The Names of the Day
It's late. I'm so tired. The baby's been up crying and finally, just now, is back asleep, heavy and boneless. His breaths against my chest are weighted heavy and fall, each one, between my bones. His sleep rearranges the rhythm of my own heartbeat and lungbreath. I should put him in his crib and go to bed myself, but it feels more important to just sit here, in the deep dark quiet, breathing his steady breaths and holding his warm, dense form. No matter how busy and hassled my days, no matter how many directions I am pulled, in this moment of the night, with nothing else in the way, we are one being.
He is peaceful and I am whole, and this is what I want to fill my soul with, to stock my heart against tomorrow's floods and famines of distraction and attention. When I do lay him down he doesn't startle, just settles, sighs, and sinks deeper into sleep. My breath continues in, out, the same pace as his. I back out of the room, careful of that squeaky floorboard, careful not to break the loop of breath that holds us close even when we are apart.
The kids' room is just down the hall. I open the door softly. A blanket tangled puppy pile of knees and elbows sprawls off the bottom bunk bed. In the dark it is impossible to sort out which foot or breath belongs to which child. They always do this after they're tucked in, find their way from their solitary beds into a foxden of a bed pile and then, finally, to sleep. They are a dreaming bundle now, a humming, resting swarm. They too are one, in their way.
In the morning they will rise, each in their own time, tousle headed and sheet creased, rubbing sleep from their eyes, to enter the day on their own terms. No rush to beat a school bell, no worries about the bus. They will dress and eat. I'll ask and then holler about chores. They'll stall and disappear. They'll collude, rat each other out, squabble. I might sit too long at the table with the paper and my coffee, then rouse too late to the tasks of the day. By then they might be fighting, shouting up and down the stairs, a storm threatening to break over our heads.
We'll get to the homeschool work though, and the little kids will turn empty boxes into steamrollers and wreak havoc in the other room. There will be long division and fussing. I'll be in a rush to get it all done. They'll be insistent on taking their sweet time. After lunch we'll settle down for naps and quiet rest. While the baby is sleeping and I'm prepping for the evening scramble the kids might play, turning the living room into a massive fort of chairs and cushions, or they might sprawl out across the carpet with toy soldiers and Tintin books, reams of paper and beeswax crayons, heads together, feet in the air; separate beings yet undeniably one thing.
The dreamy afternoon will pick up speed, morph into the frantic evening outlined in a color coded Sharpie notation of stress points on the kitchen calendar. Soccer, hockey, dance class, drama, scouts and on and on. Parent meetings, political meetings, work meetings, pick up, drop off, do this, watch that, the same as any other middle class American family living at breakneck pace.
When we finally eat supper it will be late, but we will be together. We'll snarl and swarm around our big worn cherry wood table, hungry, tired, out of patience, short on temper. Hands will be held. There will be a sweet moment of grace and a sweeter half moment of silenc before the simple, quiet table will burst into the loud and busy chaos it was built for.
Dishes will be passed, water will be spilled. Older siblings will help younger ones, and younger ones will protest the helping. Conversations about the profound and mundane news of the day will weave around the minute retellings of made up My Little Pony adventures and the detailed world of soccer fandom. There will be interruptions and talking on right over each other, louder and louder. There will be some jumping up to retrieve forgotten items from the kitchen and rags to wipe up messes. There will be eating too, of course, and tears over that spilled water or the hatefulness of cooked carrots. There will be laughter, and a clamoring for attention. There will be an obvious name for this, all of our singular interests, hopes, and voices rising together and filling these walls.
There won't be any worry that 8 pm is too late for supper on a school night. There won't be any arguing about unfinished homework or surprises about school projects due tomorrow and oops! cupcakes for 30 needing to be baked. No lunchboxes to pack or outfits to lay out. No. This is the time when I am most thankful for the gift of homeschool. When there's nothing more important than just living this raucous moment together.
I close their door as quietly as I opened it, and turn at last to my own room and bed. It's late. I'm so tired. I should be asleep. There is nothing else that needs my attention more than mypillow needs my head. We are all right where we need to be, under this roof.
Yalisha Case has been accused of over thinking things, but isn't sure that's the whole story. She'll let you know if she figures it out.