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June 2012
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August 2012

You alone

I know it's irrational, but I blame myself. Just the week before, I was sitting outside the chicken coop, and I exhaled. It was one of those deep sighs that lets your shoulders sink down, away from your ears.

"This is my favorite place," I said, "it feels safe here."

Some time last week, in the dark hours when Sunday was turning into Monday, a fox found the chicken coop. It discovered a tiny gap between two sections of fencing on the roof, pushed it aside, and flowed in like smoke. There it slaughtered most of the chickens, eating one, and leaving the remains of five others scattered. Two survived, two of the original four, including the light colored one who is named Nip-Nip and is everyone's favorite. She lost an eye, but she will be okay. 

When Mom told me, I put my head on her shoulder and wept. 

"I know it sounds ridiculous," I said, "but they were the best part of my life right now."

She held me and said what she could, but really, what can you say?

That is also what I would ask the public officials who keep urging those of us who live here, near the site of the movie shootings, to talk to our children. 

I am absolutely willing to talk to my children. Kindly tell me - what do I say? It was completely random...but don't worry, it won't happen to you? No one saw this coming...but it certainly won't happen again?

That theater is the one we go to. Clay and Raphi and Sophia and my mom were there last Sunday. Friends and neighbors were there for the shootings. No one we know died. No one we know is untouched. What on earth am I supposed to say? Tell me where the intersection of "true" and "comforting" is and I will most certainly meet you there. 

Today was supposed to be Eva's due date. For the past few weeks, I have felt as aware of this day coming as I would have been if I were still pregnant. It is the first thought when I open my eyes, it is the last thought when I go to bed, and it visits me in my dreams. Whenever I saw the day's date, I would automatically count down. It is July 14, and so it is eight days until The Day. It is five days. It is three days. It is tomorrow. 

It is today.

I am overwhelmed by how unsafe the world is. From my tiniest child, once burrowed deep inside me, all the way out to the theater down the road, there is no security. I cannot save a single life, I cannot protect the ones I love from the brutal place this world can be. Babies die, chickens are shredded, hearts are broken, and movie-goers are gunned down.

Today the whole family went out to Eva's grave. The marker had been placed this week, months sooner than we expected it. I was glad that it was there in time for her due date, and at the same time a little mad. "At least the marker for her grave is in place," is truly sucky comfort on the day you were supposed to hold her. 

The marker is nice. It was a little dirty, from the installation, I suppose, so we washed it off. I was struck, as we stood there, by the verse I'd chosen for it. "In peace will I both lie down and sleep, for you alone, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety." It's from Psalms, and it's a prayer that I've always said over my kids at bedtime, inserting their name "...make Tre dwell in safety...make Max dwell in safety." My parents prayed it over me and my brother when we were young, and it just seems right.

You make me dwell in safety. You alone. 

The graveyard is on the plains east of Denver. The view is grand and sweeping - a little show-offy in the way Colorado is good at. Sophia didn't want to be there, and she whined to be held, to go home, that she was hot. Tre and Max stood awkwardly by, not knowing what to say. Raphael folded a yellow paper lily and tucked it into the ground by the grave. Clay rubbed my back.

Everything I can see, everything beautiful and awful, assures me that I am unsafe. That love is only a precursor to loss, and joy is a lie that will be set right by pain. 

But if there is a God, I have to assume that He sees more than me. I cannot pretend to feel it, but I have to accept it if I claim to believe. 

And I do.

You alone, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety. 

Arrogantly enough, my own words come back to me. "But life is about more than protection, and love is still greater than loss." When I wrote that, a few week back, I believed it...for a little while. Today I choose to believe it again. 

Let Love be greater than loss, and tonight, although I will cry again, I will lie down in peace.

Eva's marker

Not exactly the problem.

Oh y'all. I am So Tired. I'll try not to make this too boring, but let me sum it up: crazy early morning followed by late night because of a trip to pick up Max at camp, followed by two nights of disrupted sleep for Sophia, plus Clay is out of town for work, topped off with a feverish Sophia kicking me in the ribs all last night = mama who is wondering if she's the only one who just saw that cartoon roadrunner dash through the living room.

