Saturday, July 8, 2017

My Friend With an Empty Vacuum Cleaner Bag

I got a little time to myself yesterday.  My husband took the boys shooting and no one needed me for hours.  I was already out, so I took myself to lunch and went from store to store, shopping for a rug to go under a particular chair in my house, or anything else I couldn't live without that was less than five dollars.

And this is happening more and more, only subtly, here and there.  The guys all want to see this action movie or that war documentary, and I'm out.  Sitting in the other room, doing whatever girl/Mom activity I choose.

I used to be the generator, facilitator, supervisor, or recipient of every activity my boys dipped their toe in.  Every activity.  And it was exhausting.  I see parents of young children, now, and remember just how exhausting.  I admire them so much.

Overall, my thought about raising kids who are growing up and seemingly need me less and less, is one of great joy.

But, there is the occasional, and always unexpected, lump in my throat.  Like when I was on my way home from Wal-Mart the other day.  I passed the elementary school that my older boys attended and my youngest still attends.  But, only for two more years.  And in that moment, I felt like I was visiting this town from the future, where elementary school and boys who go there, are but a foggy and distant memory.  And I wanted to cry.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn captures this feeling perfectly in The Cancer Ward, as one of his cancer-stricken characters reflects on his life:  "Sometimes I wonder whether the children were real, whether I didn't just dream them.  Maybe they never existed?"

It's clear, now, that my children are real.  Their bodies are lounging around my living room (including the one who is sharing my couch cushion), Lab Rats is on TV, there are army guys by my coffee cup, a t-shirt on the floor, and dominoes are strewn all over my dining room table.  The evidence of real children is all over the place.

Among our summer sojourns, we've made a friend at the park.  He frequents it five or six times a day, because by his own admission, he doesn't have anything else to do.  He's divorced and his children are grown.  He admits that sometimes, he vacuums, just for something to do.  The bag on his vacuum cleaner stays empty, because his house never gets dirty.

Surely, this will never be us.  Right?!  

But, surely, it will.

Our friend reminds me that I'm living the American dream.  To be happily married, with young children, and time to enjoy all of it...

I'm afraid to admit it, but I need the reminder.  It is easy to miss the treasure of the dailiness - between basketball practices, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and repeating, while never, ever asking myself, "Did I really need to sweep or vacuum?!"

So, in case you don't have a wise friend at the park with an empty vacuum cleaner bag and time to enjoy your kids, I'll loan you mine.