Swallow the angst and sing

I'm cooked. Spent. Done. Toast. I got up at 5 a.m. to run 10 this morning. Then showered and shuffled everyone to church, then lunch, then the playground, then the pool, then dinner, then the park, all in an effort to make the day fun for the kids while giving Dad some time to catch up on work. The boy was so jacked up, exploring the outer edges of obnoxiousness as only a seven year old can do. They simply couldn't be quiet to save my sanity.

Sometimes it's just too much noise, shouting, bickering, whining. Too much turning everything into a soccer ball, too many shoes that need finding. It's wet towels and tangled hair and stubbed toes and time outs and talking back.

I wish I could breathe it all in without swallowing so much angst. The impatient words rise in my throat like an ugly belch. I let them rip and feel far more regret than relief.


I scribbled the above last night while I was sitting at the park at the end of the day. It's morning now, and in this light, I can look back on the same scenes and see beautiful things. I seem to have slept off the irritation. Calli sits at my feet, straining her ears to hear the geese. (She's always on high alert after breakfast.) The kids are in bed; the coffee's in hand.

With sleep comes perspective; with perspective, gratitude. Once again, gratitude becomes the balm, the antacid, the way to swallow the angst and sing.


The Dance (Just Write)

I stretch out my hand, ask him to dance, the boy in the green button down shirt and khaki pants. He has on his "fancy shoes", the ones he asked me to buy so he could dress more like his daddy. I am half expecting him to decline again, to say he's too busy playing with his best buddy Max, or that he'd rather continue the search for wedding cake.

But he says yes, nods his buzzed head and flashes his crooked grin, his two front teeth no longer missing, but not quite halfway in.  I scrunch down a bit, feeling too tall in my strappy wedge heels, and he stands as high as his 48 inches and fancy shoes will allow. We dance like mismatched old timers, dipping our joined hands dramatically. I spin him in, then out, and back we go to making exaggerated motions with our outstretched arms. His intermittent giggling probably has something to do with the silly dancing faces I keep making while I mouth the words to "I've Had the Time of my Life."

And I can't stop smiling. My inner commentary begins: This is what it feels like to be completely happy. You must remember this forever. You have to write about this so you remember it forever. Do you know how lucky you are? Do you know how perfect this is?

Yes. Of course I know. I know it from the top of my frizzy, rained-out red hair to the red painted tips of my toes. I feel myself floating up, looking down in that weird filmmaker/ narrator way where I see the whole scene in my head, the scene where I am dancing with my son and having the time of my life. 


Out-twinkling the angels (Just Write)

Dani, you never met my Grandma, your Nana's mama. You were still growing in my belly when we hugged her last in the shadeless Palm Desert heat. But really, it's not accurate to say we hugged Grandma. Rather, she hugged us. She could squeeze so much love into a single embrace. There wasn't anything frail about her.

She wasn't the sort of grandma who went to the salon each week to set her hair. She was the feisty sort, the one who never wore a skirt, not even to church. (But you'd love her anyway, Dani, I know you would.) I'll picture her forever in a mid-80s puffed-sleeved sweat suit, her black hair ever short in tight wiry curls. She wore freckled skin, just like you and me; and her eyes could out-twinkle Santa's.

She knew what it meant to love people exactly where they were, without demands. She didn't make them move an inch to meet her, no probationary period required. She lived with her arms wide open, reckless with compassion. I've only recently come to understand how much courage it takes to live the way she did--to give the benefit of the doubt so freely, to throw every chip in every time, to love "all in". But I doubt she would've called it courage. She would have tossed up her hands and shook her grinning head side to side and quipped, "I guess your grandma's just crazy that way!"

Speaking of crazy, I should tell you about the time she took my mom, my sister and me to Yosemite. I can't remember how old I was, maybe 10? Anyway, it was snowing up a storm that day, and there was talk of closing the park. But we were halfway from Fresno to the park entrance before we got the warning, and she wasn't the sort to turn back on account of a little precipitation. When the sign popped up requiring chains for further travel, Grandma simply put on the chains, and on we went. We made it into the park just before they closed the roads into the valley. I clutched the inside of the car door and held my breath in fear as we slid and skidded down that steep, switchback of a road. I can't imagine how she even saw the road in front of her with the snow so thick in the air.

We passed one car hanging off the side of a cliff, another wedged into the side of the mountain. When we finally (miraculously) reached the valley, we nearly fell out of the car in relief. We walked a few steps in the direction of Half Dome, stretched our arms wide, threw our heads back and looked at the sky in every direction, watched as Mother Nature sewed the thickest, most spotless quilt of snow a mountain range could wear. Never have I felt a stronger sense of awe and wonder than in that moment, on that day when Grandma and I stood in that silent valley and looked up.

For 88 years Grandma lived this way, undaunted by treacherous roads, unhindered by convention, always looking up. She died this morning, "born into glory", as we crazy Christians like to say. And I'll tell you, Dani, these are the days when I'm never so glad to believe in heaven. I picture Grandma there now--still in her 1985 jogging suit--laughing her belly laugh, hugging anyone who comes within three feet of her, out-twinkling the angels.

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