Confession: I was feeling all Mother Teresa about myself this summer for loving and sheltering a flock of needy children, until I realized that I was harassing my sons into turning their socks right side out before tossing them in the laundry so I didn’t have to touch the sweat and dirt.
That was my little clue that I haven’t yet arrived.
It is odd how you can measure yourself by a particular aspect of life, and forget the rest of the picture and your other sins. If there is one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s that holiness and unholiness live in the most surprising of places.
Why are you wearing only one sock? I asked my second son.
I’m not, he said, and pulled up his pant leg.
For a long time I couldn’t even think about ideas, except what to make for supper and how many loads of laundry I had to do. I got from one nap time to the next by way of diaper changes, runny noses, and endless demands. But it’s fall now. The air is sparkling and the big boys spend their days in school and the twins are turning two and I feel the restless stirring that means I’m ready to add something.
An extremely small something.
We still have five children, going on six. Most of my summer was spent adjusting to this reality, as we settled in for the long haul. I had no idea how many groceries seven people were capable of consuming. I’ve been exhausted and exhilarated and kicked by small feet within and without. Some nights I sank onto the couch and cried about the bad stuff. Some nights I sank onto the couch and waxed lyrical to my husband about the good stuff. All nights I sank onto the couch.
I ruined five batches of strawberry freezer jam this summer, from measuring wrong. I had to not think too much as I dumped them in the trash. May they rest in peace.
I had a garter snake crawl over my calves as I knelt weeding my herb bed. I screamed once, horribly, when I felt something alive and struggling back there, and again, harder, when I saw it was reptilian. It is comforting to know I have the power to bring my menfolk on the run from inside the house; I’d never done that before. They found the snake but he escaped into the rock wall. May he not rest in peace.
I spent time tending my babies and canning food for the winter and reconnecting with old friends and waiting for the nation to get over its horrid-fascination with Mr. Trump. He intrigues me. I think to myself How can someone take such pride in dishing it out, yet be unable to take it? How can a man be so hard on women and immigrants and so clearly have a thing for them, with his gorgeous foreign-born wives?
I spent a lot of time worrying, even in my dreams at night. I would think I was the last through a long food line and had only scraps to eat. I would think I had to sort and pack mountains of things for a trip. I would think about Not Enough time, Not Enough resources. And all the while, my sleeping body was hearty and warm and peaceful.
Mommy, says my daughter when we bake together, let’s pretend we’re really busy and we always feed people.
If I don’t come back to this space soon, it won’t be worth pretending that I’m on break instead of absent without leave. Taking a break from blogging and other yeses was the best thing for me, hard but clarifying. I felt like a tree, pruned of my branching interests so my roots could go deeper. But all the time I wasn’t sure if I was going deeper or just dying. I saw the bad things that public writing has fed in me (not made, but fed): the obsession with feedback, the spiritual pride.
I spent time this summer repenting of my sins.
Holiness and unholiness live in the most surprising of places, and often side by side.
What I say won’t be profound, but I think I’m ready. I dropped a lot of ideas into silence this summer, and I’ve missed you. I have some good stories to tell. Soon.