by Melissa Williams Finn
Days like this one in late spring – green, breezy, crowned with a blue bowl of a sky – remind me of our little old 1930s house on McCommas and life with just my first two children. After 2 ½ years of diaper-and-nursing mayhem, with life largely governed by fractured nights and sleepy mornings, it was a big deal to get our oldest child fed, dressed and off to preschool at 9 a.m. twice a week. He and his dad would drive off down the leafy street, waving at me standing with the baby on the front porch in our breakfast-sticky pajamas. Then she and I would head back into the wreckage and sit down in the rocking chair, watching the dust motes stream onto the yellow wood floor and enjoying the hush of an almost-empty house.
I love that moment when the house is quiet. It is so full of echoes and promises, a pocketful of time all to yourself. No one cries, requests, insists, demands. In those few minutes of stillness, you can take a breath and restore order to one corner of your little world, literally or figuratively. Wipe up after breakfast, write a letter, take an unhurried shower, clear off your desk. Or just think, pray, be. What will I do today to help my children, my husband and myself get to heaven? Are all those errands on my list really so necessary? How am I making the world better for others? What should I take out of the freezer for dinner? (Big thoughts can continue for only so long.)
Then the phone rings or the baby fusses, and it’s time to turn back into the problem-solving, house-maintaining, schedule-adhering dynamo without whom life for several people would not exist as they know it.
Sometimes, on days when my four kids under are annoying me coming and going, I think about that holy grail of motherhood: the day the youngest child heads off to school and the house is all mine on a regular basis. I imagine driving home in a leisurely manner from preschool drop-off, not rushing because a car-seated toddler has stunk up the minivan. When I arrive at my empty house, I’ll pour a cup of coffee, perhaps crack open the newspaper, or take out my datebook and ponder my many options. The nearly three hours before carpool will stretch out before me enticingly, unbroken by whining, mess-making, diaper changes and nose wipes.
But other times, I remember the unhurried pace of those McCommas days and the sight of my tow-headed 2-year-old heading into the world. His life now is so crammed with school, homework, sports and music practice that it’s hard to believe he was ever my little shadow. Before long he’ll be busier than ever with friends and other interests and shortly thereafter will be driving himself down the street – and waving goodbye to me on the front porch.
When I think about that, I’m thankful all over again for my last little bird in the nest. Barely 2, she has 9 more months of shadowhood before preschool begins. Until then, I’m the center of her universe. And I always have someone to walk around the block with me.
Melissa Williams Finn is a suburban housewife in Dallas with four children, a dog and a ferret. She was formerly a reporter for The Associated Press and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
(© 2013 Melissa Williams Finn)