Droooomm. 7:15 p.m., Wednesday. I was hustling the vacuum through the first floor of our house.
The girls had made bracelets in the family room after dinner, and bits of bright pink, blue and yellow string popped against and across the more subdued colors of the family-room rug. And…dinner. Dinner had been tacos, and moms everywhere know that when you serve tacos for dinner, you will find taco-shell crumbs along with crumbles of beef (and some shredded cheese, for good measure) underneath the table afterward.
I know all this, and it’s fine, truly. For my sanity, though—and the relative sanitation of our home—I need to take 10 minutes at the end of a bracelet-making taco night to clean up all the tiny pieces of string in the family room and crumbs in the breakfast nook.
Grace and Anna were getting their pajamas on upstairs. Over the droooomm of the vacuum, I heard my older daughter’s voice drift down the stairs. I stopped vacuuming. “What, honey?”
Actually…let me be completely honest here. What I really said was, “Grace. How many times do I have to tell you and Anna, I can’t hear you when I’m vacuuming, taking a shower or on a completely different floor of the house?” In this case, we were two for three. Why can’t you just walk down the stairs instead of yelling over the vacuum?
I had walked over to the stairs, and was looking up at Grace. She was frowning. “Mom…I can’t find the bracelet I just made. I think it fell off my arm downstairs. And…”—now Grace’s lips began trembling—”I’m worried you might have vacuumed it up.”
I paused. A valid concern. “OK, well…let’s think positive. I’ll look around down here…”
Out of nowhere, Anna flew down the stairs. Wearing a leotard, I happened to notice, not her pajamas. Grace followed.
I heard a gasp: Anna. She tapped the see-through canister of the vacuum. “Grace, look.”
Another gasp, this time Grace. “MY BRACELET!”
Actually…let me be completely honest here.
Around this time, Stanton called. He was in Lake Placid for work, but we put him on FaceTime so that he could see Grace’s bracelet wedged among the tangle of dust and debris in the vacuum canister.
“Mom did it,” Anna said.
Even across the miles and mountains, I could picture Stanton shaking his head. “It’s going to be OK, girls.”
As things turned out, however…it actually was not OK. I opened up the canister and, with a plastic fork, scooped out the bracelet. What we discovered, though, is that the bracelet had broken apart during its suction-powered journey from the family-room rug through the vacuum to the canister.
I sighed. “I am so sorry, Grace.”
A little later, I tucked both girls into bed. I spent some extra time saying good night to Grace. She was being brave about her broken bracelet. I rested my hand on her head and told her I loved and appreciated her so much.
“You really are such a gift,” I added. “Just like Dad and I felt when we named you.”
Grace asked what I meant. I said we decided on her name, Grace, because it means gift, and we wholeheartedly thought of her being born—my healthy pregnancy with her—as a gift.
“Awww,” Grace said.
I blinked. “I told you that before, right?”
Grace shook her head.
I almost couldn’t believe it. “How did I never tell you that?” Amazing the things we thought we said, or did…but didn’t.
Memory is a tricky thing, and it is many things. Sentimental; unreliable; rose-colored; blurred or buried; crystal clear. Sometimes, it’s several things—several conflicting things—at once.
When Grace was born, I remember feeling both joy-filled and overwhelmed. I was a first-time mom, and besides being exhausted by everything my new baby needed, I deeply missed having my own mom closer to me at that time. Similarly, I was so happy after giving birth to Anna three and a half years later…and I also remember feeling so sad at times too.
Reflecting on this time, though—my first few years of motherhood—what hurts me the most is that I wasn’t the kind of mom I wanted to be, the kind my daughters deserved. Then again, maybe I’m not the only woman on earth who needed a few years to grow into motherhood. To grow into more endurance, patience and multitasking skill.
What I feel now, nearly nine years into motherhood, is deep gratitude. I’m so grateful for what I believe to be a second chance to be the best mom I can be to my girls (although—disclaimer—I’m still a work in progress).
Soon after Stanton returned from Lake Placid, we were chatting in the kitchen, catching up. I’m not sure exactly what I was doing—getting ready to pour myself another cup of coffee, that sounds right—but suddenly, unexpectedly, Stanton pulled me into his arms and gave me a big hug.
Now, this is noteworthy, friends, because my husband is not generally affectionate. (In our relationship, the affectionate one would be yours truly.) Also noteworthy was what he said next. I won’t embarrass Stanton by quoting him here; also, some things are sacred. The gist of the quote, though, was that the good things in life—love, parenthood, family—get even better with time.
…the good things in life—love, parenthood, family—get even better with time.
We’ve had some rainy days here in the Capital Region of New York. Not much snow this winter, overall, but quite a bit of rain. “Ugh, rain,” I’ve overheard both children and grownups groan.
I don’t love rain either, but I don’t mind a rainy day every now and then. The persistent pitter-patter of raindrops gives us permission, in a sense, to pause…to breathe…to be still.
This has been my experience, anyway. In better weather, I go, go, go with my family. Ice skating, biking, swimming, hiking. And I love being active. But once in a while, it’s beautiful to simply be.
You might say rainy days are made for that: simply being.
On a recent rainy day, I (finally) wrote some thank-you notes I’d been meaning to write, for Christmas presents, as well as some other thinking-of-you cards I’d been meaning to send. All the people I mailed these notes to, I love very much, but of course, like so many of us, I probably don’t let them know as often as I should. I’m thankful this rainy day gave me the chance to do this.
I’ve learned—through experience, unfortunately—that sometimes we don’t get another chance to mail the notes we’d been meaning to send.
I like the country-music band Florida Georgia Line, and I love their song “May We All.” It’s on my getting-dinner-ready playlist (right up there with “Dynamite” and “Thinking Out Loud”—it’s a hodgepodge, I know). These lines in particular speak to me, especially as I’m plastic-forking a broken string bracelet out of a vacuum:
“May we all do a little bit better than the first time
Learn a little something from the worst times…
May we all get to have a chance to ride the fast one
Walk away wiser when we crashed one
Keep hoping that the best one is the last one…”
Some things can’t be fixed; they stay broken, it’s true. Coexisting in the space of brokenness, however, is hope. Healing. Rainbows after the rain.
Experience has taught me this…fortunately.
Coexisting in the space of brokenness, however, is hope.
A couple of days after our dramatic taco night, my Grace held up her arm. She had made another string bracelet.
“I love it,” I said.
“Do you know what, Mom?”
I didn’t know.
“This one is even better than the one you vacuumed.”
I gave her a hug. “That’s awesome, but I’m still sorry.”
Grace hugged me back. It was OK.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.