To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery.
The revery alone will do, If bees are few.
--Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 23, 2012

Making the case for solitude

Recently my husband took our two daughters to Phoenix for spring break, leaving me at home with our dog. Oh, I could have gone on vacation with them but I just chose not too. My dear husband would golf, the girls would spend time with their grandparents who were also in Phoenix and that would leave me by the hotel pool with a book. But I didn't want to sit by a pool. You see, I really wanted the luxury of an empty house.
I needed to spend some time in silence, in contemplation. I also needed to work on a new writing project. And it didn't hurt that I had the television remote all to myself. (March Madness cannot end soon enough for me.) I love my family with all my heart, but sometimes the only way I can recharge my batteries is by being alone. Luckily, I am blessed with a husband who understands this and doesn't raise an eyebrow when I suggest they trundle off without me.
Spending spring break in solitude may seem odd to those who are more people oriented, grow up in large families or fear going to the movies alone. But I am an only child, love to attend movies by myself and, by nature, am an extremely independent person. I live my life having a few carefully chosen friends and family members around me. I'm not good in crowds. After a while, places like theme parks grate on my nerves. Sure one line or two is fine. But five hours later bumping elbows with sweaty people and standing on concrete while roller coasters screech overhead loses its appeal. Loud noises also bother me after a while. Oh, I can go to a sporting event and cheer my head off, but then I go home and sit quietly with a book to balance out all the mayhem I previously subjected myself to. Indeed sometimes I crave solitude like a fat woman craves chocolate.
So while some women might have gone to Phoenix, sat by the pool and soaked in the sun, I opted to sit at home and soak up the solitude.
Four days later when I picked up my family at the airport, I felt rested and reinvigorated. I was also happy to see them. Like vacations, solitude is fine in small doses. But it's also good when the people who make a place home come back home.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A drawer full of treasure

In my bedroom I have a drawer filled with treasure. No thief would steal it of that I am sure. No one but my husband and I would even recognize it as having any value. My drawer is full of paper, outpourings of my children's love. There are pictures of princesses with long hair and beautiful gowns (named Rose and Emma of course) and paper books made in school dedicated to Mom and Dad. My favorite book is the "Diary of a Worm" book Rose made and dedicated to Jason, "because my Dad is as brave as worm." It brings a smile to my face every time I see it. She also said in her presidents book that I'd make a great president "because she is smart and brave and nice to her friends." (A budding genius.) Of course, Emma nominated her Dad as president "because he follows the law and he is honest."

There are apologies handwritten in an impish first-grade scrawl to make up for when they've misbehaved. There is Emma's request to wear my high-heeled red boots for Halloween which she wrote in January. (I bet it won't be the last time she'll want borrow something of mine.) And then there are the notes that simply say, "I love you Mom" drawn with a heart or two. There are notes which tell me that I am loved, that I'm the best mom ever and that they miss me.

It seems as though every day, I am the benefactor of these gifts of love. So I try not to take them for granted. When I receive them I ooh and ah over them and distribute hugs and kisses and thank yous. And my daughters' eyes shine with pride. They delight in the giving of those gifts and are thrilled by their reception. When they skip off to play, I quietly go to my room and slip each little offering in my drawer. I'm saving them for a time when my daughters are older and they don't feel quite as motivated to freely bestow such high praise. Someday they will be teenagers. As first graders they think I know everything, but later I think my awesomeness will fade in their eyes. (At least until their 20s when they discover I was right about everything. ) As teens, they'll be more interested in texting their friends then passing their notes and drawings to me. That's okay, because I'll already have my drawer full of treasure. And it will always remind me of my loving, creative girls.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sowing friendships

 The job in Houston was simply too good an opportunity for my husband to pass up. So once again we packed our boxes, loaded the moving van, and transported all of our worldly goods, our daughters and the family beagle across a thousand miles. It was a logistically daunting journey. Yet after all the boxes were unpacked, the real adventure began. How do you reestablish your community? Where do you find friends, a church, or even a good grocery store? It's like a foreign place and you feel you're the outsider. I should be used to this by now. Before Texas, there was Ohio. Before Ohio, Indiana. Before Indiana, Iowa and at the very, very beginning Illinois. I blazed a trail across most of the Midwest.

In all of these places I cemented friendships, plugged into a church and generally thrived. And here I am in Texas trying to do it all over again. It's difficult work, this restarting a life in another place. I suppose that I could have stayed in Illinois, close to the tiny town where my life started. My father did. He worked at the local mine for over 30 years and then retired. I think my father's generation could expect a job that lasted decades in their local community. His generation could expect a pension and Sunday afternoons spent visiting the folks. Mine can't. We roam to find the best opportunities. Employers are much more fickle and don't shell out the generous pensions of yesteryear. We roam and sow relationships in all the communities where we settle. It's a lifestyle that forces you to be much more proactive in forging new friendships. When you have a group of friends that you've worked to cultivate, you're much less likely to take them for granted. And that's good for everybody.