Monday, January 15, 2007
Mary has taken to begging, like a baby bird, for scraps from our table. I will be sitting alone, sipping coffee and eating eggs or a muffin, when out of the corner of my eye I am alerted to the presence of a very tiny person with her mouth open wide enough to crack her jaw. The fact that she waits so quietly, so expectantly, would lead a casual observer to believe that this how I have always fed her; with scavenged bits of oatmeal, banana, or whatever else I could forage from the aisles of Jewel-Osco.
It is funny how off base we can be, making summarizations by observing open spaces through a peephole. “It is raining,” one might say, “grab your umbrella!” unaware of the sprinkler quenching thirsty perennials in the heat of a sunny summer day. We all make our mark with bits and pieces of the truth; twisting a many faceted personality in order to shed light on the angle we hope will be most appreciated by the company currently present. How many times have I softened my voice for the sake of a stranger, five seconds after cutting into my child with criticisms sharp and stern?
The other night I invited two neighborhood friends over for coffee and dessert. At 6:58pm, two minutes before their scheduled arrival, the crying and whining in our house was escalating with every second. Our oldest was livid at having to be upstairs with the “children” at such an early hour. The middle two were arguing over what bedtime story would be read first. The baby was screaming from exhaustion, and I was dangerously close to a heart attack, imagining the doorbell ringing and having to expose the gritty underside of our whitewashed family unit. In the nick of time we got the chaos under control, and welcomed our guests into a quiet, tranquil home; where the peace was as tenuous as the tabbed dress on a paper doll.
It is hard to view this life in context. Through peephole observations, my hope rises and falls on the tide of current circumstances. The bigger picture is too abstract to make much sense of. When I go to my e-mail “inbox” and find yet another “thanks, but no thanks” rejection in response to one of the many submitted writings I have packaged up and sent out to publications, not currently interested in the musings of a thirty-something mother of four, I tell myself it doesn’t bother me. I delete it, along with recipe ideas from Better Homes and Gardens, but sometimes it sticks and I can’t shake off the feeling that it’s raining, raining, raining on my parade.
“You can never assume you know the whole story,” I told Priscilla when she complained about a new boy in her class who she thought would probably be a troublemaker. “He could just be nervous, or sad about having to move,” I argued. Unconvinced, she reiterated her original position on the matter. For all I know, she could be right. His backpack might be full of spitballs and whoopee cushions. But that’s just it, neither Priscilla nor I know all that much of anything. We can speculate on the virtues of that little boy until the cows come home, but without some background information that’s all we’re going to have; theories and speculations.
I am sure it is possible to form some sort of working hypothesis out of spitballs, baby birds, and e-mailed rejections. I could also try and reproduce a Rembrandt using nothing but Popsicle sticks and colored water, it’s my life to waste as I choose. But the fact of the matter is, I am not a painter, a philosopher, a fortune-teller, or God. I believe, out of necessity, the perennials are out there blooming and growing even as the rain beats down, blurring my vision. This is not the lifetime for summarizations. These are the days for pulling on rubber boots and splashing in the puddles; with you, my family, and my neighbors, believing and forgiving and loving the parts that make us human.