Friday, June 29, 2012

Sand to Shape to Sand Again

There is magic in packing a mold with wet sand, turning it upside down, and watching that mushy stuff come out clean and straight-edged, solid as a building until some small hand smashes it.

This week I've felt that way: at one moment in the sun with firm edges, a defined shape; in the next, a mound of sand, soft and scattered, then again pulled back into a mold to stand again because I must -- because I have to handle the situation in front of me, because the cabinets are a mess and I'm the one who has to tell the guy refinishing them, because the basement floods and someone must meet the gutter man to talk about rerouting the water flow, because all the vanities are the wrong size and have to be exchanged again, because... And I stand until once again it's all too much to hold and --smoosh-- until I can be gathered again.

This morning I slushed.  Ben and Silas left for a weekend in the mountains (Camp Thor, designed by my brother), which left Eden and me here.  My to-do list was pressing -- to run a zillion errands for the house, unpack, clean plaster dust, to make time with just Eden special, to organize a pool party in the 104 degree weather -- I find I'm creating a lot of pressure for myself these days...  It took me until about 1:00, when I realized the kitchen guy was NOT there or coming and that Eden, more than doing any of the activities I kept mentioning, just wanted to sit close enough to touch.  So, in the 100+ degree day, we did what she wanted: we sat on the porch swing and felt the hot breathy air move against our faces, back and forth, as we leaned against each other.  Slowly, I began to release my agendas and swing.

The rest of the day was calmer -- we painted at the kitchen table, we sludged through the hot air to buy blueberries at the market for our first pie-day-friday-movie-night, we swam, and played "Brave" which, without knowing anything about the movie plot just meant I was a little black bear and she was "Brave," a name which inspired her to dive for the first time!

It's hard to loosen the self-pressure.  Transition to DC has changed from deeply emotional to physical -- a house to unpack, work to get done, errands to run, a baby to grow, two kids running around, a list for summer play, and then all the other things I'd like to do: make art, read, go on dates, build friendships, write, find a church, drive to the beach etc.

Over the years, my mom has had words and phrases she's gotten hooked on and repeated like mantras -- pointed reminders of what is at the heart of things.  For a long time, her word was "allow" -- to allow a situation to be what it is, to allow another to react as she will, to allow your feelings without judging them, to allow yourself to be in transition, to allow yourself no energy to build the friendships you'd like, to plan the party you want, to drive to the beach for the day -- to allow.

Today Eden was my wisest teacher, pulling me once again from sand to shape, down on the floor to watch her pacing, her disregard for every task beyond the marker in her hand, wanting simply for me to meet her there and allow the moment to be just that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June in Pictures

California visit:

End of School:

 Turning 4:


 New spaces:

The Impending Delivery & Box Car Children

At 8AM, pulling up to the hardware store for a quick pre-camp shop, my phone rang.  It was the movers.  Just wanted to confirm tomorrow morning delivery, he said.  By tomorrow do you mean Saturday?  No, Thursday, tomorrow.  Tomorrow: the day when two plumbers will still be hacking holes in the plaster walls and wielding 10' long slender pipes down the hallway.  Tomorrow, the day when the handyman is attaching the kitchen cabinet doors and finishing the pantry he's building.  Tomorrow: the day when the air in the house will still be clouded by dust.  Tomorrow: the day before we planned to scrub all of the floors on our hands and knees.  Yes, that day is the one and only day we can come, tomorrow. 

Today I wondered, at 26 weeks pregnant, if I might be going into labor because of a constant aching through my abdomen and back that began before the scrubbing and painting.  No labor, thankfully, but that was the backdrop of the day.  At dinner tonight, my mom asked what had kept me so steady today (apparently I met the slew of unexpected calls, including one this evening sounding alarm that the new pipes are too close to an electrical cable and should be redone, with more composure than normal).  I said it was probably thinking about Ben, who has a lot heaped on his plate these days, but later I realized it was also the Box Car Children (if I must admit it).

