It is the best of times, with the chicks all scratching more or less independently, capable of scrounging out of the refrigerator when they are starving, picking out a brownie recipe, cooking their own eggs if they dislike the oatmeal. It is the worst of times for the pantry, the milk jug, the cookie jar and the grocery budget, not to mention the oven where the plastic container melted into an odorous blob of anonymity during the brownie preheat.
It is an age of incredulity as an avalanche of recipe cards sifts out of the baking cupboard and I wonder how… in this enlightened age of digital help… how do I still have all these clippings out of Real Simple from the first year of my housekeeping and when will I ever rein it in and what to do, What To Do? about all these stink bugs?
Yet I do know our favorite foods when it is time to cook, and even where they are supposed to be in the binder of despair that is full of clippings, although it may take a few minutes to find the recipe, and I never thought I would have one of those stuffed messes. The stink bugs remain, but there is light and sweetness in the lemon curd (recipe after breakfast foods, written on the bottom of a page on teas) spread on yogurt scones (recipe in the section with the muffins, but loose: not inside the sheet protector). All is only temporarily lost.
It is an age of wisdom, when even the smallest is able to read simple books and find her own audios in the library of iTunes, and I have time to pick up my own books. There are the days when the grown-up-ness of the child taller than me just takes my breath away, and the short one whispers, “What is a selection?” in church, then stoutly raises her hand and picks her favorite number, “Twenty,” even though she never heard the song.
It is an age of less-than-wisdom, where tensions erupt about NOT the Moffats AGAIN, and such short lives have not yet learned the discretions of choosing carefully what goes into the mind, and yet have learned quite well how to argue a point. There are days when my careful parental oversight is a hard discipline, because can it really matter that much? These are the days where I mercifully draw the veil and pray for new mercies the next and I know not whether to laugh or cry so I do a little of both.
This is the age where we have everything before us, and yet have not proven anything: the age of rubber band flexibility, where I try to be sensitive to the small girl who likes to keep a saltshaker in her bag just in case she finds something edible, (but of course not the withered blueberries under the Suburban seats) and the big boys who are thoroughly embarrassed by the sisters. It is the time where wristwatches are the most treasured of birthday gifts, yet are never on the wrists when they are needed, and the time where the shirts and shoes that fit just fine last week are way too small and they literally have nothing to wear. It is a time of inflexibly insisting on sheets on the beds downstairs and socks on the feet when we go away, and coats, yes coats! It’s winter. It is an era of admiring rooster feathers plucked and sewn into a headband by one child, a thinly disguised plagiarized story plot written by another, accepting gratefully all seven of the loving cards made for me in the same pattern of hearts and flowers, checking out the latest carved spoon with a short handle where it snapped in construction, and praising the efforts of the egg washer, all while keeping a fishing bobber safe in my purse when it accidentally goes to church in a pocket, and keeping track of the progress in the seventh grade unit on equations.
It is the winter of despair, days stacked on days, inside four walls, with tempers growing thin in the lack of oxygen and light, when the boots will not march in straight rows beside the register, but lie kicked about in melting pools of muddy forgottenness, the library books went overdue to the tune of $15, and the baby rabbits keep dying inexplicably. Yet it is the spring of hope, because we have boots and balmy days to squelch into the slanted rays of benevolent light that stays longer every day, and we pulled a tiny radish that survived the Arctic blast in our cold frame, where very soon we will sow lettuce seeds.