Don’t worry, it’s not an all-out breakdown. Just the sloppy, exhausted flailing of Life with sick kids, sick me, upcoming travel, house projects, and a range of professional commitments that are creeping up fast. But two things converged today that made me want to praise that moment when things go from complicated to plain silly, causing me to just give up on trying to do it all.
One was Chi, who has been sick for days, during which time when he wasn’t nursing, he was crying. So he was mostly nursing. (It has made me realize, among other things, that one form of impact assessment for me is whether or not I have the privilege of wearing a comfortable bra, or whether I have to, for convenience, wear one of my aged nursing bras all day, just so I can manage the nonstop nurser.) For much of the morning, I hoped that he would nap (he wouldn’t) or that we would go somewhere and do something, that we could jolt him out of his misery by stimulating him. It usually works. But today he wailed and wailed and was such a disaster that I finally just explained to Ezra that we were done trying to do anything. As if on cue, Chi relaxed into me and finally fell asleep. Lesson one.
Lesson two involved another form of letting go: I have two gorgeous and prolific grape vines crawling over my pergola, rich with Concords and perfectly ripe. Every year I hope to do something with them, this year included. But it became clear to me that I wouldn’t, and that what I hate most is not letting something go but FAILING to let it go until it’s too late. I was not going to waste forty pounds of perfect grapes out of a misunderstanding of my own capacities. So I had put out a note on Facebook and got a few takers. One friend came and got a few; the other was the director of a fabulous youth gardening program in our area. She expressed interest but we didn’t settle anything. So I reached out again this morning and lo! Two garden fellows and three youth gardeners came with flats and knives to harvest. They cleaned us out, which was PERFECT, and were lovely and fun in the process. In fact, Ezra had such a good time with them that he asked them to stay for a garden tour afterward — and when that was over, he wanted to blow bubbles with them. And they did! We all sat in the grass in the late afternoon sun and blew bubbles, seeing how far they would go in the wind, whether they would land in the peach tree or the grass or blow up over the house next door. Lesson two.
Whoever said your kids are your best teachers was right — but for me, there’s even more than that going on here. I need to be overwhelmed, to throw up my hands before I can turn something over and let it go. A child’s misery, a vast grape harvest: these things were too much for me today, and they broke me down. In doing so, they opened me up to greater peace, more fun, and more useful living. I realize this isn’t news — none of it. But it’s worth saying again, I figure.
Oh — and may I add that this little revelation was well-timed. We’re expecting the first real frost of the season tonight, and as I speed-harvested basil this evening, I realized my usual ritual sadness at the loss of summer, of these particular plants, this particular set of joys. I worried about Chi (aka Tomato Joe) and Ezra coming out in the morning to find blackened vines, and I suddenly realized that such mourning does not have to be private or even silly. We can honor this turning of the seasons. I’d even argue we should. So I went back in and explained to the boys what would happen tonight. Ezra teared up, though Malachi didn’t care, which prompted Ezra to say: “Looks like it’s just you and me saying goodbye to the garden, Mama. Let’s go.” And we did. We found the last two Sungolds and gave them one to each boy, Ezra carefully carrying Malachi’s indoors to where he sat with Papa. And both boys helped me strip the basil leaves from the stems for freezing, their small hands working in the bright light of the late sun. Malachi’s chubby hands, when he reached for my face before bath, smelled of grapes, of tomatoes, of basil. What could be more beautiful, or more perfect on this end-of-summer night?