What’s In Your Egg Basket?

Something happened.  Something went wrong, or maybe it didn’t.  Words that interrupted my idle thoughts as I stood at the kitchen sink,  face-to-face with dinner’s aftermath, cannot be taken back.  Even as I feel the blood rush through my legs and the empty space grow in my soul, I find solace in a cupcake.  It’s the last one, hidden in the back corner of the freezer, leftover from a forgotten celebration.  Rich chocolate of the most devilish kind, with a perfectly swirled pink vanilla piped frosting, made extra special with a fairy dusting of sparkling sugar…gone in an instant. The experts would probably call this emotional eating.  Alone on it’s plate, it beckoned, and I ate it.

If I get out to the coop at just the right time, I can get an egg that still feels warm to the touch.  Fresh from it’s laying hen, this egg rides in the cup holder of my car as I take the baby in to town for therapy. It acccompanies me across the road to the mailbox.  I hold it gingerly in my hand as I look around the farm, thinking of the blooms that will pepper the summer’s garden and imagining the tiny herd of goats that might one day entertain us in the pasture.  Everything seems to hold a bit more promise as I am reassured by the blue-green chicken egg that brings so much to me.

It’s an egg.  I could get a dozen eggs for a little more than a dollar at the grocery store.  

After what seemed like two hours but was actually just over ten minutes, I could feel his body melt into mine.  He made his way to the pink chair, my favorite one.  The storm had subsided, and Dan was home by now.  There were no more cupcakes, but I could get my egg basket, and I could see if there were any eggs to gather.  Even if the hens were done laying for the day, I would breathe the peace of the outside air and know that in this moment, I am okay.  We are okay, right now.  Even if I returned to the house with an empty basket, I would know, because of what it represents, that the basket is actually quite full, if not of eggs. 

There might be different things inside the basket on a given day. Pink sparkly cupcakes, my best well worn sweater, the anticipation of my sister’s visit, my special water bottle, the thought of my fairy roses and my Christmas milk punch: these are in my basket.  In it I can also find the way it feels when all is quiet, when I am washing the last plate, when bedtime has blanketed the little ones in a soft hush (at least for a few hours), when I am able to sneak down to the cellar to start my onion seeds in their fresh peat pots, and when the promise of spring is tangible in the form of garden catalogs that have begun to arrive two-a-day by mail.

To me, it’s much more than just an egg.

There are people, many people, in my egg basket, which is also full of robust donut shop coffee and baseball.  These people fill me up when I most need them, and even when I don’t know what I need.  One brings me ice cream in the middle of the night, another sends me a message that makes my stomach hurt from laughing, and another came to sit with me and did not mention one word about the cheese that stuck to the bottom of her shoe as she walked through my  kitchen.  

When the questions are bigger than the answers after a quarter century of parenting, when the pancakes burned because I had to step away from the griddle to mediate a fight, when I don’t want to look past today for fear of what I might see, and even when someone has eaten the last secret cupcake, I can go to the chicken coop with my egg basket, and I know that I will feel better for having gone.  Experts might think that this is emotional egg gathering.  Though I am far from an expert, I think it might be.  

I don’t think we can really know what is in someone else’s egg basket, at least not everything, anyway. It’s probably not even an egg.  For our deepest friendships, yes, we sometimes do know some of what the basket holds, or we can do our best to try to figure it out.  And even the thought of someone trying to understand what is inside can be enough to fill it up.

When the bread is baking, when my grown son calls to share his excitement at his new venture, when I take a minute to look at my vintage cookie jars, when my daughter’s eyes flash so brightly that I can nearly feel the warmth of her happiness, when the little boys drive their construction trucks in rare harmony, perched together atop the gravel pile; these are the times that I have enough to share my basket with others.  

I might miss the glory of the Northern Illinois sunset if I don’t hurry out now to close the chicken door for the night.  While I am out there, I will be sure to check for eggs one last time.

 Sparkly Things and Fancy Little Animals

 
I have no idea when the fascination first began.  It was never really an obsession, but rather something that I would allow myself to think of from time to time.   My mind would wander to some sort of enchanted place where dogs would be smiling and wearing overalls, lambs would ride little bicycles with bunches of flowers in their handle baskets, and mother cats dressed in Sunday finery would push ivory wicker carriages that held twin kittens tucked beneath sweetly embroidered cotton blankets.

The escalating turns of a little boy sparring match from around the corner bring me back to the present.   Later that evening, the dull ache in my hip and the scratch marks on my forearm remind me that my eight year old son will only get bigger and stronger, and that there will come a day when I can no longer hold him to keep us all safe from the tempest of his writhing body.  In that moment, earlier in the day, though, we were able to weather the storm at hand.

It takes a bit of might and determination to will the tears back as I think of his smallness in the wake of his overwhelming angst, and how things will have to be different when he grows older.  I cannot hold that thought, though, because right now, just as the ducks sit cross legged for a picnic of buttered croissants and strawberries on the clover-massed lawn, all is peaceful and well.

Our young mom coffee shop meet ups evolved over the years, and our beloved Chocolate Moon has long since closed.   My family moved away.  It seemed in the blink of an eye, my longtime friend Kathy’s toddlers turned to teenagers with their own games and recitals.  My older sons, too, were scarcely available when we were able to find time, usually at a bookstore somewhere between our two towns, to catch up over an afternoon latte.

There was always a baby (or maybe two) in tow on my end, and I was always grateful for Kathy’s capable  extra hands.  I would see the fancy little animals, the ones with pinafores and bunches of flowers, for sale at the bookstore, and I would admire them, out loud, for my friend knew.  She always did.