We had to cancel a get-together with friends today, on account of the sickness and roadrunners. Sophia didn't understand this, because the day was supposed to end at the pool and duh, it is not winter, so why wouldn't we go to the pool?

"Well, we need to stay home and take it easy, because you're a little sick," I explained.

"But why I am sick?"

"Because your body is fighting some germs, and so you have a fever."

"But why is my body having germs?"

This went on for a while, as you can imagine. Finally, I convinced her that we were, in fact, staying home. This was almost too much for her glassy-eyed, pink-cheeked little self to bear, and she asked if she could at LEAST call her daddy. That seemed reasonable, so we did.

"DAD," she said mournfully when he answered, "I am being SICK." She listened for a minute, then answered, "Because my body is doing some germs." Another pause, nodding along in sorrow, "We are not going swimming. Because I have a beaver."

Well. Not exactly. 


Conversations like this are why remodeling is not for every couple

"I've decided something about the kitchen sink," I announced to Clay, as we drove to the twelve bazillionth store to gaze, slack-jawed, at the choices for countertops.

"Oh good!"

"I know I should have researched farmhouse sinks before we ordered the cabinets. I should have found out how much they cost before our sink cabinet was ordered and we were locked into that style. But I've decided not to feel bad about that anymore, because when we ordered the cabinets, I was having a very hard time. It was difficult for me to want anything, and I had to come up with a jillion opinions about style and finish and color and whatnot. I did the best I could, and I'm sorry I obligated us to spend more on the sink than we should have, but I'm not going to feel guilty about it anymore."

"Oh. Okay. I was hoping you had made a decision on, you know, an actual sink."

"I want the marble one."

"Okay. You know, I never was feeling bad about the sink?"

"Yes, I know."

"So you're justifying yourself to...who, exactly?"

"I don't have to have an answer to EVERYTHING."

"I love you."

"Damn right." 

Random - REALLY random - thoughts on retrieving one boy from camp

Yesterday Clay and Tre and I drove the seven hours down to the boys' camp to attend their concert and collect Raphael. Then we turned around and drove back home. We left at 5 AM - IN THE MORNING (redundant, I know, but worth emphasizing), and returned home at midnight on the dot. So what I'm wondering today is this: Why, exactly, does a day full of sitting leave me feeling like I've been beaten mercilessly? Is this oldness? Because it stinks. All day long I've been standing up slowly, clutching at my lower back and wincing. It's mad attractive. Next weekend - back to get Max! And then...extensive rehab, I'm thinking. From sitting. 

When we got to camp, Max barely had a moment to greet me. He allowed one quick hug, then took off with Tre. Then I couldn't find Raphael anywhere. It left me distinctly annoyed at both of them. THE DEAL IS that we pay for camp, and in return you children are THRILLED TO SEE US. It is NOT so much to ask. When I did finally find Raphael (down by the river, the nerve of him, enjoying the outdoors while at camp), he hugged me and was happy, but not overcome with emotion at finally seeing his one and only mommy. Clay, on the other hand, got a running leap of a monkey hug, not that I am holding that against the both of them at all.

Tre found all his friends and visited and then enjoyed his brothers' concert, all with good humor and astonishing grace. He said it was hard to be there and not be able to stay, but it was good to see everybody. He showed more maturity than I apparently have, as evidenced by the previous paragraph.

When we got home, it was so brutally late that Raphael just dropped all his stuff in the living room and stumbled to bed. I got up a few hours later to let the dog out, and as I made my way through the living room, I sniffed and thought, what on EARTH is that smell? That smell is small boy camping stank, and it is...unique. I washed his clothes this morning. My washing machine has "soil level" settings that run from "light" up to "heavy." I think there should be one more notch, for "returning from camp" and when I push that button, I think the washing machine should pat me sympathetically. I am throwing away his socks.

Sophia, who has been punishing Tre for the other brothers' absence all week, responded to Raphael's reappearance with pure love and sunshine for him. However, I'm a little afraid that she is going to eat my liver if I don't produce Max. Soon. 

So today was spent in something of a sleep deprived haze, washing foul laundry and retrieving Sophia from the rafters. I am deeply content to have one more child home, and have been smelling his head all day (something that was made far, far, far more pleasant by his long, hot shower this morning). A part of me still prowls and waits for Max to return, but for now, I'll take what's I've got.

