We are far from the land of pickles and popsicle-sticks, the city of sun-drenched beaches and dog shit. Very far. In the 6688 miles we have traveled, we have gone from pickles and popsicle-sticks to maple leaves and salmon; muddy buddies… and socks.
The power struggles with Liliana over putting on socks before going outside over the last month have elicited that monstrous creature (that crazed me) that was the subject of a previous post. I yell “We’re in Canada now” to my toddler’s pointed declarations: “No, I only wear socks on airplanes.” I suspect that part of the reason that I get so mental during these recurring episodes is that I too am going through an adjustment period. Because I too want to wear socks only on airplanes. Sebastian and I play a game of “Rose and Thorn” every night at bedtime, recounting the best and worst parts of our day. Socks, quite frankly, are my thorn.
I’m working on the perspective thing. Got a pair of sexifying boots. And long sweater tunics. That helps. Mostly though, I think it’s a matter of time. Seeing my fabulous “wintry” reflection in the downtown store windows enough times. Or no longer noticing it at all.
Perspective and positive attitude are things I dish out liberally to my children (“socks are wonderful, they keep our feet warm, look at these flowers, and colorful stripes”), while trying hard to internalize them myself.
A couple weeks ago, a week short of his fifth birthday, Sebastian had a bad fall. It was a running “face meets street curb” affair. Intense crying. Profuse bleeding. A fire truck, ambulance, two teddy bears, hospital emergency room, and a balloon glove later, I was home tucking him in bed. I spoke of unexpected occurrences and pointed out both negative and positive varieties. I introduced the idea of positive and negative within the same mix.
We played our ritual game of Rose and Thorn. Through his lacerated lip and lacerated gum, Sebastian beamed, naming a string of roses: the nice women that helped us and called an ambulance, the teddy bear from the firemen, the teddy bear from the ambulance, the ride in the ambulance, the secret code to Emergency, the balloon glove from the doctor… And your thorn, I asked, anticipating the apparent answer. “That I fell”, he said. But a moment later he revised his version: “actually, that I fell was my rose!” My heart stirred: here was a kid, not yet 5, who was able to perceive the mixed bag that life hands you, the bitter along with the sweet. And to experience a sense of gratitude for the bitter – from which emerges the sweet (there is a Hebrew expression that intones: me’az yetze matok מעז יצא מתוק – from bitterness sweetness will emerge). All the good stuff (the ambulance, fire truck, teddy bears etc), this child understood, would not have occurred had it not been for that awful fall. And that was enough to turn the fall on its head and make it into a good thing. A simple shift in perspective.
That same evening, hungry and too exhausted to prepare a meal, I had a fight with Lance over not having/planning/eating complete nutritious meals. He’d made himself a salad, I’d have been happy with a bowl of cereal but was too tired to even bother, yet hoped he would lovingly serve me his hale and hearty melange. It was one of those unsettling and unsettled arguments. Of the recurring sort. Each of us saying our part, not really meeting, duty-bound to come up with some sketch of an arrangement, acknowledging one another’s intent, but not probing the design, ok, let’s make an effort, work it out, can’t talk about this anymore, too tired, kind of episode.
A few days later, Sebastian’s energetic and buoyant voice floats across the kitchen table: “this is the best mac ‘n cheese EVER i the whole wide world” (הכי בעולם). I didn’t know if to laugh or cry. At that moment, I felt like the worst mom. And the best. Worst wife? Best mom? Horrible both? Never mind. The final response was a twinge of gratitude. For my family. And a dose of perspective. I smiled through the tears.
And began to think about smiles. And tears. Kids do a lot of that. Smiling and tearing. Their experience seems to be pointed, discrete, simple: hitting one another and sobbing one moment, sharing and laughing the next. Liliana: “you’re annoying”(אתה מעצבן); Sebastian: “you’re crazy”(את משוגעת). Both quite accurate assessments, I concede.
“I won’t be your friend ever ever ever ever”(אף אף אף אף פעם) turns, in the span of moments, into a train-ride in strung-together-boxes where conductor and passenger are in perfect harmony, charting out their itinerary to Israel, Russia, Mexico, Hawaii, Canada (that is Vancouver), Nanoose Bay and Victoria.
Us big people have our own version of tears and smiles, fighting and making up/out. We have our own flow. But its variety is different. Ours is more muddled, more nuanced, more complex. Protracted. And still, the wonder of time’s flow is absorbing.
A couple evenings ago Sebastian turned to me and asked (over a good balanced meal!): “Does air die?” Um, no, air doesn’t die. “Then I want to be air and not Sebastian, because then I’ll never die”. But air doesn’t have a family and thoughts and feelings and a girlfriend named Luka. That appeased him for a while. Maybe our rose is that our days our numbered and that our relationships are precious.
They are what we must take the time for. And when they get out of whack, time will traverse the distance with us. Whether it appears to be compressed or extended – time I suppose — does its thing. And we wait it out. Because we need to believe that from the bitter, sweet will emerge: that the thorn will expose a rose.