Several weeks back I had a do over kind of day.
The kind of day that went north when I wanted to head south. That turned up its volume when my ears coveted for mute. When I wanted the frippery particulars of the day to bow gracefully to my demands and fall kindly into place with no dispute or dissent , but in reality every detail of the day seemed to be in revolt against my waving wand.
Not in some colossal way like I had run out of food or oxygen. But in one of those selfish woe is me kind of ways. The dog runs off. One or more children takes a crap on me and I realize I am out of toilet paper and wipes. Roman uses my underwear as a sling shot for his angry birds because school is out and he is bored. I have my agenda. My agenda gets sucked up in the vacuum of life when I get a call that it is indeed Nicholas’ last day of school and I need to pick him up—this my friends, is not on my agenda.
I cancel a doctor’s appointment for Roman’s yearly checkup and regard all speed limit signs as suggestions not laws. I pull up to the school and wiggle my too big SUV into a too small spot, not thinking that it will now be almost impossible to get out of the car. After wriggling out of my door, crushing my intestines in order to exit, I grab the kids one by one with just as much awkwardness and head into the school to get Nicholas. There he is wide eyed with budding tears comprised of half joy and sadness—‘tis the last day of school. My heart whimpers at his nostalgia for the year past, but to be honest I am still thinking about how my day is heading anywhere but where I have tried to steer it.
Waiting on Nicholas to pack up his school bag that looks like it belongs to a homeless person not a soon to be ten year old. Roman running up and down the halls because he really needs to two things 1) a schedule 2) to be on a treadmill 3o minutes a day minimum, but for now his 4o yard dashes down the hallway will suffice because today has felt a little bit like it’s fallen out of my grasp, actually around 7 am when there was no coffee it fell flat out of my grip.
Nicholas with his wide smile and bold café au lait eyes, begs, “May I ppplllleeeassseee go to the pool party?” Confused and bewildered, I ask for clarification, “What pool party.??” All I could think was, I had just canceled a doctor’s appointment, played bumper cars to get here in time to pick his hiney up just so he could tell me he wanted to go somewhere else?” I almost got lost in my selfishness only for Jesus to whisper ever so resolutely, Lindsay, calm down. So I took a deep lungful of air and grasped for some extra grace for him and myself. Let. It. Go. Just be thankful he even got to go to school here.
It’s 11:00 a.m. Doctor’s appointment canceled. Restless 4 year old with flying energy that has nowhere to land. Hungry baby whose mama has driven her from here to kingdom come in one of those hot, Closter phobic inducing car seats all morning. This is what life is made of…the little things that don’t go our way that remind us that we aren’t so big after all. Or at least that is what I chant to myself on the way home.
I am watering my flowers, dazed into their petals pushing back one by one, blooming in their own manner, their own master—never looking to the other flowers for approval only burgeoning in their individuality…. and I gaze at them wishing I was a little more like them. Then right when I am lost in thought over nothing and everything…. vroom,vroom.
It’s Seth’s big ole blue truck. He has come home early, with Nicholas in tow. Seth steps his size 14 feet onto the sweltering pavement, slamming his dense door wearing his seersucker shorts and big smile as another car rolls by windows tinted midnight black to hide some kind of mischief, rap music blaring so loud the reverberation sends the birds airborne the other direction. I smile at the sweet ironies of living on this street. Seersucker and rap. That sums it up right there.
Seth, his deep voice rising up and out of the encircling humid air glances at me with a knowing smile then nods northeast to Nicholas as he waits to open the front gate, “Well, son, tell her what happened today.” I am holding the hose half limp in my right hand, pouring two parts hydrogen one part oxygen onto my petunias now bowed by the heat. I stop. I now bow.
Oh no. oh no.
If any of you had read about Nicholas, you know that we have had some challenging times. Getting involved in his life has been rewarding but there have been many days I have wanted to quit, sometimes walk away and tell myself, “it’s not my problem.” Isn’t that what we all want to do when people get too messy to deal with…? I’ll be honest sometimes I just want to put money in an offering plate and be done. I don’t mind hearing about those that have less during a Sunday sermon or even visiting them for a day or two—I just don’t want to see or touch the poor and needy on a daily basis because they like all of us are muddled and complicated. But to walk away would be to give up and I can’t give up, God has not given up on my flawed –to- the- hilt self.
I brace myself for the impending news, bend my the wire rim of my hat into a gentle backbend, drops of soil dribbling down off my tattered gloves onto my flushed face, I now can visibly behold Nicholas’ delighted face, his coffee eyes bulging at the thought of sharing whatever it is that his heart is holding . What do you need to tell me?
Nicholas so eager his speech has turned into exuberant spluttering, his excitement uncontainable. His words are now wobbling with delight. He then stammers out these verbal morsels:
Today I saw to Dr. Graham (the headmaster ) in the hallway and I ran up to her and gave her a BIG hug. I told her thank you so much for pulling strings for me to get into Covenant so I could have a future one day. I told her I really, really appreciated all she had done. You know what, Lindsay? She started crying. After the graduation of sixth graders she told someone what I said to her and they decided right then and there to pay for the rest of my school for next year.”
Mercy fall on me now.
Ashamed. Tail tucked. Head hunched.
Here I am frustrated about my stupid day, which is a gift within itself, exasperated about what next year will look like for Nick, wondering if this is worth all the driving back and forth each day, trying to instill in him a love for learning that at time seems poisoned with apathy.
And in all our trying to do this and trying to do that, here I was learning from this fourth grader. While he may not be eager to read Shakespeare yet, and he still has his days when laziness is his worst enemy, and God love him he forgets his uniform more than I do my keys—he did indeed learn something this last year that most adults still have failed to grasp.
In the words of my husband as we all bordered around the patio table and ate dinner by the pool that night, “Gratitude will get you really far in life.”
Because gratitude simply means you are mindful that life is not just about you. Selfishness breads an empty life. It asphyxiates our purpose. It makes our problems are identity. But, gratitude….
Gratitude resuscitates life with newness and faith. It opens closed doors. Finds what is dying deep within in us and revives. The greatest moments to be breathed are the ones that are inhaled with gratefulness. And for me, that is a lesson I am still learning.
ps. thank you to all that gave money back in December for Nick–i have no idea who you are but God does and i am sooooooo thankful! And thank you Ms. Goodman for being the best, most patient teacher there is…we LOVE you.
ps. here are some no- rhyme -or -reason pictures for your entertainment or boredom…you choose:)
roman and posey grocery shopping on Sunday a.k.a…waiting on free cookies:)