21 December 2017
Every Little Thing
We're not fully moved into my new house just yet, but already we have had supper at our new (to us) table maybe ten times. Both my ten-year-old and my five-year-old remark how "weird" it feels, but also how it feels like we have "a real house" now.
Me, I find my heart aflutter every time I don't have to hunt down a hanger to keep my washer lid up while doing laundry. Opening the first pantry I've ever had in my life makes me want to take pictures every time. To say nothing of my very own office--a room of one's own to work and to be.
I don't list the wonders of my new house to brag, though even with the occasional broken toilet seal and full-on nineties wallpaper in the kitchen, this place is still a place of wonder for me. And I don't say that to garner pity for what we didn't have before either. I am thankful, SO thankful that this is where I am now, with my wonderful family.
I do this to remind myself how much relief each of these things brings me, to remember what it was like when I did not have these things, or to go back even further when I had to rely on parents and my then-boyfriend just to afford groceries. I do this not to garner sympathy for the single mother who threw a bit of a tantrum in the teacher's lounge at the suggestion that she skip a trip out to eat and buy crayons when color printing was not an option (it had not occurred to colleagues that even McDonald's was out of my price range at the time). It still hurts a lot to remember being that single mother. I was 27.
Can you IMAGINE facing that at 17?
Of course some don't have to imagine.
Zealously guarding literally every dollar I spent and fretting over formula and diapers cost just about every brain cell and ounce of patience I had in my body. Being able to go to the vending machine without calculating is a simple pleasure I often take for granted now, but it was a wild luxurious freedom when I remarried and then got salary boosts from getting grandfathered in for my MA and then National Boards.
What if I had to go to class 8 hours a day at the same time that a Snickers was beyond my budget?
What if I had had to wake up in the middle of the night regularly to help a sick sibling or parent or grandparent to the bathroom?
What if my parents hadn't been able--or willing--to contribute when I was about to come up short for the electric bill?
What if I had had literally no one to call in the middle of the night when I felt like I absolutely could not make it to morning no matter how much my baby needed me?
What if my depression had not been strictly situational or had been compounded by other health issues?
What if I'd found easy means to turn to dangerous or illegal ways to get through my day?
It might have been really hard to get an essay in on time, or stay awake in class--or even show up.
There are those who perhaps could have gutted through it without a second thought to how hard it was to do what they were doing. They might not have even considered how much of their emotional energy was being drained on a consistent basis and pushed forward with some good old-fashioned grit.
I smile wistfully at my table and my washing machine that can open all the way now because of how much relief they bring to my life.
And I cut my kids who lash out under overwhelming pressure a little more slack, even if their reasons don't seem as drastic to me. Because I remember how much it cost me every minute of every day to have to ask for money to survive, to not be able to afford formula or frozen vegetables or even crayons on my own. That little rush of joy when I open the stocked and organized pantry, it reminds me how much I might be asking from kids without a kitchen table or internet or just a reliable support system.
It reminds me to find every way I can to avoid draining their emotional resources. And maybe, if I can, to add to them wherever possible.