The Thirty-Fifth Letter: Metaphors & Daily Life

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Dear Daughters,

We purchased a vintage Sears Kenmore sewing machine at a yardsale before the eldest was born. It was missing a piece, a screw, something minor that enabled it to fold down into its sewing table. It had a needle though, and it seemed to work when we plugged it in, and yet until this week I had never threaded the bobbin. This might be a metaphor.

Our memorial Easter lilies and tulips brought home from church have been knocked over repeatedly, sometimes multiple times a day, petals blown off during high wind warnings, leaving bald stamens full of pathos. We’ve brought them inside for the myriad freezes since that exceptionally warm Easter morning a few weeks ago. Then they go back out onto the porch steps, looking forlorn. Everything feels like a metaphor.

The thing is, the dailiness of daily life often feels hard, even knowing that others have it harder. Friends with chronic illness. Friends mourning spouses. Friends with crumbling marriages. Friends with infertility.

Meanwhile, my daily life is sunshine and seeds explained to a preschooler. Death and heaven and Jesus and God in a 3-year-old’s terms; a toddler alongside me in the pew at a funeral.

Daily life is sunshine transforming the smell your scalps from baby shampoo into wood chips. I don’t know why, but it’s true for both of you. You smell like wood chips, like bark mulch, deep in your hair, when you’ve been outside. We don’t have wood chips in our yard.

Daily life is novels read with a 30-pound toddler on my lap drinking milk, playing with my phone, using a wet wipe to swab the book down.

It’s reading and painting rather than writing, most of the time, but when I do write, it’s laying in the grass alongside both of you, half of my note pages covered in preliterate scribbles. I always bring two extra pens outside. My writing these days is jotted notes and ideas rather than poems or stories, reserving brilliance for some other day, some other season, some other unimaginable-for-now life.

Daily life is hot jeans in the sunshine, and barefeet sensing the cold mud through the warm, early-spring grass. Also perhaps a metaphor.

Daily life is squeezing freelance work, which is kind of drudgery, and creative work, which is not, into two mornings a week and an hour in the afternoon. The schedule doesn’t work well, dissatisfies and exhausts me, without pointing to a better solution for today. For this week. This month, this year.

I can sing the theme songs for Dinosaur Train, Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger, and Dora the Explorer. This is not a metaphor.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are. When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say, ‘Here, I guess, since this is where I am‘” (An Altar in the World, 56).

Looking down at my feet, I see chipping toenail polish, and I see, well, I guess I see hope. I see hope in the daily, when I’m not too exhausted and worn down by it.

You sometimes play together these days, for example, sometimes keep out of my office while I’m trying to squeeze a little more work in the day, sometimes keep out of the kitchen, off my legs, sometimes don’t tug on my clothing or put items in my back pockets for safe keeping.

There is hope in these small victories, these small glimpses of independence.

There is also hope when you do crawl up onto my lap again, require a nose-wipe or new ponytail or snack, ask another question that cannot be answered, want me to read another book, or even the same book, again and again.

Yes, most days, there is hope and beauty. Most days I love something, even if it is simply that the day has ended and you are asleep.

I do love this whole sunshine, hot jeans, and mud-cold toes combination, which I would experience less, without you itching to be in the yard.

I love the wood-chip smelling hair, the goofy songs the preschooler sings while she swings, that the toddler asks for “Swing Low” to be sung before bed.

I love that you eat lentils and tofu as well as chicken nuggets, that the preschooler’s face is sprinkled with freckles, like mine.

I love that the toddler wants to cuddle even when I’m drenched in sweat, that you both cheer me on–“Go, Momma, Go! Go, Momma, Go!”–when I run with the stroller.

And I love that there is still a me here, beneath this mom-ness. A lover of a good story, a hot cup of tea. I still love new pens and fresh, college-ruled paper, and the art aisle at Walmart, though I still despise Walmart. I love big, blank canvases, country music in the car, toe-nail polish, and big earrings. I love eye-liner, Post-It notes, to-do lists, and flip-flops. I love cutting things out of magazines and unbaked cookie dough. I like singing and laughing and flannel sheets under down comforters. I myself love a good snuggle.

The daily life is this, all of this.

And most days, I love its dailiness.

Love,

Your Momma

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