February had me down for the count – KO’d. Total knock out. I hung in there for the first three weeks…but man, this past week…
You may have been wondering where I’ve been.
I was waiting by the phone, iPad, computer. Waiting for a much anticipated message from a first-born who promised to call on February 21. We touched base for about 5 minutes before she was cut off on February 22 – cut off before I could tell her how much I missed her. She called on February 25 but I was out and the rest of the gang had a brief catch-up with her. She said she’d call on February 26 but didn’t. No texts, no calls, no emails…until last night. I was able to take a breath last night. A breath I didn’t realize I was holding. There is absolutely no service across the entire COUNTRY. The country. Brown-outs and water stoppages galore. Can you imagine? No phone, no internet, no cable. A normal thing.
I haven’t been able to be online. My heart has been so full of every type of emotion this last week of February that the words to my feelings have been seeping out of every pore. I just haven’t been able to pick them up off the floor and put them HERE. I thought to myself, Who wants to hear about how much I miss my child? Who wants to read my posts rattling off about how life is on hold? How I’ve unfairly pressed the pause button in this house because I am having a mama-can’t-handle-little-bird-leaving-the-nest issue? Why can’t I just compartmentalize these feelings into a neat and tidy box like I always do and just GET ON WITH IT?? Why can’t I get through a morning circle song about a mother and child without wanting to weep? Why can’t I just post about the things we’ve been up to – a list of busy that has been able to just keep me from teetering over?
The prompts have been so lovely over there at WriteALM – I have drafts sitting here in my draft folder for these end of February prompts: ‘a room of one’s own,’ ‘my favourite things’, and ‘left unsaid.’ But then the post always ends up being about the one missing…like how I stopped longing for a room of my own when we had to share one because my baby beside me gave me strength in those lonely middle of the night moments and how I didn’t know there was a name for what we did – this thing called ‘co-sleeping.’ We slept together out of necessity for three years in our one room set-ups. Some of my favourite things include what we do together: our hot chocolate time at Bobbette and Belle, working out alongside each other, saying our family’s blessing before meals while holding hands around the table – the 7 of us. And I’ve been scouring the recesses of my brain to see if there is anything that has been ‘left unsaid’ between us – have I assumed too much? Have I assumed all this time that she knew the depth of my love? Did I emphasize my absolute acceptance and unconditional love for all that she is and ever will be or does she just remember the times I pointed out where she fell short and what she needs to improve upon?
For the last 8 days, that’s all there is to it. That’s where my thoughts and energy are centred. The absent. The gone. The incomplete. The missing.
I MISS HER. I have nothing else for February.
But last night when she called, and I heard her voice, the weight was lifted. I just needed to hear it. Really hear it. Phone service was up briefly so we did the old-fashioned thing and talked on the phone. Without seeing her face, I could listen and listen to the joy and the wonder and above all else, I heard the pure GRATITUDE. She was grateful. She recounted countless stories of children she befriended, children who spoke a different language but share the language of joy with her – an authentic joy. Children who had nothing yet the simple attention she gave them brightened their lives for that moment. Children she blew up balloons for that she brought from home. Children whose parents could not thank her enough for her generosity – her generosity of time and spirit. Her voice glowed. Even with the language barrier, there was no mistaking the deeply human connections that were made as the kids took her hand, as they smiled up at her, as they sat on her lap to hear her gentle voice.
She was more than ok. She missed us and home, specifically her bed, but she was experiencing things that broadened her perspective and things that made her appreciate home. We laughed at how she will never be able to eat fried chicken again and how she really misses bacon. I got off the phone feeling sheepish and selfish for how my emotions have taken over, how I’ve expected the entire family to also put life on hold until she gets back. I’ve put writing on hold. I’ve put reading on hold. Lessons at home have been less than stellar because I’ve been distracted. Conversations with friends and family always end up about how much I miss this girl.
It’s funny how we make a conscious effort to create a culture of gratitude in our house yet it took traveling 8000 miles away to really understand what it means. We say our meal blessings and talk about the things that make us grateful. We say thanks to those who do kind things for us and write thank you notes. When times are hard, we teach them to focus on the present moment, to find that one silver lining in that thunderstorm swirling around us. It’s all words and teaching moments and I always wonder if they will ever “get it,” if they will ever feel truly grateful.
But then I heard it in her voice yesterday. She never said it explicitly. There was no “I am grateful because…” which is what I pull out of my children. It was just in the lightness of her tone. Her optimism. Her unexpected happy moments. Her realization that although it started off as gruelling and exhausting, especially jet lagged and separated from her grandparents, the people she was helping made it all ok: “Mom, there was this one little girl who I gave a sheet of stickers to. She carried the sheet around for a couple of days, never putting it down. Then I realized that she had no idea what they were and I took a sticker off and stuck it to her hand. Her face lit up and she was amazed at the stickiness.” She kept talking about all these moments – holding a sick 5-month old triplet, playing with the little boy with six fingers, taking a 6 year old girl for ice cream. Most of the photos she had taken had been of these children that she wanted to remember and possibly see again in the years to come.
So I am kicking off March with some of her contagious gratitude.
Here are some things off the top of my head that I am so very grateful for:
I am grateful for being able to have contact with her since she’s been gone…here she is showing off her jar of nutella that she is spreading on fresh pandesal (Filipino sweet bun):
I am grateful for simple breakfasts like raw yogurt with honey:
I am grateful that my 6-year old can finally thread a needle by herself…phew…4 down, 1 to go:
I am grateful that these sisters took care of each other and looked out for their friends at last weekend’s winter camp. I am also grateful for their leaders who mentor them week in and week out and who also gave them a special experience away from home. Not only have these wonderful young people connected with my children, they have connected my children to nature in a way that I never could. They have given my kids a safe place to be themselves and to push their edges and to take risks through play and wonder. Thank you Cole, Ali, and Phil…and to all the other mentors who have made an impact.
I am grateful for Ever-Patient’s silent understanding this last week. We both knew her absence has been hard on the other and haven’t talked much about it. It was just this knowledge, the knowledge that he feels what I feel, that has held me up at times when I just needed a little bit extra to keep it together.
I am grateful for my friends and family – the weekend at my mom’s with my family and the countless conversations from friends throughout the last two weeks. Thank you all for putting up with my forlorn ramblings: “I know she’s ok but I just miss her!”
I am grateful for these 4 kiddos at home: #2 who has stepped into some very big shoes and has become the senior sister in the house; #3 who reads to the littles when I need a break from reading aloud; #4 who plays with little bro when the other 2 big sisters want alone time; and #5 who has been in serious lego mode for the last couple of days and for sticking that felt heart in the corner of the room (see first picture above) that I found while sweeping which made my day.
Finally, I am grateful for February. You force me to show up each year. You make me try harder. You keep me humble. You always test my resilience. You teach me lessons I don’t want to learn. You make March the best month ever.
Happy, happy March.
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