The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Last weekend, Trey & I traveled to New Orleans to attend the Louisiana Bar Foundation's 26th Annual Gala. A gala is a far cry from the Friday nights Trey & I usually enjoy, which sometimes involve dinner plans, but never ones that require me to buy a dress & Trey to rent a tux.
Thursday night, Reagan & I joined my parents at the Hilton Garden Inn for our usual Thursday night rendezvous:
Friday morning(ish), Trey & I departed, our Gala attire safely tucked in plastic bags.
That was the adult to Reagan ratio when her four grandparents, her Aunt Deni, & I took her for a quick dinner & then to play in the park two weeks ago. Yes, it's been two weeks & I'm just now blogging it. I sat down to upload pics & blog about the whirlwind trip to New Orleans & Baton Rouge Trey & I took this past weekend, & realized I was backlogged. While Reagan happily works on the couch at her desk, answering calls & making important notes on her etch-a-sketch, I want to share some pictures of her heavily supervised play day in the park.
I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live, and what time the birds awaken in the summer - - and what trees and seasons smelled like - - how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich."
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
When I teach developmental English, one of the few directives I'm given for the direction of the course is that my students write a minimum of three essays, one of which needs to be descriptive in nature. When I introduce this assignment, I have to segue into adjectives. I wait patiently while no one volunteers the definition of an adjective, hoping it's a fear of speaking up in class that's hindering my students, & that I am not standing in front of twenty-five college students who don't know what an adjective is.
When the blank stares continue, I give them examples of topics that lend themselves to description, & these are always memories of people & places seared in my mind because of the sensory details that remain vivid, despite the expanse of years. We discuss the intricate link between our senses & our memories, & I usually ask them to close their eyes and think about the way their grandmother's house smelled, or the sound of their grandfather's voice, or the feel of the sand under their feet on the beach, the rhythmic lapping of the waves. Usually, at least a few of their eyes light up at this point & I know I will soon read a few essays about grandma's chocolate chip cookies baking, or grandpa smoking a pipe while he told a story, or read about a gaggle of cousins playing ball barefoot, the cool, crisp grass crunching under their feet.
Last week, my Aunt Donna returned from spending Easter with her daughter & granddaughter in Dallas, & brought with her a sizable load of clothes & shoes Marykate has outgrown. I literally squealed with delight as I sifted through the goodies, immediately trying some of the outfits on Reagan, much to her chagrin.
A peek at the loot:
Box - O - shoes:
One of the first outfits I tried on Reagan, & her choice of shoes, black Crocs, which were by far the item that most excited her:
Like me, Reagan doesn't have an older sister, but alas, when you have cousins, you can still participate in the childhood hand-me-down ritual. Growing up, I had three older female cousins, two who were just old enough for me to inherit their old clothes while I could still wear them (I eventually grew taller than both of them). Both of them three years my senior, I remember feeling a myriad of emotions regarding them when I was younger, similar, I am sure, to the mixture of love & envy & general awe a young girl feels about her older sister as they grow alongside one another. We played together, we fought, we had sleepovers, we shared birthdays & holidays, we greedily dove into our Mamaw's chocolate pie while seated at the kids' table, we welcomed new cousins to the fold, we vacationed together, we grew up, we fell in love, we married, & we began reproducing ourselves.
This pic is worth posting, if only for a glimpse at my mother's awesome shirt:
That's me in the bottom left corner, curious about the two newbies:
I know my mother bought me plenty of new clothes when I was younger, but truth be told, I loved my cousin's hand-me-downs. They were, in my young mind, obviously stylish since my super cool, wise older cousins had selected them & christened them for me. At thirty-one, I cannot recall what any of the clothes looked like, & I have no idea where they are today. I am sure my younger sister may've worn them after me, & after that, Goodwill, perhaps.
What I do remember is the way they smelled. I could open a trash bag full of clothes today & tell you whether they belonged to Jennifer, or Elizabeth. I loved the smell as much as I loved the clothes themselves, & today, almost fourteen years after her death, I wish I could open a bag of Elizabeth's clothes & revel in that crisp, clean smell. Like her, it was unique, & it could never be replicated. I am thankful for a happy & healthy Marykate, & her mother, my cousin, & I hope in adulthood, Reagan has memories of her cousins that are as precious to her as mine are to me.
