Previous month:
July 2007
Next month:
September 2007

What? I'm supposed to amuse MYSELF now?

One of my very favorite things about my relationship with Clay is how playful he is. Now, I mean that in an entirely appropriate-to-talk-about-way, even considering that my mom, his mom, AND his daughter all read this blog. So.

What I mean is that he’s funny. He makes me laugh. While I make dinner he stands there, in my way, cracking stupid jokes about everything and nothing while I nudge him to one side and laugh and try to cook.
I don’t think I can quite do justice to his style of humor, but I’ll try.

In the afternoon, when he gets home from work, after the flurry of greetings in the kitchen, he invariably heads to the bedroom to change his clothes. As often as not, Carmi is asleep at the foot of the bed. When he sees her, Clay calls out to no one in particular, “Dead dog! Dead dog in our room!”

Or, when we’re driving around, anytime he sees a plane coming in for a landing, he hollers, “Crashing plane! The plane is crashing!”

What makes that funny and not disturbing is his tone of voice. He’s not in the slightest scared or upset sounding. He sounds more like he’s announcing, “Oh, look, a parade! See the clowns?”

On second thought, perhaps that is exactly what makes it disturbing.

Whatever. *I* find him hysterical. The boys, who think Clay is just above Superman and ice cream on the scale of awesomeness, have nonetheless learned to roll their eyes at him and many of his jokes. I, on the other hand, giggle like an addle-brained school girl, clasp my hands under my chin, and gaze up at him in wonder and joy. He is the light in my days.


Last night he was paying bills. And when he is seated at the table, surrounded by papers, making marks in his ledger, he morphs from my light-hearted laugh a minute guy into Spock. My charming comments and flirtatious overtures are met with blank stares. I even tried doing a few cheers, thinking he must enjoy being the only man on the block with a cheerleader for paying the bills. He sighed and said mildly,

“You know, if I could just concentrate on THIS, I would be done sooner.”
“You’re no fun.”
“So it seems.”
“Did you see that the dog is dead?”
“Never MIND.”

Fine. I can donate one evening a month to the cause of having the bills paid. I knew the next day would dawn bright and happy, and the Clay I know and love would be back.

The next afternoon, however, he called from work. Disaster! Plague! Pestilence! He would be stuck there for hours to come.

Fortunately, it’s not like I didn’t have a source of humor, because a friend of Tre’s had joined us for dinner. The four boys were well neigh hysterical with their witty repartee. For instance, there was the song about all the many things one of them ate on a cracker, which I would repeat for you here, but I would have to pound myself upon the forehead with a ball peen hammer for a few minutes first, and I haven’t the heart.

Whenever they weren’t sharing such amusing insights, they were racing around the house, bellowing. No activity was too mundane to require anything less then a full throated yell.


And me with neither chocolate OR Clay in the house.

Life is unfair.

Eventually, after working many extra hours in the rain and missing dinner, Clay came home. He joined me in ushering the boys through bedtime, then we went back upstairs. I fixed him a much-deserved plate of food and sat down to be amused chat with my beloved.
Wouldn’t you know it? He was tired. Worn out. Warm and loving and kind as always, but just not “on.”


Life is SO unfair.

Two thing happened at the beginning of August. The peaches on the tree in the back yard became ripe and Jennie, Clay’s daughter, arrived for her summer visit.

Obviously, one of these events is far more precious than the other, but the peaches don’t read this blog, so that’s the one that’s easier to talk about.

I’ve spent much time outside, under the peach tree, peering up into its leafy depths, blissed out on all the peaches.

They were velvety soft and filled the air with their perfume. When they were ready to be picked, their flesh just yielded under a gentle thumb. Biting into one caused a rivulet of bright yellow juice to run down my chin, sweet and flavorful enough to put candy to shame. They were small, due to lackadaisical thinning efforts. But oh, they were lovely.

I think I enjoyed staring up at their colors almost as much as I did eating them.

Every morning I went out to the garden, climbed a ladder, and studied the peaches. I cupped my hand around their fuzzy weight and breathed in their scent. The ones that had softened since the day before I twisted free and set down carefully in my basket. Soon the kitchen was littered with piles of peaches, and every meal was accompanied by a bowl them, sliced and dripping with juice.

Meanwhile, inside the house, the addition of one 15 year old girl had tipped the balance of the household over from “full” to “abundant.” Relationships surged in every direction and I, whose only meaningful currency is feelings, was overwhelmed. People kept asking me, with a concerned furrow of the brow, “How is it going? How ARE you all?” – as though Jennie was an unpredictable outside force that we were meant to withstand.

“It’s going just FINE,” I replied, “and Jennie is very sweet and just such a neat person.” I said it firmly, hoping to get across the fact that Jennie is no outside force at all, but one of us. I have heard the things stepmothers say about their stepchildren, and I simply refuse.

And so we went on family outings and painted her room and swam and ice skated and I tried to fill our days with activities that Jennie would enjoy and the boys could fit into. Through it all I fought with myself, to tamp down the desire to make everything alright all the time for everyone. So many relationships. So many directions.

Sometimes everything would come together for a moment in a moment of achingly beautiful harmony. In those moments I was teary and grateful and in love with everything and everyone. Blended families are amazing.

And then there were times when all these people that I love so much could not find comfort in each other’s presence, and I wanted to run away. Under my left eye a twitch developed, like the flicker of a failing neon light.

One day, on our way home from the zoo, I turned around and snapped at Jennie and Max, then turned back and folded in on myself, miserable. For the rest of the ride everyone was silent, and when we arrived home each scattered to their own corner. The atmosphere was brittle and cold.

After a while I had to drive Jennie over to her cousin’s house, and we climbed in the van, tense and quiet. I pulled out of the driveway, and turned to her and sighed.

“Look, hon, I’m really sorry I snapped at you,” I began, and she looked at me. Her face softened and she said gently, “I’m sorry too.” She went on to talk about the complexities of being a stepsibling, with such maturity and insight that I wanted to cry. I was the one who married her dad and complicated her visits with him. She should be able to just come down and hang out with him, but forever after now there will be this other family twined around her time with him.

In the end, I think, we were all ok. It was a good visit, a real visit. In the evenings, as I stood at the kitchen sink, slicing into peach after peach after peach, as the juice ran off my wrists, I breathed in the scent and listened to the sounds of all these people I love, figuring out how to love each other. I stirred warm yellow slices of fruit to make the filling for peach cobbler. I simmered peaches to make jam (that failed, not once, but twice). Wobbly pyramids of dimpled peach pits were piled on sticky surfaces. The sink was flecked with juice and blush colored shreds of peach skin. My shoulders ached from standing there, cutting and mixing and stirring, and I was very aware that abundance is exhausting.

But it is still abundance. And it’s a miracle.