, the liturgy of peace and clatter like a ship cutting through water.

6429. Craig continues to work away installing cabinets. The opening perfectly built for the pantry some how one inch small, still, he buoys like the bobber on a fishing line, and still, we forge ahead, kind hands of family helping us each step.

6430. George begins saying, "NUM," when something tastes good.







6431. A dutch oven. Green. Wheeee! And all the conversation and thrifting that surrounded it.

6432. The oven installed, countertops on the way, I look at our bathroom/kitchen with the fond affection of vivid memories gradually winding down.

6432. Tea, coconut Hawaiin, a parting gift after an unexpected lunch of homemade food and nourishing conversation.







6433. Two visiting baby wraps come to our home, both extravagantly beautiful. I relish the moments using something so lovely.

6434. Betsy tosses The Adventures of Bobby Coon into the washer and no one notices until it is scrubbed clean with a load of sheets.







6435. A friend and I exchange ideas for Christmas traditions.

6436. I meet a mother in Israel over the sale of a baby wrap, a dear orthodox Jew. I am struck again at how similar mothers all over the world are.

6437. George shows a complete devotion and affection to his blankie.

6438. Betsy continues to attend Craig's weekend Sunday school class intent on mimicking the big kids and succeeding. Peer pressure wins the day.







6439. I remember afresh the sedative of a hot shower before bed and take full advantage as we draw deeper into winter.

6440. The days seem to get fuller and fuller. I feel the margins of daily routines get pressed and squeezed and sometimes eclipsed altogether. I set my mind to preserve those moments between the moments, lucid bubbles where we suddenly know each other, where loyalty and love are born, moments where we listen to each other silently read.