I'd never read those books until Silas brought them home from a used book fair a few months ago.  They are slow, especially the earlier ones, packed with domestic details and a mystery so slight it could be called a question.  But Silas loves them, and laughs out loud at six year old Benny, so we read them, lots of them.  The thing about the Box Car children is that they're incredibly hard workers, cheery workers, team workers.  They don't complain.  And being that they are all each other has, they are each other's encouragers.  It's pretty Ra Ra! but somehow, rather than coming off heavy-handed, they're kind of endearing.

This afternoon, after I'd painted tall grasses on the wall of Silas's nook, prepped the floor (as plaster dust and chunks of concrete literally rocketed out of the raw hole in the ceiling above me) where the refrigerator will go tomorrow, and taken Eden to her physical where she got four shots, it was time to wash all the floors in the house, and I did not want to.  My body was not happy.  Eden, the bravest person I've ever seen get shots, was kind of limping.  Silas was hungry (a new perpetual state).  But the furniture was on the way, the floors were filthy, and my sister Kaia Joye was game to help (bless you) -- I had no option.

Despite the plumbers' lofty goals to be finished yesterday, they are not yet finished, which means when we started, half a vanity and two toilet tanks were sitting on a drop cloth in Silas's room (where a bunk bed needs to go tomorrow morning), and the water in the house was turned off.  As I hunted for buckets in my parents' garage and filled them at the kitchen sink, the boxcar children hovered in the back of my mind -- they would think this was an adventure.  As we drove the sloshing pails over to the new house and wiped rags in arcs over all the floors of the house, I again found them hovering in my peripheral, so excited (in nearly every book) to work hard and set up "house."  And despite their cheesiness factor, they did steer my attitude a bit as I washed floors with Kaia Joye, who laughed when I kicked over her huge arnold palmer and watched it waterfall down the stairs; Silas, who left the house a few times to ring the doorbell and wave his hand through the mail slot; and Eden, who talked incessantly and scrubbed with great seriousness.

So tonight, the floors are clean and ready for the movers, at least ready until tomorrow morning when five or six men with at least three different agendas will converge at the house and disorder will reign again.  And then, like Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, we'll have to set up house again...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Adults Here

We have tipped past the halfway point of June, blown from Mother’s Day through the last days of school, and on past Father’s Day.  I am sitting in our new house on a little ledge in Eden’s room, where people must have sat on and off for the last 64 years.  It’s a tall step, really, that leads to a cupboard in her wall, but it invites one to sit.  From this little bench-for-one, I can look out the window at the Magnolia tree, the black sheen of the wet street, and the bright grass drinking in the rain.  

My voice sounds loud and echoes when I speak here.  We have not moved in yet; the house stands empty as slowly these walls become a more familiar space.  I'm here to wait for a plumber who will rescue the walls from springing with pinhole leaks.

For twelve years of marriage we have neatly dodged the full-blown home-owning responsibilities -- renting, owning a condo, renting again.  But now here we are.   Some days (especially the rainy ones and days when five people traipse through the house jotting notes and giving estimates) it is mildly terrifying to realize that we are the adults here!  

Right now, a sump pump buzzes on and off at the bottom of this house in a make-shift hole someone once drilled in the driveway.  A few plumbers last week glanced at it on their way in,  and said it's in the wrong place, will freeze up in winter, is squirrel-y at best.  Yes... Ben put it in...  It's an attempt to stave off the rainwater that rose in the basement during the last storm and left a muddy pond over the concrete floor.  We found the water (or really, I should say Ben did) and for the next few days I talked about going over with Eden and a mop.  But I didn't.  I couldn't, actually, begin to imagine how to make that much water and mud disappear from inside the house.  I found, though, that saying decisive, helpful things to myself like, I think I'll get a mop and go over there today, or proactively finding a bucket to bring, made me feel a little better until Ben and my brother Max went with a shop vac (so the mop wouldn't have done much good anyway) and sucked it all up.  

And so now, with an air of certainty and confidence, I am off to meet the plumber (who, I might add, just pulled up with a big sidekick in a little beat up teal car, in slouchy clothes with no trace of a company name on anything) to tell him all that I know about the scabbed galvanized pipes hiding behind the walls and what, in my experience, I think should be done...