It is late here. Well. 9:00 pm. Not late.
But winter still sends its early darkness. And kids who have spent most of the week staying up far beyond reasonable school-night bedtime hours have, with the help of some energy zapping night-time snow play (and accompanying tears over snowball-hit faces), gone to bed. Every last one of them. Six little people – aged 12 to one – snuggled into five little beds and one little crib . . . in two little rooms (we really need to finish our basement).
And the house? The house is so quiet. A good quiet. A satisfying and peaceful quiet, but a quietness that, itself – filled with sleepers as it is, seems to insist that the hour is late.
Mike isn’t yet home, and the last sound I heard (besides the hum of the refrigerator and the heat blowing up through the vents) was a quiet little clip-clipping coming from our bathroom where Goldie had gone, in hushed and quick little steps after tiptoeing out of bed and whispering from the silence that she needed to trim her nails before she could ever be expected to sleep properly.
I wanted to go take pictures of them all – the consummate angels into which sleep always transforms them -- but my camera’s limited ISO capabilities, combined with my desire to keep all who were sleeping, well, asleep, meant that I could only fight my auto focus into capturing one or two of the one wee five-year-old who sleeps closest to the closet light. (The closet light that is left on every night as the girls read themselves to sleep; the closet light that I must remember to turn off every-night after they’ve read themselves out).
Occasionally the thought of life’s delicateness pierces into my mind like a well-shot arrow. My heart begins to twist itself round and round too tightly, and I wonder how it is that fates allow anyone to live a life full through – from birth to old age.
Is that ridiculous? And by ridiculous I mean . . . paranoid and crazy? Or does everyone sometimes wonder at the absurdness of our physiology -- the seeming impossibility of a heart that simply keeps beating over and over and over; of lungs that keep filling with air again and again.
Does everyone stop and wonder about the livability of a life minus one of their most loved ones?
Yes. That might be sounding a bit irrational (if not downright lunatic). But perhaps it is human nature for most of us to occasionally contemplate the frailty of this living business: to look at the news and note the young and strong that have gone unexpectedly and in an instant; to contemplate the possibility of such a tragedy in our own lives; to snuggle in close to our sleeping husbands and quietly and fiercely pray that we never have to go without those steady and constant, deep and reassuring breathes of sleep next to us; or to pull a resistant and busy child in close where we can smell baby lotion, or sun and dirt and play; and feel the soft hair on their round little heads against our cheek.
I know it is not really fate. I believe luck has little to do with the plan each of us are living here on this earth.
Still, tonight, as the older five played a snowy outdoor game of night-time hide-and-seek, and I swept the floor and cleaned up dinner; and Anders, bless his absolutely perfect tiny self, climbed on tables where chairs hadn’t been properly pushed in to prevent him, and carried over books that demanded pauses from cleaning; I couldn’t help but think of the complete helplessness and loss of control I would feel were he to leave me early – were I not able to force him back and demand that I get to keep seeing each stage of life as he grew.
Being robbed of all the what-might-have-beens seemed terrible enough, but it occurred to me that, just as awful, would be the fact that imperfect memory would steal from me much of what was.
After a few minutes of acknowledging my fears, and politely not mentioning that they had no business being here, I, as one must if they expect to live life with any real joy, ushered them back out through the front door (which I proceeded to shut tightly though probably not lock securely) and turned my attention back to Anders.
I handed him the cup he was pointing at (filled with a half inch of water to lessen spill mess), and tried to memorize the way he demanded “mee-ook” (go ahead, say it out loud quickly and with no pause and you’ll guess what he’s after – though any drink will actually do). I tried to freeze a mind shot of the way he patted his ample tummy as he thought of where he might want to wander next. I knelt with him in the kitchen and read the Elmo book that he held up to me (for the 3rd time in so many minutes) and reminded myself that, beyond what peace might come from God, the only solace I might find in such a loss would be knowing there was no lack of living, giving, and appreciating while I could.
(End note: On more than one occasion, this boy has been so in love with and excited by his absolutely spectacular self in the mirror, that he has run smack into it.)