Outside, I was quiet and impatient. I hadn't yet transitioned my mind from my writing, which just moments ago, had me feeling content and like I was finally accomplishing something that would give me visible results -- a paycheck. I missed that old feeling of being rewarded for your work.
Ella didn't want to roller skate, so we brainstormed an activity agreeable to all three of us. We sat on the back deck, playing in the large container full of rice and beans, shoveling them, letting them rain through our fingers. My best friend is guilt. I look for reasons to feel guilty. I decided that my viewing of my children as distractions today, would only lead to regret down the road, that I didn't enjoy them, play with them.
I searched for things to say, ways to engage with them, nothing was coming. Holding the bean in my hand, I remembered a favorite childhood story, "Jack and the Beanstalk." My favorite part was the fee fi fo fum part. Mom used to read that story to me, and we'd chant the recurring chorus of fee fi fo fum together. This simple moment brings a feeling of warmth, contentment, and acceptance to me. That's priceless.
I remembered the gist of the story, but not all the details, and began telling the story. They were listening. Soon though, they saw through the holes in my memory and began throwing questions at me "What did Jack do? Did the giant get him? Did the giant come in his house? Did he lock the door?"
Mom's sister, my aunt and a longtime preschool and first grade teacher, is a great story teller. I can remember a moment in a garden in Omaha. Waiting to get into some event, my cousins and I were bored, the sun was beating down, I was hot and tired, but no way would I sit on the grass, fearing a worm would touch me. This sucked. My aunt started telling us a story about a witch, and while I don't remember the story, I remember being sucked into the story. The rhythm of her soft voice, the description of the scene and the characters, the way she moved her hands and arms just so as she told the story. She had my attention. It was calming and entertaining.
I was quiet again, and we continued scooping our rice and beans, sorting the beans into their own containers, the rice into it's own bowl. This was the making of "cookies." Contrary to what Dave jokingly says about me, I am not a good liar with a good imagination, two things that I thought might aid me in telling a good made up story.
I decided to give the girls an oral memoir of their last 24 hours. "HI, I'm Ella. And I like to go to gymnastics, I like soccer, but only kind of. Yesterday, I went to my friend's house and didn't play with anyone because I wouldn't follow the made up "rules" to take off my shoes. Then I came home and went to the neighbors. I knocked on the door, went inside, watched them paint, watched a movie, then came home to see Daddy..." I continued with the memoir and she smiled when I was done.
"Do me now!" Sophia wanted her turn and I gave an oral memoir of her. They both listened. I weaved in empathy and social skills issues into the stories. This held their attention.
Ending the memoirs we sat quietly, still playing side by side in the rice and beans. "I like it when you play with me, mommy," said Sophia quietly.
"You do? How does it make you feel?"
"Good," I told her. That's all I want for you. And I was happy, too. I didn't get paid for this "piece" I verbally wrote, but I was satisfied in that moment, her compliment a pleasant reward.
Mom called as I came inside to make lunch, and I could hear the disappointment in her voice. She was sick, and the symptoms worried me. The woman who doesn't miss work, much less time with her grandchildren, had called to say the girls can't come tomorrow as planned...She has a second doctor appointment, and just isn't going to be up to it.
I couldn't hear worry in her voice, if it was there, mother's mask these feelings not wanting to upset their children. And hopefully, Sophia didn't feel the fleeting coldness, the resentment, coming off my hand this morning, because the feelings didn't come from not wanting to be her mom or have time with her. The feelings came out of not knowing how to balance financially supporting my children, being an adult with adult needs, and being a caring, kind mom. The perfectionist in me is still working on how to embrace Edward Everett Hale's quote, which, I think, applies now...
I am only one,
but I am one.
I can't do everything,
but I can do something.
And what I can do,
I shall do.
I shall do.