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The Flat Plain

I suppose that FUNK would be the right word. You get back from a trip, come down from a show, and head full-steam into a week of child rearing like a bull in a China shop. No preschool, no schedule; just the vast expanse of weary days, a flat plain of peanut butter sandwiches. At once, it seems obvious how predictable this is; try drinking a strawberry Slurpee and not crashing after 5 p.m. When life is a Slurpee, it might be invigorating and sparkly, but it will not be a slow burn, or a fireside chat. It will be a blaze of glory. We all know what happens next.

My solution: activity. Why is activity always the solution? The zoo, library, duck pond, park, Target, Tom Thumb, pool — things that keep The Things engaged and me away from the quiet of the house. Objects outside the house — the light post, trees and trash bins — seem to stare at me inside the house asking, “What are you going to do now?”

I’ll be glad once preschool and Bible Study start up next week. Structure insulates me from feelings of uselessness that accuse me whenever I slow down long enough to hear the rush of thoughts. Why do I need to DO anything? What is usefulness anyway and can we please eliminate it from our lexicon unless we are referring to blenders or diaper genies?

A goose at the duck pond bit me this week. He was taller than Madeline, and approached the three of us like a feathery Danny DeVito, honking with great importance. We were clutching our bread, and he wanted the goods. All of it. Drew started crying, I stepped forward in motherly offense, and Madeline just stared at him, assessing his intentions. He got louder and nipped the corner of my ankle with his dead-finger colored beak. “That’s it!” I yelled, and whisked My Things up to higher ground to find waterfowl more deserving of our hot dog buns.

I wasn’t going to settle for being intimidated by a bunch of geese. Geese who litter the sidewalk with their bowel movements and flock to and fro like mindless, unblinking digestive tracks. If someone is going to intimidate me, it’s going to be my own children — my most worthy, formidable opponents — and not some bloated, entitled bird.

This is probably the best attitude to take when accusations of uselessness fly to and fro inside my mind. If anything is useless, it’s a goose; and the useless thought that says I am only what I do, what I produce, and not who I am and who loves me or whom I love. In his epic and beautiful essay, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis reminds me, “There are no ordinary people. It is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. Immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” I am immortal; I have faith I will be an everlasting splendor, beyond just the culmination of my to-do lists, beyond the Pottery Barn baskets I organize myself into, beyond ordinary.

And my children are everlasting splendors. I can take an afternoon to wipe Drew’s head with a washcloth like I did today, drawing out his fever and waiting for him to sleep. Watching his life unfurl today, even though nothing was “done,” is a miracle I am determined not to miss, a miracle I’m ashamed has to be named in my life. It’s something smaller than world travel and spotlights, but very, very far from mundane.

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