It was bittersweet for me to dig through Marykate's clothes, & being me I thought of the closing line of The Great Gatsby, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
It's a bit shocking what will pull you, sometimes reluctantly, into your past, but I'm learning that watching your child grow has a funny way of triggering your memory. Thanks for the clothes & the shoes, Jennifer & Marykate, & may there be many happy years of hand-me-downs.
Trey & I go through a lot of paper towels. Between the paper towels, Reagan's diapers, & Trey's affinity for styrofoam cups, we are the people who inhabit tree huggers' nightmares. Throw in Trey's NRA membership & the fact that our firstborn is named after Ronald Reagan, & I bet our names are on a list somewhere.
But, I digress. The paper towel rolls flow like a river in our house, partly because Reagan creates genuine messes, & partly because I am as anal retentive as they come. Here's a few of her most recent creations:
A yogurt/cheerio bonanza:
A red popsicle (note that red popsicle stains everything in its path, including the child eating it):
As much as I hate food messes, they're almost always easy to clean up. I always think about that Bounty tag line, "Life's messy; clean it up." Kudos to the ad people who thought that one up, because it's certainly the only paper towel ad slogan with which I'm familiar.
Life is messy, & most of the messes can't be easily sopped up with a few paper towels, & this is, I've discovered, a source of great consternation not only for me, but for other young mothers. For the past few months, I've attended a ladies Bible study on Wednesday mornings. We're all married & have young kids, & as I've listened to them share, often hearing someone else verbalize my own thoughts, the overarching theme that has emerged is that we all struggle with a desire for control that, if unchecked, can become crippling. It's nice to know that I'm not the only young wife & mother who wants to play puppeteer, but, nonetheless, it's a desire that can have dire consequences. Often we discuss our greatest fears, and all of them boil down to situations in which the tenuous control we think we have over events & people in our lives is stripped from us, which would basically reveal the truth that we never had the control we were clinging to in the first place. We talk about our prayer lives, & one day, a wise member of the group stated that she used to constantly pray that "such & such" would not happen. You can fill in the blank with all the things we "pray away," - cancer, death, etc. - & she stated that now, while she prays for her loved ones' health & safety, she always prays that no matter what happens here on Earth, she will one day be reunited with her husband & kids in Heaven, where there will be no need to pray the fervent prayers for safety every mother knows by heart.
In my three decades, I've witnessed situations over which I had absolutely no control, or rather, I was smacked upside the head & reminded of the powers that war for control, namely, the Lord & Satan. A cousin who died at twenty, a dear friend who died young, leaving his two-year-old fatherless, my parents losing their parents, my friend's marriage imploding through no fault of her own, leaving her to pick herself up after being dealt a hand I wouldn't wish on anyone, my aunt diagnosed with breast cancer . . . this is my list, but we all have one. We like the illusion of control we have when things are going well, but it is an illusion, and it's an attempt to fill a need that only faith & trust in God can fill, trust that, regardless of what happens (which we have no control over, anyway), all things work together for the good of those who love Him. That's all things. All things, even the ones Satan throws our way. Jesus died a cruel death on a cross, which was the ultimate victory, seemingly, for Satan, but Jesus rose, because there was a greater plan in place. All things.
I know I will reread this blog in the future. Here's a small glimpse into the future.
This is Reagan doing her imitation of the Occupy protestors after being denied her daddy's cell phone:
If she sees these pics in the future, I'm betting her dad's socks & crocs combo will embarrass her far more than her behavior.
Believe it or not, having a child is helping me slowly let go of some my controlling (anal retentive) tendencies. I do clean up the food messes immediately, but at night, I get in bed now (rather than straightening all the toys, finding the puzzle pieces, etc.). I am still anal about some things, but, I've always been a big proponent of self-awareness, so it counts for something that I am aware of my tendencies (right?). I pray that as Reagan ages, I learn when to exert my control, & when to relinquish it & allow her to make her own decisions. Striking that balance is going to be perhaps the greatest feat I'll endeavor, especially if she hasn't inherited her father's passivity.
For the better part of the past year, I've been writing a book. It's nothing earth shattering, just a little fictional world I've created where I spend time when the mood strikes. I don't know that it will ever see life outside my MacBook (but still, that's a good life), but if it's good for nothing else, it's teaching me that one way to safely exercise my need for control is to write. I've created characters, & they do everything I want, say everything I want, & go exactly where I will them to go. If I want two people to fall in love, they do. I create messes in character's lives, but take great joy in painstakingly righting wrongs and restoring order. It's a bit of a power trip, but I think it helps me let go a little in the world of nonfiction, where I only control myself, a skill I continue to fine tune.