Last Friday, the kids and I woke fairly early. I handed them packing lists; crossed off contacts, sunblock, pak-n-play and camera from my own list; and called out orders like a drill sergeant (“Daisy, make sure the stuff in the washing machine gets put in the dryer.”, “Jesse, your job is to find the cooler in the garage.”, “Penny, I need you to keep Summer happy.” “Abe, start carrying all these suitcases to the van.”, etc.) I made sure everyone went to the bathroom one last time, and by 10:00 am we were all loaded in the van and headed for Bear Lake.
As we drove through Sardine Canyon, I called out, as I always do, “Look, everyone! There’s grandma’s castle spot!”, and suddenly I was hit with a wave of . . . nostalgia? Mm. I don’t think that’s quite the right word – though certainly part of whatever it was. A mixture of all sorts of feelings descended on me and I felt suddenly caught between two realities (and slightly unable to believe in either of them). Did you ever read that short story . . . oh what was it called? I’ve forgotten, but you keep sifting back and forth between two stories occurring in a place where time is all tangled up. Part of the time you are with several men on a train – talking about the surreal feeling they get every time they travel through this misty place. And then you are outside with the knights from some other time – waiting in terror for the dragon that often roars through the area (the dragon = the train). It felt something like that. Time all overlapping and mixed up.
A part of me was suddenly 30 years younger -- wedged between two sisters in the back seat of my grandma’s gold/tan Oldsmobile with the heavy doors. (Why did the doors seem so heavy?) It was late evening. My dad driving. My mom and grandma taking up the rest of the front bench of the car. My mom pointing out that same expanse of open green weaving between trees on the hillside where we would build a castle someday. And then, the dark was settling in, and my sisters and I were no longer squirming, but still and sleepy as we listened to my mom telling us a story of trolls and rescues and dark caverns.
And then another part of me was . . . right where I was. Driving in a van, on the exact same road, on a bright sunny morning, with eight people who I’d somehow brought into being. How could I be the mom in this scene when I was also that little girl with my own mom. It just felt so . . . impossible. What did I know about carting eight kids off the Bear Lake? How was I supposed to keep everyone feeling safe and secure and at home so long as mom was there (which is how I always felt about my own mom)? Why, I didn’t even know very well how to tell them a decent troll story! And how had Mike and I – just two individuals – actually added eight unique human beings to the earth?
But the sensation and feelings of disbelief and uncertainty passed, and, after a brief stop for donuts (after all, it was “National Donut Day”), we made it safely to our cabin; and had our first summer weekend at the lake. There were shakes and late movies, throwing food off the deck to ground squirrels, and visits to the beach. Mike made it safely there at about 11:00 that night (hair brush and cheese in hand). I’d been anxious to see him safely there with us, and I was proud to show off how well Abe and I had figured out getting the pilot light lit and the water on (though, in truth, it was mostly Abe).
And, of course, these pictures show nothing of Summer and Mette’s tantrums from lack of naps, or of hauling things in and out of the cabin, or of loading buckets and chairs and towels for the beach, or of bringing kids and items alike all back from the beach – wet and covered in sand.
Adventures and just life in general with eight kids is . . . it’s just really hard work. I thought that multiple times on this trip. “This life of mine is quit-your-self-pitying, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work sort of living.” And sometimes, I’m just . . . so so aware of the work and so tired by it all.
Occasionally I want to weep at my lack of freedom, at the constant demands of babies, or simply from contemplating what yet lies ahead in getting all of these little people spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially independent and mature. Sometimes my heart aches for a minute over the ease I perceive in some lives. I recognize that it is mostly perception and that I will likely be shocked at how difficult and busy life might be for me once my kids are grown. Still, I admit to even sighing longingly when friends without babies recount busy schedules, long to-do lists, or numerous stressful chores. I can only think how marvelous that they can do those busy things! The thought of being able to run a thousand errands or clean a messy house or weed a cluttered yard without so many little demanding souls all needing cared for and accounted for often sounds unbelievably freeing to me.
But then, usually fairly quickly, I remember that these children are part of my incredibly personal plan here. Raising them, and struggling, and working through the trials of a big family are the very things that will allow me to grow closer to Christ and learn to rely on him and become who I need to become. These specefic people, and all that comes with them, are my most important and significant opportunities granted me here; and we, all of us, grow closer to God not only by searching for him and keeping his commandments, but by trusting him and accepting with determination and gratitude the path he has placed before us and the race he has given us each individually to run.
And, while these pictures don’t show the truths of meltdowns and messy rooms and squabbling kids and worn out evenings, the truths they do show . . . are the more beautiful and important ones. I have no doubt that every struggle and tear and frustration and exhaustion that comes with rasising these kids is, and more importantly, will eternally be ten thousand fold worth it.