The Hundred-and-Ninth Letter: Ordinary, Extraordinary Summer (Part 1)

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Dear Daughters,

Today is a perfect day.

It is not too hot, the tree branches are swaying in the breeze, and the dappled shade in the yard is in constant, gentle motion. I’m sitting on a plastic Adirondack chair squarely in the middle of the yard as I write this. The two of you are playing with a neighbor in the yard, going back and forth between treehouse-restaurant-sand-baking and balancing on the slack line your dad set up before he left for work this morning.

This morning, I got up and met a neighbor outside for a run—okay, not a “run” per se, but a series of jog/walk intervals for thirty minutes. We all had breakfast. Your dad left. The Bean worked on your math workbook while I read some Magic Schoolbus books to the Goose that are due back at the library tomorrow.

We got a little lost enroute to a juggler performance in the low-income part of town, and since you’re oblivious to the adult categories of suburbia and poverty and income distribution, you told me how beautiful the neighborhood was we were circling around and meandering through–beautiful, you said, because it was so green (overgrown, I would have said, unmown grass, shaggy bushes, but beautiful in your eyes).

I ended up pulling out my maps app to get us to the right park, and we enjoyed the free “outreach” program provided by our library.

We got home in time to braid hair and lather up sunscreen, then leave again to meet another neighbor family and their double stroller at the corner to walk down to our local elementary school’s summer meals program for chicken patty day. After lunch, we played on the playground, eventually walked back up the enormous hill for quiet reading time at home, and now here we are, living an ordinary summer afternoon.

Ordinary and extraordinary, I think.

It’s been cool enough to have our house windows open all day without the A/C kicking on. I’ve got a fresh-mint-and-oregano seltzer water in a mason jar beside me, my old paint jeans fraying at the knees, a wrist brace for a tendonitis flare-up after a painting project yesterday, and my feet bare, with just a hint of a flip-flop tanline, enjoying the dancing clover.

Did you know that, girls? That clover dances? There’s so much to see when you look for it.

As my laptop battery runs out, we’ve got a plan for homemade stromboli for dinner, which is basically the same as homemade pizza and we just had that three days ago, but whatevs. I need to move my Adirondack chair a few feet back because the shade has shifted and my jeans are getting toasty, though the breeze its still amazing. Your dad has a meeting tonight, and we’ve already picked a readaloud book for the time he’s away. You’ll need showers for sure after all of this outside-sunscreen-sandy time. Later, we’ll stick a star sticker on a handprint canvas to mark the passing day, a just-started-yesterday tradition we’re working to incorporate into this ordinary, extraordinary season. Your dad will close the day out with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which you’re listening to for the first time.

That’s what the day is, girls.

Today.

It’s not profound in its parts, but it is in the whole, mostly because I’m paying attention, I guess.

I don’t always pay attention. I don’t even know if I do most of the time, but sometimes, sometimes I do. Sometimes I notice.

And sometimes I write it down.

Love,

Your Momma

 

The Twenty-Second Letter: Labor Day & Marking Time

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Dear Daughters,

I shared a story in church a few months ago that I hadn’t shared widely prior to that morning. It was kind of a big deal, standing at the pulpit, telling my story.

We’d decided as a church to “mark time” together during the liturgical season of Ordinary Time–that long, uneventful season from Pentecost to Advent–by sharing stories of the ways we individually keep track of time, the significant events in our lives that have shaped the way we see the world. These can be beautiful moments, but usually, if we’re honest, it’s the painful ones that we remember most vividly. The painful ones that keep coming back to us.

After I shared my story, a friend of mine, someone who is also a writer, asked me if I was planning to write the story out to share it more publicly. I said no, probably not, because while I’m pretty comfortable with strangers reading things that I write, I’m aware that much of what I write for public consumption has been tweaked and edited in such a way as to distance myself from the message. Most of what I write isn’t personal, even when it may seem personal.

There is something about being vulnerable I just don’t like. But my friend thinks that it’s important for us as writers to be as vulnerable and honest as we can because that is what offers hope to the world. Hope to the world.

She really thinks that voicing our pain and our trials and our struggles–being honest when life is hard–and saying me, too, is the way we offer hope.

So.

Maybe there is hope here.

This is the story I told our church:

On Labor Day 2013, I was six weeks pregnant and I had a miscarriage.

I called my doctor, and we decided that it was a textbook case and as long as nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen, I didn’t need to go to the hospital or even make an appointment for his office–which was good, because I didn’t feel like sitting in a doctor’s office, crying my eyes out. I could barely talk to my mom on the phone to relay the news.

This was the week of our revival at our church. I went to every service but I didn’t tell anyone who superficially asked how I was doing.

I had never experienced loss like that before, though many of my friends had. It was a difficult and dark time, to put it in the most generous terms possible, and I decided, within days, that I never wanted to be pregnant again. My eldest daughter, my sweet girl, would be enough. I couldn’t risk this kind of heartbreak again. I wasn’t strong enough. I cried a lot.

A week later, I was dry heaving on runs and throwing up, and so I did go to the doctor. I found out that there were two embryos in my uterus. A nonviable embryo, which had caused the miscarriage symptoms, and an embryo with a heartbeat. It was good news, shocking news, and also nerve-wracking news. There was reasonable concern about this pregnancy, and it was considered high risk.

You might not know this about me, but I am a worrier. And not just a little bit. A lot. So this whole “high risk” business was excruciating. It weighed me down. Every day. I came to terms with every worst case scenario I could think of. And I still worried.

I worried in Advent as I began to share the news that we were pregnant. As friends and family expressed excitement, I worried inside. I couldn’t be excited because I was afraid.

I worried through the season of Christmas when we had our ultrasound and found out the baby would be a girl. Even her on-screen health didn’t reassure me very much.

I kept worrying through Epiphany and then Lent began. Would she come early, like her sister, and be a Lent baby, or during Easter? I wasn’t the only one wondering. My OB didn’t think I’d make it past Palm Sunday.

She arrived April 25, the Friday after Easter.

Our baby girl’s first name means “light.”

Her middle name means “pearl.”

Two of Jesus’s images for the Kingdom—a light in the darkness, the pearl of great price.

All of that—the darkness and light, the worry and the pearl of great price—is wrapped up in Labor Day for me.

Love,

Your Momma