Isn’t it lovely to look at your children play on the other side of a triple-pane window? You can watch them, imagining nothing but delightful sounds, until you think you might burst with pride and contentment. It’s the kind of thing that brings on nostalgia even in the present moment. See over there? That’s Matteus dropping marshmallows into his sixth cup of hot chocolate and there’s Bella the Business Woman hunched over the cash box. Susanna is bowing her 49th rendition of Maple Sugar in hopes of attracting more customers while Belén runs toward the street with a hand-painted sign hoisted overhead. From my vantage point inside the house it appears to be the quintessential childhood sale. Well, maybe, except for the table of garlic selling out at two bucks a head. It’s all very sweet, observing this memory in the making. And then–you know where this is going don’t you?–the door opens and the spell is broken.
In the next moment everything changes. The girls report the hot chocolate is getting cold. Vivi wakes up and I run back to her room while a second batch of hot chocolate boils over on the stove. By the time I get back it looks like a volcano has erupted and chocolate lava is flowing from the stove-top halfway across my kitchen. Just then Eli, the two-year-old, walks right into the warm puddles and suddenly vomits. My sister swabs the floor like a sailor, swishing around white curds with her chocolate-stained towel, and suddenly I remember Susanna’s skype lesson. “Tune up! Tune Up!” I yell, while trying to get her inside. The lesson starts at four, so we have a few minutes to set the computer up; I stumble over USB cords and a mike, Tara gathers up the the load of soggy towels, Vivi starts crying and wants to nurse, Susanna is ripping through a fiddle tune twice as fast as normal–nailing every other note, more customers arrive on our front lawn, and then the Skype call comes through.
“How are you guys today?” asks Susanna’s teacher on the monitor.
“We’re… um… okay,” I say because I’m not sure where to start. She’d only get confused If I tell her how much better everything was when it was on the other side of the window.
That night, once the profit is tallied (they made over $100 to send to our Haitian sponsor child) the four cousins reminisce about their successful day. But not for long. Susanna has a question for me.
“Mom?” she asks. “Can we have a baking day tomorrow?” She’s already got posters for the next bake sale ready. (She makes at least two or three a week–an act of extreme optimism–in case her mother should ever acquiesce.)
The answer is No. No. And No. Because even though affirmation is politically correct, and heart-warming blogs encourge us to be willing, to be open, to say yes, to consider opportunity, to go for it, to risk, to embrace life, sometimes a no is okay.
Once everyone is tucked in bed and I get under the covers fatigue settles in. I think about the sale and how it was one big yes out of the thousand nos I give daily; it was creative, it was productive, it was fun, and I’m glad it happened. It also reminded me precisely why I say no the rest of the time.
Ps. Susanna got her surprise party after all! I told her we would be traveling the 2 hours to Grandma’s to help her clean her house. You know, scrub walls and wash floors. Instead, when Susie opened the door she was greeted by cousins (some from 750 miles away!), friends, and even Mary, her birthday twin.