I’m sitting on my cousin’s screened-in porch watching Lucille swim. Lucille swims like a fish. She looks as though she’s drowning but she’s actually a really good swimmer. Eliza, sans a bathing suit top, is splashing around with her.
“It’s just so much more comfortable without a top,” she says. She jumps high, grabs her knees and shouts “stupid rules!” before she disappears into the water.
We are at the end of a two-week vacation to the Carolinas and I can’t help but think this last day by the pool is a perfect ending. My cousin and her partner are the last in a long line of family who have tended us these past few weeks. They’ve fed us, taken us in and watched our children. From clean sheets to biscuits and gravy, my family has taken care of us. I’m lucky that way. I have a good family. Blended and sprawling as it is, they congregate when we come to visit. They rally, they entertain, they bring me to the brink of perspective. And lately I’ve needed a little perspective.
For the past month or so I’ve been a little off and, though I’m trying, I can’t put my finger exactly on why. It’s not all consuming but there is something brewing just under the surface that’s asking for my attention, the only trouble is I don’t know what it is.
But I do know this: Sometimes it feels as though we move from one obligation to the next, that we are caught on a never-ending hamster’s wheel of not-so-satisfying shoulds. We try hard to look up but we are exhausted. Sometimes I feel like this married with children game is rigged.
So I took stock this trip: Is it Seth? No. Our relationship doesn’t always translate into skipping through daisies but 10 years in I don’t want to be skipping or stumbling with anyone else. Is it motherhood? Honestly, I’ve asked myself this question. On the contrary, I find I want to drink them in, slow down time just a bit because they are suddenly lanky and growing more beautiful by the day. Is it work? Well, certainly work is part of it. At least that part is clear.
What comes next is hard, the unraveling of a ball of something that is a little scary. What do I do with this gnawing in my gut? How do I tend to the fire in my belly that isn’t getting a lot of attention, that’s been largely backburnered this year, and still pay the bills? Every time I go down this rabbit hole I think about
Eliza standing at the edge of the pool. Stupid rules.
A few days ago someone commented to Eliza that she should be a veterinarian because she is so tender with animals. She shrugged it off.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked her for the first time ever.
“Ehh, I dunno,” she said.
“Yeah, me either,” I said.
“Mom, you’re already a writer,” she said.
“I guess you’re right kiddo,” I said.
“Well you are,” she said always needing to have the last word. She said it as though it was decided and simple. For one brief moment I let myself believe that was decided, simple, wildly complicated yet totally doable. And maybe that’s what this whole trip has been about, one moment that I’m clawing my way back to.