We wake the kids earlier than usual to observe the lunar eclipse. Emerging from sleep, the 10yo mumbles, “Why is it still dark outside?” By the time we are all in the yard, the moon is sinking into a bank of clouds. We miss seeing the earth’s shadow but the moonset is still quietly breath-taking. Then I grab my camera and turn east to chase down the sunrise. I like chasing light, no matter its source.
Tea and egg casserole for breakfast. The husband informs me a work crew will be starting their unshingling of our hailed-on, totaled-out roof this morning. Later I overhear the roofers cursing outside the window about an infestation of wood ants. They also butcher one of our trees due to its close proximity to the house, and it annoys me. Leave the trees be. I’ve got Lorax blood in me.
Piling in the car to deliver the 7yo to school, I tell one of the crew that he looks like a modern-day pirate. “Maybe I am,” he replies. With two hoops on both ears, a white mustache and goatee, narrow eyes that shine through shocking blue, a shaved head with scars across the right forehead and temple, he has the weathered look of a man who’s been on a lot of seas…or roofs. The teacher at the 7yo’s school is a few minutes late so I chat with another mom and realize we’ve attended the same church for the last five years and I’ve never seen her.
The 3yo and I head to a bookstore to return an Anna doll (Frozen? Ever heard of it?) that I found five bucks cheaper elsewhere. I ask the teenage cashier to please not take the doll out of the bag (so the 3yo won’t see it) and she replies plainly, “We’re going to have to take it out of the bag.” Seriously? I distract the 3yo with impulse items. Then we mosey to the coffee shop and I order an almond croissant, a hot chocolate, and a “tall single-espresso with two shots of mocha” because I am a moron when it comes to espresso. As we wait, the 3yo does the candy dance, extolling the loveliness of every confection at the counter. She also requests to push buttons on the card reader. The barista hands me a cup with less than an inch of liquid, two-thirds of it mocha syrup; it’s sickeningly sweet. An older woman at a nearby table approaches me. She says she liked watching Larkin’s and my interactions; she is impressed that my child didn’t throw a fit about not getting candy. I laugh and reply, “Oh, she can definitely throw a fit!” I had noticed the woman and her male companion as well, so I say so. “Your husband?” I ask. She says they’ve been together 48 years and her smile grows. “What’s your trick?” She shrugs, then says, “Best friends.” “Since the very beginning?” “Yep.” That’s the last thing she says to me before they leave.
We head to Target to buy birthday gifts for friends. Larkin wants to push more buttons on more card readers. Driving home through the middle of town, we pass a college campus whose focal point is a towering chapel. “What’s that?” she asks. When I describe it as a church building, she says, “To sing and pray?” I say yes and she replies, “I want to go there with Mommy and Daddy and Rowan and Sissy and Grammy and Pa and Mimi.” “Why?” I ask her. “Because you like singing and praying?” She shakes her head no, then says, “I just like to dance.” I laugh out loud.
Downtown we drop a few books at the library and I feel guilt when she asks to check out more and I say no. We step into the chocolate store and buy treats for a friend with a newborn, stopping by their house on the way home to meet the barely-week-old bundle of sugar. Back at our residence crawling with roofers (and wood ants, evidently), I get a notice from the 10yo’s school that he is missing a vaccine. Our contractor drops off paint swatches and asks me to pick out a new color by the next day. A friend living in Colorado texts: “I can’t tell you how often I think ‘Jana would love it here.’ Or ‘that’s so Jana.’ The hippie, laid-back, organic, farm-to-table, small-town granola vibe makes me really think you and Durango are perfect for each other. And I’m not just saying that because I wish you were here for my sake. It reminds me of you. Like a mini-Austin, in the mountains.” I ask her to please stop texting me such things because I really want out of this place right now. If you’ve ever lived in Abilene for extended periods of time, you might be familiar with the feeling of wanting to get the heck out. Or maybe if you’ve ever just wanted to hit the re-start button on some aspect of your life.
We lunch and hit the road again to pick up sister. The 7yo’s teacher asks someone to take a picture of the class to celebrate their butterfly release. A grandmother offers but I’m in front of her, closer to the camera, so I take it. All the parents are standing around, quiet, and grandma says, “Just hold down the button and take a bunch.” I know she’s trying to help but when I hold the button down it doesn’t take a burst of pics and then I’m embarrassed about my apparent lack of iPhone skills. I think about the moment for way too long on our drive to Hobby Lobby. The girls flit around on the fake flower aisle, then we stroll over to look at paints. And of course they both need to use the restroom. I’d rather pee in the grass on the side of the highway with my fanny flapping in the wind than use a public loo. But I’m not the one who has to pee, so in we go. Back out on the paint aisle, I find a set of watercolors. Painting with a friend the weekend before has lit a fire under my…easel. For years I’ve been hoping for a more convenient time (I’ve been a little busy this last decade, alright?), but have recently decided…I’ve just gotta do it. Can’t wait for a studio or a class or a better time or anything anymore. Just gotta do it. I stand in the checkout line – the looooong, slooooow line that is Hobby Lobby checkout – and finally give up because I’ve got to get to the other side of town to pick-up the 10yo from school.
After pick-up, we drive to the bookstore on the university campus near our house. With homecoming only a few days away, I want a new t-shirt sporting the name of my alma mater. The 7yo locates some over-sized foam fingers and hilarity ensues. When we step back outside, we spot a couple monarch butterflies; the 7yo chases after them, all the way across the lawn. I sit down in the grass and observe her joy. After she makes her way back to where we’re lounging, she and her siblings start throwing acorns at each other, then me. They say they want lemonade. We buy some inside the campus center, but the 10yo expresses irritation that I didn’t also purchase french fries. I say something like, “Drop the attitude, my friend”, and he replies, deadpan, “I’m not your friend. I’m your son.” Lemonade privilege gone. Firstborn mad. We sit on a couple benches and a sorority pledge stops by, apologizing for the chant she’s “required” to yell three times. The kids are so confused.
We head home, and the roofers all want to make sure I know that they have ERADICATED THE WOOD ANTS. Inside I assemble homemade potato salad to accompany the barbeque chicken I’ve made for dinner. Brandon comes home and we deliver a portion to a friend across town. I love the way my 7yo and my friend’s daughter hug each other. We admire their days-old kittens, a ball of mewing fur in their garage. The 3yo throws a squalling fit when it’s time to leave.
Back at home, because of a certain child’s lack of manners at the table, I leave and finish dinner in my room by myself. Sitting on the loveseat I glance over at the mirror and notice in its reflection a photo by Brandon’s side of the bed. It’s of me from over ten years ago. My squint lines are much less defined, before the days of kids, anxiety, insomnia, and significant friendship fall-out. My fourth decade has been my most life-altering thus far, in so many ways. I go say goodnight to the kids, lying down on the bed next to the 3yo. She wraps her arm around my face and whispers in my ear, “You are my beautiful girl.” Something in me melts.