far too much writing, far too many photos

Written yesterday, Tuesday, around 4 p.m.:

My friends -– Grey, Maria and their two daughters (Georgiana Rose, 4 years old; Madeline, 1 year 3 months old) -– drove into Montpelier two hours ago, leaving me time to clean partially-chewed children’s food off numerous surfaces and reflect on the home invasion that commenced with their arrival 24 hours ago.

I will state right off the bat that, as far as I know, I have in this life produced no kids, in large part due to me having my hands full with my own, er, actuality in my earlier years. The mere thought of trying to raise one or more little souls while my own life wobbled along on shaky legs makes me want to offer profuse, heartfelt thanks to the universe for not putting me in that position. So I’m a stranger to that particular country, the land of parents and kids. Every now and then representatives from that principality come calling and I’m given a glimpse of existence there, after which I find myself wanting to fall on my metaphoric knees to give further thanks. ‘Cause I’d be a godawful parent, I think, at least as a full-time gig.

So my guests arrive, my house is suddenly busy with people, strewn with other humans’ possessions. Two kids have taken over much of the space. The older child, Georgiana, won’t talk to me, won’t look at me if I’m looking at her. If she has something to say, she whispers it in a parental ear. If I say something nice to her or ask a question, she maintains a determined stare at some other point in the room or out a window. The younger one, Maddy, is in full force-of-nature mode, motoring around the space tirelessly, pulling on any handle she can find, opening any closed cabinet door, closing any open one, removing any item that catches her eyes from tabletops or storage spaces. She developed a circuit: around the kitchen, investigating whatever caught her eye, then through the dining room, stopping at a cabinet to try to grab two answering machine cassette tapes stored there before anyone could stop her, then to a kleenex box to grab two or three tissues, rub them against her nose, drop them to the floor. After grabbing another tissue or two, she’d continue into the living room to a small fountain I have there, marveling at the water, putting her hands in it and displaying wet fingers to anyone glancing in her direction, a wide open-mouthed grin plastered on chubby-cheeked face. Then over to the stereo cabinet to shut the glass door (which unfortunately needs to be left ajar if the equipment’s in use to prevent overheating, since the cabinet has no real ventilation in the rear)(how’s that for brilliant design, huh?). A minute or two of smearing her hands all over the glass, studying it closely, then she’d continue deeper into the living room to stuff a used kleenex between the cushions of the couch, maybe stop at the shelves that hold cassette tapes (from the pre-CD era when I actually listened to cassette tapes), grab one or two to take on her travels. Then back into the kitchen door to begin the cycle all over again or down the hall to the bathroom, bedrooms or large rooms at the other end of the house, currently being used for storage, before returning to the kitchen.

Once in a while an adult would disrupt that routine to direct her attention elsewhere, take her outside, change her diapers if necessary. She’s a sturdy baby, that Maddy, consuming an impressive quantity of food to maintain her current hefty physique and rigorous level of activity. She’s also the first toddler I’ve ever met who snores.

Meanwhile, Georgie -– beautiful, bright, almost five, reminiscent of my niece at that age (also beautiful and bright) — had rediscovered a pack of crayons I keep here for visiting young ones, which Maddy quickly noted. Between the two of them, they maintained near-constant possession of the crayons, Georgie generally using them as crayons, Maddy as a combo talisman/worry-bead kind of deal. I’d find crayons scattered around the living space, put them back into their pack, a minute or two later little hands were tossing them under furniture again.

Two full-time jobs, these kids — sweet, funny, full of developing life, but full-time jobs. My buddy Grey gets up early, works long days away from the house, then returns home to help with the kids. Maria told me he falls asleep reading to Georgie before her bedtime. I can see why.

With all of that, you’d think I’d be glad to have the space back to myself. And I am. At the same time I miss all that life, that energy. When they left earlier today, I guided them through a network of dirt roads to Route 2 where they headed east to New Hampshire. The first thing I noticed upon my return to the house was how quiet it was, how empty it felt.

It’s an interesting life, filled with contrasts and seeming contradictions. I would not trade it for anything.

******

An addendum, written today:

When I went to bed last night, I could hear Maddy snoring in the bedroom across from mine. This morning she was up at dawn, running from one end of the house to the other, heavy, rambunctious steps fading into the distance then rushing back, accompanied by wordless sounds of toddler joy. Tonight when I hit the sack the only soundtrack will be cricketsong drifting in the open windows. Right now that’s sounding pretty good.

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