Try not to be jealous

Just so you know, Sophia is now available to give manicures. Her rates are very reasonable (she really just wants to play with your nail polish and line up the bottles with many exclamations over how pretty they are), and her work? Well, it speaks for itself:

July 012

I've been walking around with this on my toes all afternoon. I feel absolutely lovely.

Independence Day has long been a happy holiday for me. Corny as it may sound, I love my country, and gathering in the park with other families to sprawl on blankets and gaze at the sky leaves me feeling hopeful about the whole American experiment. The firework show ends in a flurry of splintering light and the Star Spangled Banner, and I sigh contentedly and blink back tears.

This year, however, is different. This year Colorado is on fire. So many people are now homeless, and it is exhausting to imagine all the work ahead to make our community well. There are huge swaths of this state that will not look the same again in my lifetime. Or my children's.

All that fire has filled the air with a haze that has turned our fathomless blue sky into a flat grey disk, pressing down, so it's hard to feel like you can get a deep breath. The sunlight filters through it, a jaundiced yellow that adds to the ominous feel of these hot, dry days.

Because of the fires and the dryness, nearly all fireworks shows are cancelled. It's hard to know how to celebrate without fireworks.

On top of that, two of my children are gone. Max and Raphael are away at camp - in a whole different state - thankfully out from underneath this smudged sky, but also so so far away. This is Raphi's first year at camp. I believe he is fine, I trust he is having a wonderful time. But I would really love a glimpse of him, a look to reassure me that he's doing well. And my hands miss the feel of their shoulders, my ears ring with the lack of their voices. I want them to have this experience more than I want to always know that they are safe, but just barely.

It is hard, even, to be happy for them, because Tre is home, quietly sad that he didn't get to go to camp this year. He wasn't able to secure a counsellor position. It is heartbreak. For him, feeling exiled from a place he considers his second home. For me, relentlessly battering myself against the fact that I cannot shelter him from hurt. 

Sophia is angry that two of her brothers are gone, an injustice she takes out on Tre. He is unfailingly kind and patient with her, a fact that is not lost on her petulant little self, but she is still mad. When we are driving around, she calls me on her pretend phone and engages me in long conversations. From the driver's seat, Tre says, "Hey, Sophia, I have a pretend phone too. Can I call you?"

"No," she responds flatly, "I am not talking to brothers."

I roll a pair of facts around in my head, not wanting to speak them. In about seven more years, Sophia will be the only child at home. And right now I am supposed to be 37 weeks pregnant with her little sister. I cannot shelter Sophia either. 

So to observe this odd, off-kilter holiday, those of us left here at home gathered up part of a meal and carried it to the new house, where Mom and Dad are already living in their mostly finished home. We ate hot dogs and brats, watermelon and chips. We finished the meal with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and then we threw the watermelon rinds to the chickens. This led to what passes for sport around here, the whole-scale hunting of grasshoppers to feed to the chickens. Tre is a master at this, stomping them then scooping them into a plastic container. When he walks up to the chicken coop, the chickens race over, fairly quivering with hope. 

Sophia likes to help feed the grasshoppers to the chickens. Tre handed her a mangled bug and she held it out to the chickens, laughing to see them leap up to snatch it out of her fingers. She and Tre encouraged them to jump higher and higher each time, calling it the Chicken Olympics. And then, when the grasshoppers were all gone, they ran off to catch more. 

Mom and I dragged chairs out to sit by the chicken coop, to watch them scratch the ground and peck at watermelon rinds. Eventually, everyone gathered out there, even the intrepid bug hunters. We sat and watched. Sophia, not content to sit nearby, made her way into the coop and tried to pet the chickens. We warned her not to chase them, so she squatted and pleaded with the chickens to come to her. Some did, for a moment at least. 

The air was still hazy, but for the moment the yellow light looked a bit golden. Clay's hand was wrapped around mine, and Tre sat on my other side, laughing with us at the goofy grace of chickens. Eventually we gathered up and drove back to our for-now home, and the sun sank into a red stain of sunset.

There is no guarantee in life - for our children, for our land, for our country. But life is about more than protection, and love is still greater than loss.