As a young teenager and beyond, I looked forward to my babysitting jobs as one of my peers might look forward to a homecoming dance or a trip to the mall.  I spent hours reading to my sweetest charges, Ryan and Daniel.  Daniel, the younger boy, would wait for me to turn the page and then point an eager toddler finger at the tiniest animal on the page.  Every time, and every page.  I don’t remember if I ever told his parents about that.  Little Daniel, too, loved small things.  I hope he still does.

Our Chicago friends gave us a gift certificate to the bookstore a few years ago.  When I had found the perfect family book with some funds to spare,  I bought myself one of those fancy little animals that were so much a part of my stolen reveries.  It was, after all, 25% off.

In the dark shadows on the hardest days, again I fight the demons along with the tears as I consider that when you live among those with mental illness, and maybe you also may not be far from a ledge of sorts, you need the little things.

A padded yellow envelope arrived from Kathy a few days before Christmas.  Inside was one of the tiny animals from the bookstore.  A little curly lamb, dressed in a pink sundress and seated proudly on a red train, now holds a place of honor on my kitchen windowsill and will forever be a reminder of the whimsy and delight that truly can be part of every day.

When we hope for something, when we love something, we have to believe, and we have to know, that one day, perhaps not even during this time on earth, that that something will come back to us, and we will know it, and it may even be wearing fancy sparkles.

💕Pink farmhouse table courtesy of my clever and lovely artist friend, Sue, who is fancy and sparkly, every single  day.

The Magic is Inside

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When the boys were small, I spent hours knitting.   I was shown how by a young mom who had also taught her two-year-old to operate a sewing machine.  Elliott was in kindergarten at the Waldorf school when I was part of a handwork group that met at various homes and did such things as drink coffee, share stories, and create as our little ones played quietly by our sides.  Though my fanciest projects were simple mohair bunnies and beginner doll pants, the rhythm of the wooden needles brought great comfort and satisfaction and kept my hands as busy as my wandering mind.  At some point, I left my natural fiber yarns, my patterns, and my sense of peace in a wooden basket.

My intentions were there.  The blankets to fill the basket by the couch, the hats (one for each little niece and nephew), and the fair isle sweaters; all were nearly tangible.

We’re going to get together for lunch after the holidays.  I’ll call you.

Coffee sounds great.  Let’s set a date for next week.

I really wanted to help you through your struggles, to hold you, to console you…only my own pain and grief kept getting in the way.

I really wanted to be able to hear you, to absorb the hit, but so many years of freezing cold have made me numb.

The old patterns are there, deep within.  We increase the dose, things lighten up, and then the behaviors once again creep to the surface.

More than once, one of my foster children has returned, starry-eyed in anticipation yet peppered with angst and unnamed, indecipherable emotions, from a visit with mom or dad.

“I’m getting a big play kitchen and a car that really works as soon as I go back home!”

“Oh!”

The intention was certainly, unquestionably there.  Stuff…life…got in the way.

During my Waldorf years, I taught a watercolor painting class for children at a dreamy little art studio in a space above my favorite coffee shop, The Chocolate Moon.  The sweet smell of vanilla lattes and chai tea mingled with earthy aromas of clay and paint thinner created a band of sustenance that must have sparked creativity and driven inspiration.  A little girl once asked me if I was a witch.  “Not a bad witch, a magical witch.”   I am not sure how I responded at the time, but I have never forgotten her question, the answer to which I only wish could be an emphatic, “yes!”

At some point in my life, there was a transition between the little child that spent her days taking care of her baby dolls, and the young tween on the brink of what her future held.  I am pretty sure I remember a specific incident where my awareness of this difference was clear.  I was at the mall, old enough for my mom to let me wander around alone for a while.  The toy store, doll section (of course), was where I landed.  In that moment of time, though, I no longer found the doll that cried real tears, the dolls that ate little packets of something that resembled jello, or even the doll that danced ballet, the slightest bit desirable.  What happened to the magic?

Though I had loved the song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” for many years, it seemed to take on new meaning as I watched my baby boy grow to school age.  I was afraid that without his lifelong friend (and I am completely aware that this could be interpreted in more ways than one), he may not be brave.  I cried for him and for me, because the magic might slip away.

And perhaps some of it did.  But it must be in there, still, taking on a different form, even as he works on his research, in the warmth of the California sun, on creating the feeling of “awe”; even as I spend my days on my hands and knees, washing indeterminate substances from the floor and holding writhing little bodies who so desperately need to be heard and understood.

I think it’s still there.  Just because life has gotten in the way, and because we don’t feel it just as we did before, I am holding hope that one day, we can take a look behind us, and it may all make sense.  I have picked up my knitting half a dozen times or more over the years, and each time I have had to consult “A Child’s Book of Knitting” to once again learn to cast on, to knit, to purl, and to cast off.  What is plain as day, though, is that “knitter’s high,” and the dreams that rush right back to steady my shaky hands.  The feeling, the reason, is still there…somewhere…even if I have to keep starting over. And I think that’s where the magic lies.

It always fills me up when the big kids are home for college breaks.  Today, Sam is taking Emily, his girlfriend of four years and a spritely burst of happiness and delight, if a human can be described as such, back to Loyola to finish her final semester. When she started school, Emily joined a knitter’s club.  She would show me her knitting bag and her latest projects from time to time, and I would dream of the day when we would sit and do our handwork together.  She is still at it, and her work has become quite complex, almost magical.  And when I am ready, I know she will help me find that “knitter’s high” once again, and maybe even teach me a cable stitch.