I don’t think I like change. How can that be, really? As a college student, I changed my major no less than four times. Dan and I have lived in five houses, thus far, during our tenure as homeowners. And we have had a total of twenty-two children coming and going through our doors in as many years of parenting. Each time I go to the Mediterranean restaurant downtown, though, I choose the very same spinach pie. There is comfort in the present moment, and that, really, is all we have.
We are, once again, rearranging the bedrooms. (I am sorry Dan, and I love you so much). Two years ago at Christmas time, I took four of the children to a party hosted for foster families in the surrounding areas. Each child was allowed to choose a stuffed animal from an overwhelming pile of discards and donations from generous citizens. Some animals were sparkly, fresh, and fluffy, some not so much, but each was tied with a ribbon and marked by a number. Aaron, our caboose (a term coined by Dan, not me), barely three at the time, was quite decisive. He smiled smugly as he raised his tiny doggie for me to see. Having been loved already well past his dollar-store value, this little creature was about to get a new life. As I looked at the scuffed, dirty, crusty, and pilling little dog, reminiscent of an elusive prize in a crane-claw arcade game, I thought it was curious that such a thing would be donated for a Christmas party in this condition. My tiny boy, though, found it to be the choice of the pile, the best-in-show.
As I pulled the last few unmatched socks from Aaron’s dresser to prepare for its move into the hall, there he was: Animal #23, peeking at me with those chipped, beady eyes. “I have been through it, and I deserve your respect and your love. Don’t even think of putting me in the ‘pass along’ bag.” And so Animal #23 moved, along with the matched socks and folded Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, into the big boy dresser.
I was shopping yesterday, and Aaron was his usual spritely, energetic self. He pulled a package of Unisom from the shelf as I signed for his brother’s prescription. “Mom, can I get this?” Though I secretly thought it might be a grand idea, I urged him to put it back on the shelf. “Okay,” he piped as he skipped along, replacing the box and making his way to the vitamin bottles for a little rearranging. “He looks loved,” said the clerk. I cannot stop thinking about those words. That is the essence of why I am here on this earth. To celebrate, to respect, and to love. And I am thankful that I have been reminded of my task at hand, which is not nearly finished.
I have been to Rockford many times during the years. The neurologist is in Rockford; the sleep doctor is in Rockford; court is in Rockford; the best shoe store is even in Rockford. I prefer to take the back roads, where there are as many cows as cars, and plenty of stretches of country pastures, perfect for stirring my thoughts. There is a fence running along much of the many-mile stretch heading into Cherry Valley. I didn’t think much of the fence during the first few years of my travels; perhaps, I did not even notice it. One day, the fence began to take on a new life. Someone began painting that endless fence (hopefully, with some sort of spray machine), jet black. It took many trips to Rockford over many months before it appeared to be finished. And then, a few trips and perhaps a year later, it began to fade. It began to look like it needed tending. I wondered why anyone had felt compelled to paint that fence in the first place. Earlier this week, on the same stretch of road, the sun shone hard against a once-again jet black stretch of fence. That fence is very important to somebody. I would even venture to say that someone loves it.
In recent days I have struggled with the realization that there are some things that I may never do. I can say with certainty that I will never dance the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Perhaps, though, one of my daughters, oneday, will. We may never get to move to our farm. But our brick bungalow is cozy, healing, and hopeful. I may never get my doctorate as I have long hoped, but my oldest son is about to enter a PhD program.
So the tale spins on, not as I may have expected, but how it is supposed to be. There is grace in every day, beyond the pilling and the fresh paint, because we are here to love, and because we are loved.