Vivian is screaming because she doesn’t want to shampoo her hair; Saron is screaming because she wants to shampoo her hair. When I come to their rescue Saron informs me, “I want the the blue towel, the one with the hood!” I run to Vivi’s room, grab both coveted towels and rush back to plunge Vivi’s hair under the water–whether she likes it or not. She makes it apparent that, indeed, she does not. All the while, Susanna trails behind me asking for my credit card number.
“I want to buy you and dad a Christmas gift on-line,” she insists. I don’t answer her right away, partly because I can’t hear her, partly because I’m ignoring her. But her tenacity is formidable and by the time she has repeated herself at least six times her request finally sinks in.
“You can’t have my credit card. You’re ten.”
She is unfazed, “Everyone gets something in their stockings at Christmas and I want you and dad to have something too. And I want it to be a surprise. And I want to buy it on Amazon. And I need your credit card.” Her persistence will stand her in good stead someday, but not now. Now I want her to turn off the rice before it boils over, set the table, and stop asking me anything about credit cards.
When I emerge from the bathroom with two, now giggly and sufficiently hooded girls, I see Belén and her friend flitting around the computer with safety goggles. They’re supposed to be creating a flying machine for science class, but they’re mostly just talking about creating a flying machine and wondering when they might get together again to actually create a flying machine. Stan, on the other hand, has two projects going on at once and has no time for talking. He’s running up and down the basement steps, testing out different materials for their capacity for flight (anyone who picks Belén as a partner for science class lucks out big time), while simultaneously working on the neck of of his home-made banjo.
With a good bit of relief I realize Susanna isn’t hanging around me anymore and hear her reading to the two little ones. I start washing a few greasy pans while waiting for the sweet-and-sour meatballs to cook when I remember I was in the middle of a Facebook conversation. I dry my hands, type my opinion about how we can help our friends move, and then get back to the warm dish-water pooling with fat.
“Someone light a candle. And set the table!” I call out.
Warm food is soon placed on stained and burnt hot pads. (Susanna recently conducted an experiment where she turned on the stove, placed the fabric hot pad directly on the element, and timed it to see how long it would take for it to burn. As I recounted this to her father he looked pleased and when I asked him why he was so happy he said, “That gives me hope; at least she’s curious.”)
The candle flame flickers. We pray because we are thankful and because we need to pause. I begin to wonder if I could hack a life without prayer because what would I do without the three seconds where nobody says anything? After a couple spoonfuls someone makes a comment about the food. It is not a compliment. Then Saron, who normally loves my rice and meatballs, echos the comment with an extra dose of drama in her voice. She ends up eating seven meatballs anyway.
After supper, three different people stop by. We send kids to their own homes, talk about taxes, check emails, research light-weight levitation, sing lullabies and threaten our children to sleep. At 9:47 I step over the suitcase and piles of laundry blocking the path to my bed, turn off the bed-side lamp, and smile in the darkness. This is quiet. This is exactly where I want to be. This is the end of an ordinary day. This is 39.
Here are some pictures of a few not-so-ordinary days in the last months…