The brightness of the cartoons contrasts against the dark morning’s sky. Dark Day! Alena exclaims, It’s a dark day! she says over and over again to her sister, the dog, me.
I sip at a hot cup of coffee, bleary eyes adjusting to being awake earlier than I’d like. It is well after seven and I’ve only been awake for an hour and I have been doing this for years. Part of me thinks I may never, ever get used to life before sunrise.
The coffee is swallowed down, absorbs into my body, my eyelids lift and I turn off the t.v. We have things to do today. I tidy the kitchen, fold some laundry. Quick trip to the grocery store and home to make soup and loaf. The girls pull kitchen chairs to the counter and stand on them, opposite me and help. They chat and giggle and sometimes yell at each other. They steal bites of apples and muffins and there are many “Mommy I need…” I wipe the counters, wash the bowls, run the dishwasher, freeze the soup, muffins, blueberries. We are stocked for another week.
The children are hungry, I feed them and feed myself and corral them up the stairs for nap. There are trips to the bathroom and then another and I wait while Alena insists on putting on her own pull-up, knowing she’ll need my help eventually. I search for stuffed turtles,offer bears as a substitute and suddenly, finally: silence.
I read a text book, send out files for meetings I have within the next few weeks and my eyes burn. Just a minute, I think to myself and lay down covered by a wool blanket on the couch. I close my eyes, but can’t sleep. Instead I put the laundry through, pick up the book again.
The afternoon is bundled in fuzzy sweaters and warm toques and rubber boots (because I haven’t bought the winter ones yet). It is watching them run, screaming, down the hill in our yard only to turn around and run, screaming, back up it. It is pushing swings and clapping proudly as they climb up the slide. It is laughter and love and rosy noses.
We go inside, despite the protests, but it’s time to start dinner. They watch Elmo or Global Grover or Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventure, they all sound the same from my place in the kitchen. I chop potatoes, onions, toss them into a casserole with some pork chops, throw peeled apples into a pot for apple sauce. I turn off the t.v. We play with the toy house, until Leila starts hitting and has to sit on the couch for a while but when she comes back, Alena scratches her.
It is 5:30. Steve is running late.
I cut the broccoli, throw it into the pot. Steve comes through the door, we eat, then upstairs, into jammies, brush your teeth and don’t forget to pee you’re not getting out of bed again. Stories and kisses and cuddles and stern warnings to not get out of bed.
Steve wiggles his eyebrows suggestively at me and I think, “Ugh, I’m just so damn tired.” I fill the tub with water as hot as I can stand and ease into it and soak. The fatigue eases. I breathe deep. In. Out. In. Lavender bubbles, the mirror is steamy.
Tomorrow will be as different from this day as possible. Morning run, schoolwork in the library, afternoon classes. It will be quite and peaceful and recharging.
Oh, how I love my life, my children, my husband. I count my blessings many times over in the run of a day. I cook and play because I want to, because we are fortunate enough that I am able to. I think about the future, my mother warned me that the time does not slow down. Soon there will be swimming lessons or piano lessons or karate lessons, times two. Soon there will be soccer practice and school buses and somewhere in-between now and then, I have to figure out what I’ll be doing during those times.
There are fuzzy images on the horizon, but they all blur together and I’m not sure if they’re pictures of me or someone else. There are ideas I have about what I want from life, what I want to do. There is an increasing sense of discomfort at the thought of after-school programs for Leila next year. There is the voice of my mother in my head, the voice of my father, my husband, my sister-in-law, sometimes even myself. There might be job prospects, there might be a Masters. I can’t make up my mind about any of it, you see.
Steve’s waiting for me to make a decision about the vasectomy. The doctor called. I avoid the question, push it out of my mind. He brings it up every couple of days and while I keep waiting to just “know” I’m starting to think that I never will. That there is no right answer here. Our life is full, overflowing even, with love and people and not-quite-enough time, and healthy children. I’ve never been very good at making decisions, I have a nasty habit of doubling back, doubting myself. But here we are, and if I don’t make it, he will. Soon.
Children. School. Jobs. Marriages. Choices I’ve made, all of them. I wonder if I’ll ever get better at it.