I have been struggling with gratitude, of late, I do not embrace what I have so much as yearn for a life spent without the lascivity of these days. These days, in which I feel that I spend too much of my time bundling and unbundling, the concentric, overlapping spiral, on, and then off, struggling, zipping, tying, wrapping, pulling, unwinding, unloading, and then, again, again.
It has been cold here, and with the welcome wintry weather -- what freelancing mama with a stocked pantry, a new carton of Equal Exchange cocoa, plenty of milk and an enormous pile of new yarn wouldn't love a little snowstorm? -- comes the unwelcome tedium of motherhood. Bundle, unbundle. A child facing the enormity of the magic of snow, flirting with red cheeks, wet fingers, no sooner have I warmed the water for coffee than he is back inside, shaking off slushy boots, stamping, crying a bit, ready for me to untangle the scarf from his neck, to strip off wet socks, to wipe the floor of the outdoors come in. Bundle, unbundle. Another load of laundry to start, another pair of socks to make, another armload of cold and wet things to bring downstairs. And there is our garden whisperer, running back and forth in his shorts in the snow to keep warm (because this is what he wishes to do), and Truman must go out to see him. Bundle, unbundle. I have typed the very barest words, just those, and he is in again, more wet socks, more dirty laundry.
But is this not the very work of motherhood? It is not just the cold and the wet but the packing and unpacking of life. Bundle, unbundle. The dishes that must be washed before breakfast; the build up of gustatory emotions, the jumping up and down, the "I'm hungry I'm hungry I'm starving mamamaMUMUMUMa!"; the cooking and the ladling and the dousing in maple syrup and cream; the sitting down and the more moremore more cream and syrup; and then before I have even thought to take a second spoonful myself, before I have pushed down the plunger on my French press, they are done, scattering out around the house and I must pull them back to remind them, put your bowl on the counter please I must walk with Monroe's bowl so that he learns, knows, muscle memory, the field event of toddlerhood. Bundle, unbundle.
I sit and I adjust my chair, my legs, my coffee cup, I click on one link, then another, and I have only typed half a sentence when they are there, Monroe pulling my hand from the keyboard or screeching an argument with his brother, I must decide, patience or television?, I must gently remind Truman to put away his books so that we can get the trains out, showing him the stack I am making and where to put his pile, I must pull out the bin while the two little ones pull at my pants leg, the youngest looking at his brother as if I am about to open a chest of unimaginable treasures, it's here, it's really here!, and then the trains drip out in bursts, tracks forming into ameobas of grooved wood. Bundle, unbundle. We must again negotiate the delicate balance of brotherhood, these trains are for Monroe, these trains are for Truman, can you please play together? He loves you so. I extricate a train from one hand and place it in the other, I sooth a frustrated child. Bundle, unbundle. And I have sat down again and I have typed again, but it has not been enough and now there are screams, tears, a fall. I hug, wipe, comfort, proferring band-aids and quiet calm words, you are ok, you are ok, you will be ok, the present statement, then the future, I do not even trust myself. Bundle, unbundle.
And so it goes, in and out of days and through a week, and almost over a year. Dressing and undressing, feeding and putting away, hurting and soothing, forgetting and reminding, sitting and standing and kneeling down, to tie a shoe, remove a sliver, find another train, find another way. Reading and re-reading, I am hungry, I am full, I do not have to go to the bathroom, I do not want to take a bath, I am not ready to go to bed. As, once in bed, they push and struggle and flip and kick, finding the edges of themselves against one another, the comfort of foot against thigh, arm over torso, head resting against chest, so the work of motherhood continues, another blanket, another hand smoothing hair from forehead, bundle, unbundle.