I am overwhelmed with homeschooling. I have these days occasionally, when I question my decision making–WHY did I think it was a good idea to take over my children’s education? Lily can’t yet tie her shoes. Sofia struggles with her multiplication tables. She hates math. I agree. I can’t do 6th grade math, so I hire it out, but still.
I consider climbing into my closet, layering the floor with cozy blankets and refusing to come out, hiding from everyone, regressing to my childhood ways. I used to climb into my closet in 2nd grade, open the floor board and hang out in the crawl space under the house. It’s quiet under the house. There is dirt under the house, spiders, unkempt, unmanicured space, the outline of the house but empty with possibility that just around that beam: Narnia. And no one can find me.
Instead I wake Claudio at 2am and ask him to do a Meeting of Two with me. It’s an offshoot of 12-step meeting culture–we take turn sharing our feelings uninterrupted and without cross-talk, solution fixing or shaming. The mere fact that he’ll wake up and listen to me say the Serenity Prayer and then share my experience tells me I married someone extraordinarily kind. He says only about knowing what it’s like to be overworked,and that gives me comfort. And then he tells me to get some rest. I need that simple wisdom. “Go night night,” my dear friend Barbara says to me when I call her with a worry late at night. “Nothing is worked out after 10pm.”
Lily still ends up in our bed, so I go to her bed. Musical beds. Claudio finds me there at daybreak, in the pink llama sheets with her curtain that wraps around her bed tightly shut, a cocoon.
I cry some. “The kids are too quiet. They’re downstairs reading Garfield, rotting their brains,” I say. “I’m too tired to go down there right now.”
He goes downstairs.
“ANYONE WHO IS READING GARFIELD NOW HAS A CONSEQUENCE!” Tears from girls. He stomps upstairs, I hear him open my office door, toss in two Garfield, slam it shut.
I have a protector. I beam.
“Do math!” he yells.
Lily comes into her room. She has on a pink silky long nightgown with a black choker. Hard and soft, a family inheritance.
“I want to cuddle.”
She ignores me and climbs in beside me.
“It is my bed.”
Her toes are icicles.
She finds her spot under my arm, flops her leg over my body, clamps me. “CLAMP!”
I sigh, a large breath. She does too. I feel her heartbeat, think about how she’s done this her forever, how she used to fit in my belly, then on my body, now, seven and a half years old, she can trap me.
I cry quietly. I’m so grateful and so tired. She doesn’t say anything. I hope I’m hiding it from her.
She looks up at me, the one hunk of hair shorter than the rest over her right eye. She cut it herself six months ago. No one else would know that about her, I think.
“Mom, when I grow up, can I be a writer like you?” She has brown eyes, french-girl short bangs, a face like the moon, round and still baby enough and morphing by the hour.
No. I want to say. Be a writer who writes! Works! Is successful!
“You can be anything.” I smile.
“I’m going to be an actress. I’m very good with feelings. I use sad music to really feel things. And I already have ten books.”
“One is called ‘Lucy’s Box.’ It’s dedicated to you and Dad. One is ‘A Boy Named Max.’ There’s ‘Christmas Eve is the Best Holiday.’And ‘Calm the Serenity.'”
“Curious. Tell me that one.”
“It’s dedicated to you.”
“You don’t say? Plot?”
“It’s about a lady who goes to Alanon. You know how all they talk about at Alanon is serenity?”
“Well, this lady is stressed. She’s trying so hard to be serenity, to be so perfect that the serenity is stressing her out. No one’s perfect mom. She’s looking so hard for serenity it’s making her nuts. So–Calm the Serenity. It’s a good book. I don’t want to ruin it. That’s all I’ll say.”
I think about grace. She takes my breath away, like seeing the exact right billboard on the side of the road, or a vanity plate, or a song on the radio right when I most need it. Grace. Lily has always been my God Whisperer. She asks, “Why am I the only one that knows that when you break something down and down and down, smaller and smaller, all you find is light?” She tells me about the meadows in heaven where she spent so much time between lifetimes. She has God Stories, remembrances of her pre-life, and I beg her to tell me as many as she can remember. She tells me about sitting in God’s lap, a big, fat woman, so kind, so loving, and how she screened for her all the possible mothers she could have.
“Mom, when we came to your picture, God said, ‘Pick her. She’s my favorite.’ So I did.”