When my husband is far away, it is the dailiness of daily tasks that peels me away, every little have-to torn off, stripping from me a bit of my meat, like the leaves of an artichoke, leaving nothing but tender heart and bitter, spiny choke. There is a flat tire on my bicycle, and I know that this time I must patch it, myself, though it is the complex back tire and it will cause great frustration. But it is the only sensible way to get to People's Co-op, and I need things from there that I cannot get from Trader Joe's, organic maple syrup from Vermont that I will decant into my waiting, empty bottle; 7th Generation diapers that can be bought elsewhere, but not if I want to feel o.k. about it; two plastic bottles full of dish soap so I do not have to buy it again soon; fair-trade Irish breakfast tea that does not come in individually-wrapped unrecycleable plastic bags. I consider walking while Truman is in preschool, but it is quite far by foot and it would take my whole two hours, I am carrying Monroe and I want to work while he sleeps.
On the way home from preschool, I find by looking at my Peek that AOL's welcome screen has promoted my post about Motrin's babywearing advertisement, and my email is filled with comments about how whiny I am, and that I should get a life, and I regret ever writing about it at all, such a small payment for such enormous pulchritude, and I hear Monroe waking up from his momentary slumber. Did my inner turmoil wake him? I try to answer another email, but the interface is dragging, it will not keep up with my poking, and I give up and walk home, composing emails and tweets about my frustration as I walk.
At home, Monroe will not sleep, and I give in to the compulsion and look at the comments. Some of them are in all-caps, and I realize my post has been made part of a feature I helped create, "Ads Gone Bad." It is slide one. I make a filter sending all comments with the word "Motrin" in the title to the trash.
I try to work but Monroe is not to be calmed by the typical fare of breastfeeding and his diaper needs to be changed so many times. We pick up Truman and our walk home is interminable, I am working to embrace his exploration but it takes so long, he is picking up dry leaves by the handful to carry home. I have been talking about leaf mold, so I encourage it, but he keeps dropping the leaves and wanting to fix things he sees along the way, grabbing a Starbucks cup out of a tree and shoving it in my bag, saying "yook, yoook, YOOK!" and I look and I do not know what he is saying, I repeat his words, "shupe?" and I cannot disentangle them. He finds an open gate and closes it, "yook, I yocked ick!" and then he wants to unlock it again, I must not have displayed proper encouragement. He is shaking the chainlink fence gate as hard as his body can shake it and I worry for those inside. He takes detours into yards, up onto porches, despite my forced-calm exhortations that "we stay on the sidewalk!" and "it is impolite to walk on people's lawns!" What do I really care about those bombed-out lawns, anyway? It is the lush, fenced-in yards with Swiss chard so brilliant black-green I rub my eyes; with gorgeously tangled grape vines, leaves turned the color of Chardonnay labels; with lavender still shooting fragrant florals shouting out their color name; it is these whose care I honor. I do not yank him away.
At last, 40 minutes for a half-mile, we are home, and the chickens are out of food and Monroe has awaken yet again and it is almost time for Everett to be home. I put away coats and scarves and hats and do not even have time to sit and read about leaf mold and he is home, he is so upset at me because I did not come to his feast today. His Thanksgiving feast at school, which of course I did not come to today because I thought it was tomorrow, although looking at the flier that came home yesterday and I tucked in my calender and clearly in 48-point font says "Tuesday, November 18," which is today, and oh, oh dear, neglecting him is a trigger and I have triggered and good, I can see this boy spilling all over the floor and I have nothing to mop it up with but to tell him how sorry I am and that I wanted to come so badly! And I screwed up and how can I make it up to him?
And the day is blowing up, he is frustrated and Truman and Monroe are pushing pine cones through the old electric dryer's vent-hole and the chickens are hungry and Monroe is wired-tired and I do not know what I am making for dinner and the kitchen is a mess and the apples are slowing rotting into mush and I cannot find Spiderman and I discover my disaster of an office has been plundered further and the laundry from yesterday is not dry and Monroe has fallen and hurt himself, again, and the boys are fighting over the iPod and the kitchen floor is an awful, awful mess and more work than I can imagine needs to be done, tonight, because I promised, because I always promise too much. I cannot see my way through it so I clean the kitchen, methodically, I wash the dishes and wipe the stove and the counters and sweep, sweep again, wipe the floor with a clean rag, and make sausages, hash browns, French toast cubes, I open a jar of applesauce. Of course I am not able to eat with the boys, but I clean up the trains and wipe the counter once more, sweep up bits of potato, pick up an errant scrap for the chickens.
Bedtime blasts over the house with Everett's disappointment like high winds, he falls asleep as his anger spends him and I imagine him still swearing under his breath. Monroe is crying and naked, I have discovered that I only have one diaper left and its adhesive tab has been torn off, I carry his cold body all over searching for a whole one but in the end must tape him into his lone diaper and I pray that it will last until morning. I read to Truman as Monroe falls asleep nursing and his delight over the words, pictures, stories is so tangible I can see it in the red-brown curls of his hair, the pink in his cheeks. I pray for them all, a long, desperate prayer of a mother's contrition and I go downstairs to do laundry, put away the last of the toys, and eat.
I am dropping pee-soaked clothing and bedding into the washing machine, twisting my nose defensively and counting the ways this is so hard when I look up and see pine cones, on the beam above me, in a box of plumbing tools, all over the floor. So many pinecones. And I am filled with the industry this took, the teamwork, finding them among the newly-spread woodchips, gathering with his brother who trips over his own shoes every half-step, carrying them to the hole and pushing them in, one by one by one, and I am overjoyed.