Simplicity is standing in the driveway, holding Paul’s hand, waving as Elsa drives away on her own to hang out with her cousin. We looked at each other and wondered what it was all about. All those nights awake, nursing and diaper changes, first steps and first everythings … back in the days when I diligently kept track of those things. After a few days away, she decided to meet a “friend” to go hiking. On the phone, Paul told me her plans. After a long pause, he said, “I think we lost her, honey.” I knew what he meant. We are so proud of her. She is sweet, smart and mature. But she has lifted the weight of her need for us, as she should. She looks outward now. Being the center of someone’s little universe is felt deeply when we no longer are.

Simplicity is watching Greta flicker between girl and woman, girl and woman, girl-woman, girlwoman. At 14, her face is changing … becoming fuller. She is figuring out who she is and who she isn’t. Still, she climbs beside me for a hug. She disappears for a bike ride and laughs at her silly little sisters. But then I hear her voice on an old video and realize her voice has changed. She senses it too. She is moodier, as only Greta can be moody, a sort of sulky, sighing, sad mood. Perhaps this phase parents fear (the teenage years) is really a long goodbye to the little girl self. It’s emotional because it is a forever goodbye. And it is fraught with the awkward annoyance which usually accompanies long, forever goodbyes.

Simplicity is sending off Ingrid for the weekend at the beach with some friends and realizing she didn’t double back for that second hug, nor did she have that worried look in her eyes about whether she’d really have a good time. She just went. Hair flying which has lost that baby-doll flyaway look. Jeans too short and just received within the year. She’s peeking into that flickering womanhood, but if I know her, she’ll fall into it headlong like she does most everything. She asked to wear mascara today and I said yes because we weren’t going anywhere. I had forgotten we invited friends over with a teenage boy among them. I don’t think she forgot. She showed up at the dinner table with eye shadow on, a liberty neither asked nor granted.

Simplicity is listening to little Dagne, left all alone by her wandering sisters, ask to go canoeing. When was the last time I said yes to anything? Once upon a time, I’d say yes to playing with the older girls — joining in on a pretend game or playing Barbies for a little while. And though the house was falling apart from not being home at all and projects beckoned, Paul and I decided to pack a picnic and load the trailer. Out on the lake we rowed together. Dagne hopped out onto the paddle board and squealed when she saw a fish leap, silvery like bottled moonlight. I watched her and relished our last little girl and wished they could each be experienced by separate lifetimes and not in a group. But I know it is the group which shapes them — the birth order — the sisterly closeness — the harried parents — the needs pressed upon them to help — all of which have made them who they are. I am grateful for who they are today and I rescind my wishes for it to be any different.

Simplicity is found in the silence of a home vacated by children growing up way too fast. Paul and I sat at a table much too big for just the two of us. Our beers were not so needed to get through the meal for there would be no incessant chatter. I made too much food. The house echoed. I realized why people keep the television on. There was too much time. Didn’t I need to run someone somewhere? Shouldn’t I be helping someone with something? Weren’t there chores to do, children to correct, conversation to laugh about, lunches to make for the next day? I used to dream of this quiet … back in the days when I couldn’t go to the bathroom without a little knock on the door. And now my mind is rutted with the patient habits of listening to little voices and tuning them out, correcting and guiding to form pathways to a good character, and the constant interaction with my daughters. Those ruts in my brain where the synapses have flown in torrents and floods are becoming drier. Someday the rivers of togetherness will slow to a trickle and become dry riverbeds and new ones must form.

I reached over and took Paul’s hand. We prayed over our food and began eating. I smiled at him and lifted my glass. He winked at me and clinked it. He lifted an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth. We’ve dreamed of moments like these — life uninterrupted. Funny how we miss those interruptions! Yet still, there are mountains to climb and houses to build and projects to complete, together with my best friend.

 

Life is seasonal. We all know this enough to say it. But it does not make much sense until it confronts us. All things are this way. Our experiences are our own and no one can truly prepare us for them. We experience moments, one at a time, until death.

Simplicity is a Saturday. A Saturday when I embrace the sadness and the happiness and hold my hands tingling with existence out to it all, thanking, thanking, loving and receiving love, and pressing outward with my being. I am. I know it. And I am glad.

 

Advertisements