Today is the company bbq and celebration of milestone anniversary years for employees. One of them is me: Ten years! Wow, my littlest whole life. Which makes sense, seeing as I started gardening when she was a couple months old. Usually she was sleeping in the shade of the apple trees, or strapped to my back while I pulled weeds and trimmed hydrangeas.
Come to think of it, I believe I actually started the winter before she was born, working in the office taking orders at Christmas time. Amazing to think that far back. Back to when I only had two kids: one barely a toddler and one precocious preschooler. Back to when mornings started with giggles in my bed at 5:30 am, and ended with snuggles in their little beds around 7:30. (To be followed by dishes, laundry and cleaning the living room, of course. And finally falling into my own bed around 10.) But thinking way back to a little sedan car, with only two car seats. (With at least six sippy cups, ten board books, three single socks, and a huge multitude of odd snack parts tucked all around those two car seats.) Now, it is a mini van exploding with soccer cleats, basketballs, and beach towels, with ballet tights in the cup holder, Advil in the glove box and three inch thick books across the far back seat.
Back then my days consisted of hour plus trips to the library for story time, followed by another hour in the neighboring bakery with hot chocolate and bagels. We planned these outings around naps times, and lunch times, and squeezed in a grocery shopping trip once a week. I would struggle to navigate that huge car cart though the store (with two giggling girls ‘driving’ for about ten minutes) to buy well planned out ingredients for family meals. That was back when dinner would be eaten around the table, all together at 6pm, like clockwork, (complete with candles, and grace, and daily thanks giving).
The five of us, haven’t eaten together at that table for at least a year (unless you count super special occasions like Thanksgiving or Easter.) Grocery shopping still happens about once a week, but consists of me zooming around in half an hour to get things like granola bars, pizza toppings, already cooked chicken and two gallons of milk. I usually forget at least ten things on the list because I am thinking about which kid I have to pick up or drop off at what kind of event. We do, of course, visit the library, where we all go off in different directions and return to the check out desk ten minutes later with at least three books each. This is not followed by leisurely drinking hot chocolate with mounds of whipped cream, but instead by a cruise to the Mills for a few jumps off the bridge or the lake for quick swim out to the buoy line with some friends. We plan our days around practices and games, always with a book to read, for when a ten to twenty minute wait will save us from driving back and forth again, for another’s event. We eat dinners at the coffee table or the kitchen counter, usually most of us together for at least those ten minutes. (But we still find time and space for a candle or two, and of course we say our thanks for the day.)
Those were different days, ten years ago. Good and bad, seemingly simple compared to today’s crazies, but they had their own, just different, level of crazies. Now is also good and bad, and there is simple to be found here too.
Today, for instance, during a quick trip to town, for a needed piece of sporting equipment, I took just one child. She is old enough to sit in the front and converse with me. She told me some of the plot line to her latest book she is reading. We discussed middle school, and the growing excitement of a new school, new friends, and new opportunities. She came with me, as well, to pay the cable bill, waiting patiently and quietly in the chair while I chatted with the employee behind the counter. We discussed wildflowers and weeds growing along the road, on the drive home. And together we marveled at the new gas station being built so quickly along the way. Nothing extraordinary, just simple time spent with one child. The others where happily occupied with their own adventures of a play date and soccer practice. Nobody was left out, or left behind. Nobody felt cheated of time, or space. Just me running a few simple errands with my growing middle child.
The day also has its crazies: a pick up and drop off at the same time as the bbq, of the overlapping practice and rehearsal times for the eldest. The growing list of school supplies that need to be bought, that is almost screaming at me from the kitchen counter. The gardens I need to tend outside, vying for my time inside doing a different job for the company. Not to mention a forgotten shirt, a costume payment due, the chickens to be put in before dark (a fox is prowling round), and the littlest still recovering from a week long cold. There is no time left for naps anymore, though I am quite sure we could all benefit! And lunch was kind of forgotten in the middle of this crazy, end of summer day. But dinner is taken care of, the BBQ! With friends and family, and eventually all my kids will be there, with me. I will get to feel appreciated for my years working here.
And I will smile for the NOW moments, the joy in their faces when they shine on the stage, or succeed in the play on the court, or make a new friend on the field. I will try not to get caught up in worrying about next moments. I will pause to smell the flowers, admire the sunrise, sit with the rainclouds to find the rainbow. My small children are growing into amazing young adults. It is scary and sad and beautiful. Like the baby robins that flew from the nest this week, in the apple tree that the littlest used to nap under. Everything grows and takes flight. We just must remember to breathe.