Your father and I just came in from raking the side yard, hopefully for the last time this year. There wasn’t much left, but enough that we couldn’t, as much as I wanted to, leave it on the grass. I was going to let your dad do it all himself and stay in and rake the cat hair that is all over the house, but the weather was nice enough and, well, you know how much better tasks like this are with help.
As we were heading down to the street with the leaves, I couldn’t help but think back to all the years we have raked here and all the times that we have done it together (just last weekend when eldest daughter and boyfriend were here, in fact). But we raked all the leaves straight down to the road today–no blue tarp full of leaves and one or two small children. And once in the road, the leaves just sat there, as if they, too, were waiting for a small face to peek out from underneath them.
I miss you. Even youngest child is away today, at her work of being a debater on the school team.
Raking the leaves is not the same without the drama of someone being unhappy that they have the bad rake, or someone faking a hamstring injury, or everyone STARVING or DYING of a thirst that can only be quenched by hot chocolate.
But what I really wanted to tell you today, what I was really thinking about as I was raking the leaves, is how I remember all that drama fondly, now. And I can, because I see who you have become–a picture that wasn’t always clear when we couldn’t get everyone outside at the same time without some sort of histrionics (and I include myself in that, too).
I see who you are now, and, more clearly, I see who your father and I are now. I sent your dad out to do the raking himself, but realized that just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Because I went out and helped him, the two of us are now inside, drinking coffee and doing chores. Because I went out and helped him, it got done in an hour and during that hour, I was able to rake and reminisce and wonder at who we all are now, and how we got here.
That I had doubts about us being right here, right now, should come as no surprise. We have had ups and we have had downs–us parents with you kids, and us parents with each other. It hasn’t been a particularly easy road, but neither has it been all bad. Even in the drama days of raking the yard as a family, there were the peals of laughter emanating from the tarp full of leaves. I remember a rake sword fight, too, but that memory is a bit blurry.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I saw the parallel between the simple task of raking leaves to the street and the larger, wider task of becoming a family. We do things not because they are fun, but because they have to be done. And then in the midst of them, we have some fun and then we have accomplishment. Today, I see the accomplishment of our lifetime together and the promise of the future built on that accomplishment. But more than that, I see that we have fun in it. We have had fun in all of it.
Even when we do our tag-team telling of our cross-country road trip to Portland, emphasizing the drama and the petulance, that we still have fun in the telling of it. It’s a story we have: of fallen timber and a full moon and a child who wouldn’t get out of the car. It is the story of the gas-station dinner in a town that closed up 5 minutes before we arrived.
We have more stories to share, more memories to make, more holiday meals to ruin and resurrect. But it is nice to be in this moment, when, still sweaty from raking in the November sun, I can see who you were and who you are and it give me glimpses of who you will become–who we will become as we age as a family.
Dear Daughters–I’m so proud of you and so grateful to have you in my life and the lessons I continue to learn from being your mother and from being your father’s partner. I think about how, when I was your ages, I didn’t want to ever marry or have children. As I raked, cursing at the leaves and at my own guilt that propelled me out to help your father, I was overrun with the beauty of our simple, simple life. Is it the life I dreamed of when I was your ages? Not hardly. But that life I dreamed of? It sparkled and shined and had hard edges I would have cut myself on. This life? It is the place of soft landings and gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) reminders.
If all I have to show for this life of mine at the end of it is the love I have felt in this life, then I win. I have won. And my dearest, darlingest daughters, that’s the dream I dream for you at the end of it all: a wish that you felt loved and cared for, that you know someone has your back, and that you know when it is time to take up the rake–to have someone else’s back, as it were.
Thank you for the love and for the lessons and for just, generally, being.
All my love,