Some days I have nothing to say.
Some days I am so far from my bliss, I can’t see beyond the 257 mismatched socks piled and multiplying on the dryer.
Some days I wonder what I was thinking when I said yes to all of this.
I never imagined this complicated, swirling, noisy life.
I never thought it would one day always be my turn to unload the dishwasher. I didn’t understand that the dog would always be mine to feed and water, much like his owners, the sweet little liars who promised I’d never have to even glance in the beast’s direction. I didn’t know I would one day have the distinction of consistently choosing and preparing dinners no one ever liked.
I never imagined my partner in this, the man steadfastly emptying and feeding and cooking beside me, the man who romanced me with trips to Paris and long drives through the country, would also have days that overwhelmed him. I never imagined us cranky and cantankerous. I never imagined us out of steam and patience.
How could we have imagined this?
Our beginning didn’t include endless text chains about kid transportation logistics. We didn’t snuggle in bed and worry about the one who is clearly struggling with something he can’t yet talk about or the one who hides behind cheery conversation but can’t sleep in her own bed. We didn’t worry about paying for college or a new-to-us car we desperately need.
We agreed on everything then, unfettered by reality and joint bank accounts and competing priorities.
I couldn’t have imagined how much of our life together would be spent turning off lights and secretly throwing away the stale contents of party goody bags. I didn’t know that tweens and teens are hoarders, and that I’d fill a recycling tub in fifteen minutes with the bottles and boxes and assorted other too-precious-to-throw-away items pulled from their rooms.
Yesterday, as I went to and fro moving around the flotsam and jetsam that clutters our lives, I walked into my bedroom and found it smelled exactly like my room when I was a child. I don’t know what magic makes a house in the suburbs of a small town on a summer afternoon smell the same as my childhood home, but I was instantly and completely awash in both gratitude and wonder.
How did I get here?
How did I get so far from the dreams of that girl, who stretched out on her twin bed and kicked her feet up on the wall? She who dreamed of a neat and tidy house and a neat and tidy family feels very far away.
Other parts of my life also feel far away and long ago.
Early days when the children were babies, when I worried about sterilizing pacifiers and running out of diapers. Preschool parties with cupcakes and afternoons spent playing dress up. Days when I was the new grown-up at Thanksgiving, proud of my meager contribution to the meal and blind to the work it took others to pull the whole thing off. Nights as a single mom, reading to my babies as we piled on the couch. Weekends spent in B&B’s in the country and high-rise hotels in new cities, exploring our new surroundings and our new love.
All of it seems so far away, now. So long ago.
Time polishes those memories.
The details fall away, leaving what was most important.
I know I struggled to nurse my babies, exhausted and sore in the days and weeks following their birth, but it isn’t what I remember now. I remember how Simon smelled, fresh from his blue plastic bathtub.
I know my life as a single mom challenged me in ways I’d never been challenged before, causing me to examine the ground I’d stood on and reinvent myself in a way I never expected, but that’s not what I remember. I remember the soft glow of children sleeping in their beds after a long, good day.
I know how afraid I was to trust again, and how long it took for me to allow Gabe to enter my life, but that’s not what I remember. I remember noticing the crinkles around Gabe’s blue eyes for the first time, and wanting to make him laugh again.
And so, yes, there are days when I have nothing to say.
Days when the noise and the chaos of this messy life feels unmanageable. When I wonder what I was thinking. When I think this was a mistake. When the past seems so much easier than the present.
And that’s when I remember: this present hasn’t been polished yet.
When time sifts through this memory, picking and choosing what’s most important, it won’t be the socks or the dishwasher. It won’t be what the dog destroyed.
It will be our sweet Amy choosing her pajamas because they match Lottie’s, and delighting her little stepsister in the process. It will be Simon, sixteen and constantly coming and going, stopping to tell me a story about helping his friend that makes me so proud of him I have to look away to hide my tears. It will be our six together on a long, lazy day at the lake. It will be Gabe, still overwhelmed and frustrated by last night’s events, making my breakfast and kissing me goodbye at the start of this new day.