My front sidewalk is not centered with my front porch. It’s off to the left. The door is off to the right. There’s a white column in-between. Because of this, and because the porch is shallow, and because we have to walk the entire length of the porch to get to the path that runs next to the house and leads down the hill to the garage, it’s an awkward place for patio furniture. A porch swing is impossible and even a glider and a table would be a hindrance to get around. The sidewalk is not even centered with the double window; no symmetry whatsoever. And I’m thankful.
I was pointing all this out to my husband last week and at first he was a little annoyed with my observation. His immediate solution was to burn the house down. I agreed. After all, I could see no answer for this issue that I had never realized we had until that day. And once I saw it, I couldn’t un-see it.
My kids are a rowdy crew. I suppose it’s to be expected. For five years they were raised by a single dad, and despite the tireless efforts of two of the best grandmas in the world, their outdoorsy-rough-and tumble-wrestle-them-’till-they cry father ended up with four little versions of himself. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is the most tender-hearted, sweet-tempered, and thoughtful man I know. But like a bird pushing it’s hatchlings out of the nest, he’s not afraid to be a little rough with them. And they play rough with each other. Fortunately we’ve somehow avoided broken bones, but my youngest has had more teeth knocked out than have fallen out naturally. No joke. Just this last weekend, my oldest daughter knocked out two of his teeth during two separate incidences.
First, we were playing baseball in the yard on Saturday and he was standing in the baseline. Every baseball fan knows that as the runner, she had every right to plow him over, even if she is six years older and two feet taller. This severely loosened one of his lateral incisors (Yes, I totally had to look that up. It’s the tooth between the front tooth and the canine tooth.). By the time we were home from church on Sunday, he was able to pull it right out.
I love the beach. There’s nothing better than the sand and the surf. Like everyone who has ever taken out a personal ad, I love long walks on the shore, letting the cool ocean water rush over my feet, waves crashing almost at my knees.
Though we were in Florida for five days last week, we had only one day to be at the beach on the Atlantic coast. And we were so excited to go. Having spent all winter inside in Indiana, we were all sickly pale and desperate to soak up some Vitamin D. Mindful of our ghostly whiteness, we bought a sunscreen that was SPF 50 but disregarded the good (almost prophetic) advice of a seasoned Florida resident as we left the house: “Don’t stay out there all day!”
But how could we not? We had spent two days in the car, left behind our family and neighbors to endure the freak April snow without us, bought new swimsuits and flip-flops. A day at the beach was our destiny.
I walk a tight rope as thin as a spider’s web between total stranger and mother. Why did the brothers Grimm pen this role so ugly, so wicked? My intentions are far from malicious, my only motivator is love. And yet, I am so often treated as usurper, an over-stepping acquaintance who is to be tolerated on a limited basis. Some days I lose the battle. I lose my cool. I lose a little bit of hope that I have what it takes.
The tight rope is a plum line, and there is no room for error. Can I do this? What is this supposed to look like? I find myself again in prayer and the answer is always the same: selfless love. Is there really any other kind?
Quite literally up the street from us is a giant hill. Maybe it’s not so giant. Maybe it only feels giant because I’m out of shape and I always reach the top out of breath, burning lungs, burning legs. The hill adds to the beauty of our neighborhood, where the creek runs through and there are just enough trees to call it a grove. It’s a quiet road that people don’t really drive on unless they live in the neighborhood. In fact, it’s a great road to bike on if you’re up for the challenge.
I guess we thought we were up for that challenge last August. Four days home from Key West, four days into life’s new normal. The wedding gifts had been unwrapped and were still sitting in the living room, a room we had yet to furnish. We were practically strangers in a strange place. For me: a new town, a new family, a new role. For everyone else: a new home, a new mom, a new chapter.