Sunday, June 20, 2010

Everyone is Beautiful

Here in Southern Oregon, school is officially out for the summer. There was a time, which now feels so long ago, and yet oddly near (like looking into the wrong end of a pair of binoculars), when I had no idea when school was out, and frankly didn't care. Instead, this much anticipated seasonal change would only slowly dawn on me as I was driving to the park and spotted boys tall enough to pedal themselves on their bikes dotting the sidewalks, or as I set foot into the library to find the shelves of the children's section teeming with kids twice the size of the regular toddler story-time crowd. That was back when none of my children were old enough for school enrollment and what day it was, let alone what month or season it was, meant little to me. I was whiling away my days in a fog of diapers and sippy cups and goldfish crackers softened by baby gums before being spit back out and wiped onto my blouse. My sense of time was segmented into far more precise (and manageable) blocks that I liked to call wake-up time (4:45 am), laundry time (6:00 am), breakfast time (6:45 am), Clifford time (7:00 am), play group time (9:00 am), and nap time (hallelujah). 

But now here I am with (it's official now) three school-aged kids who sleep fairly well and entertain themselves (mostly) and know how to consume delicacies like cherry Jell-O without my dining room looking like the set of Dexter (usually). And it's as though those dark, desperate, grimy, gritty baby and toddler years (can you tell I didn't bear them gracefully?) happened to someone else. Someone who was a shadow of my current self (and who clearly did something awful in a past life). But I'm reading this wonderful novel right now that's bringing it all back into sharp relief.

The book is called Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center, and as I (re)immerse myself in the world of very young children and desperately tired mothers she's so poignantly painted--a world I recognize on a visceral level--I find myself gasping aloud at the genuineness of it. At the acutely painful and oh-so-true portrayal of those on-your-hands-and-knees-searching-under-the-table-for-that-soggy-waffle-the-baby-threw-and-finding-that-Lego-you-just-stepped-on days that every parent intrinsically recognizes. The arduous grind of the impossibly long days which form the cogs that move the surprisingly blink-and-you'll-miss it wheels that are our children's formative years. The way the entire world (all four walls of it) are cast in grainy black and white with only splashes of color that pop out of the background and startle you. And hurt your eyes. And wake up the baby.

That world. You know it. Maybe you're in it. Or perhaps you, like me, have almost forgotten it. Here's my reminder:

Nate, Cal, and Toby, circa 2004
I'd love to see yours.
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