He calls as he drives through tiny towns, slowed by tractors. I bring my phone outside and lay down on the wooden deck. It is the last warm day here. Tomorrow, there will be jackets for sure. Maybe even hats and gloves. I’m trying to slow down, pay attention to his voice, notice the warmth of the last of the summer sun.
If he were home, we’d go for a walk tonight at the park. The kids would run down the path and I’d remember to stop, bend, pick up the leaves before they crumble into the dirt. Or maybe we’d have one last fire in the fire pit down by the pond and roast hot dogs on sticks. The kids would get up periodically to chase the ducks, who come up from the pond in droves to eat the corn that our neighbor sprinkles behind the pine tree.
But he’s away, and when he’s gone overnight, I’m all about my to-do lists. At 8am, I have big plans for my evening alone, and they include cleaning out the fridge, the freezer, and maybe (if I get a second wind) the storage room, which is so crammed with Rubbermaids you can barely walk through it.
And, hey, if I have time after that, there was that Pinterest project I wanted to try and meals to be made, and I’ll mop the floor and finish my freelancing projects and get ahead on the blog.
When he’s gone, I get a little unhinged from reality, and I forget the science of time. I somehow convince myself that the hours after the kids are asleep are an infinite collection of minutes and seconds and that I if I spin fast enough, I can work them into gold. At 12:00, I think just one more thing. I’ll be in bed by 12:30. At 12:45, I decide to shoot for 2:00.
After all, this is the busy season. The kids are still so little, inexhaustible in their needs. Every day the house falls apart and the toys are everywhere and the laundry piles at the bottom of the stairs unwashed.
I want clean bathrooms and pretty decorations and a house that smells like homemade apple pie. I want to make my own wall art, teach my kid his letters, put in enough freelancing hours to feel like I’m contributing. There are a hundred books I want to read and a thousand words to write. I want to do it all.
And when he’s gone, I let it all sort of consume me. I slip back into that old, Americanized illusion of the Proverbs 31 Woman and forget that I have been reimagined. That valor is not a checklist. That there is nothing here to be earned.
At the conference I recently attended, Anne Lamott said that when you choose writing, you’ll begin to see it. The beauty of the world will fall around you like confetti. But the trick of it is, you have to stop moving for a second. You have to get still.
Lying on the deck with the phone pressed against my head, I feel myself come back to earth. I notice the leaves, all shades of yellow and red and orange and brown. I hear the geese swoop wild-winged into the pond. I feel the boards of the deck warm and sturdy beneath my back.
His voice is like gravity, tethering me to the last warm day.