It is almost laughable that I am sitting on the couch in one of my favorite places with a small terrier pressed up against me and a calico cat looking on from the far cushion. Anyone that knows me recognizes the absurdity of this scenario.
The only sound is a light purring. Sunlight streams through the window, just missing my eyes.
I do not want to move my body, so I lower my head a bit.
This moment of calm is brought to me by a messy kitchen and a pile of laundry. It comes from an intentional choice to sit and spend time with my words rather than with a broom and dustpan.
The animals recognize this and take full advantage of the space. They live in it. They bring their presence to me, one of them leaning in close. This is how they spend their days, and they invite me to experience their world.
Paws folded, one eye open, Zephyr shifts and snores. She has nowhere to be right now, is in no hurry. Dewey leans closer to me me each time she adjusts.
I want the calm to stay, but I know that it can’t. The day marches on, and I must go with it. So I rise carefully, a habit formed while tending my babies. Let sleeping dogs (and babies and cats) lie.
In a most unusual turn of events, neither one moves, save to adjust for comfort. They curl into parallel balls of fur and sink into sleep. I leave behind an imprint of just that and exit the room, carrying the calm with me.
I am in the middle of the in between. It is a week I have referenced and talked about for two months in various conversations. Now it is here.
Friday was the final day of my husband’s (and if we are totally honest here, mine, as well) 25 year career. No, I was not in attendance all of those days, but I was present for many. I offered behind-the-scenes support. I was affected by early-morning and late-night calls and texts. We were both all in.
Now we are both all in between.
On June 4 Steve begins his new job. Many have asked what’s next? He will be a salesman with Valley Roofing. What about me? I still do not know, though the mothering and home management part of my day take quite a bit of time and energy.
I am confident that the right paying job will present. For now it is summer, school is out, and the best way for me to help with making money is not to spend it. That is easier said than done.
This entire transition has been a complete walk of faith. The past 25 years have been a walk of faith, as well, but stepping out into the unknown in this stage of life has taken courage. It is a decision not made easily or lightly, but it was time.
There was much behind-the-scenes work leading up to this in between place. Many conversations, feelings, lists. When my two cons were fear of the unknown and finances, I knew it was not enough to stay with the status quo.
The ending has been kind, the in between a gift. Walking the dog together this morning, we reflected on the fact that we have never had a season of just us. It has always been us plus all of the responsibilities.
We have accepted that we will never escape responsibility. We have grieved the loss of our youth. Watching our young adults navigate their individual worlds has given us perspective and more words for what we did not have at their ages. These days together this week have given hope for what is possible. For what we do have.
We have a rich life.
This week we savor a space that is not completely ours. It has never been. Little Mae finished school last Friday, and our 19 year old moves out next week. We laughed that we have the youngest of each bunch of babies home with us.
We also have the dog and cat. We are never alone.
I will hold these final in between days as the gift that they are. I will embrace the laughter and tears that spontaneously erupt and slow down to walk to the ducks or watch a movie together at a completely irresponsible time of day. I will celebrate what was and what is to come, rejoicing in the great faithfulness that has brought us to this place.
I’m scrolling and scrolling through my phone for a picture that I should have just snapped when I had the chance but didn’t. And there is not one like it in my storage, so I will have to leave it at that. Sometimes Zephyr is awake.
Just not in these pictures.
Imagine me sitting in a small red Toyota Corolla parked next to the side door of my house, having just dropped off two children at school. It is the middle of the morning drop-off routine. There is one child to go, but there is time, and right now I am alone.
Moments of early morning or late afternoon alone time are rare. They happen in places like my bathroom or the car. In those spaces there is extra time to check an email or finish listening to a song or a news story, depending on the location. There’s a chance to catch my breath. Usually I am fairly undisturbed if I keep it to a reasonable length of time.
This morning I was seizing an extra moment of escape in the car to scroll through some emails and check Facebook before entering the house to engage another person. A thud on the windshield caused me to jump with a start and then laugh. I was looking into the eyes of an unamused senior cat.
Meeeeooooow! Meeeeeeoooow! Rooowwwl! the lecture began.
Zephyr had jumped up onto the hood of the car and was admonishing me through the window for the length of time it was taking to exit the driver’s seat. Having already emerged from her under the porch lair, she was waiting to go inside for breakfast, and I was clearly holding up the process.
Of course! Because when there are not people waiting for the next thing they need from you, there are the animals, and this one is the queen of our castle. She is not to be trifled with!
I wish I had grabbed a picture, and the thought did cross my mind. Instead, I pondered in my heart and filed it away in my brain under the Surprised by Zephyr category.
It’s not even technically summer, yet, but we will call it summer.
School is out, finally and completely finished for everyone. The first morning of us all home together wrung me in the worst of ways. In the span of hours there were tears and heartache and disappointments and relief, and that was just from me.
Each child had his or her own voice to add to the chorus. Fifteen minutes of weeding the side yard and watering the rogue vines growing in the dirt pile out back offered a bit of relief for my soul.
I woke from a nightmare that was morbid and gruesome and disturbing. It’s meaning makes complete sense to me. My brain is full and dumping data on overtime’s schedule. Vivid dreams are one way I deal with overload.
After traveling at breakneck speed for the last weeks, it feels as if my internal emergency brake handle was pulled, leaving emotions to fly forward as I simultaneously jerk them back. The collateral damage felt through my eyes and heart reminds me of the messiness of even the good parts of life.
Day One. Send off adult kids to their own homes on the heels of a big graduation weekend. Process hard places and disappointments and Plan B with newest adult and send him off, as well. Hear the rest of the voices left under the roof, clamoring for attention. Drop one at a friend’s, take the others to the library, make semi-annual contribution to the library’s operating fund in the form of overdue book fees, talk to a sister or two on the phone, read for a little while. Try to write. Feel feelings that are stirring and allow self to cry. Go to quiet corner only to find it claimed by the queen of the house. Sit on bed instead.
I am trying to accept the arrival of summer with open hands. I see the kindness in the chaos and the goodness in the grief. It is only day one. There is time for space to open and for dust to settle and for change to offer perspective, as I feel summer rising.
Because a baby bird got into the house somehow (upstairs? through the attic? into the room remodel?) late Saturday afternoon and was chirping loudly, Coco ran up and corralled it down the stairs and into a corner of the front entryway.
Because Coco tried to pick it up, the baby bird ran under the piano, which is in the front entryway.
Because Daddy tried to move the piano to get to the baby bird, there were a lot of dust bunnies and lost items that had fallen behind it exposed.
Because Daddy captured the bird with a collectible slurpee cup and disposable food container lid and put it outside, little girls were distressed that Zephyr would get it.
Because it was time to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner, so that Mommy and Daddy could have a date night, the bird was left to survive in the wild.
Because the piano was askance, Mommy decided to vacuum and rearrange, and move it to the other wall.
Because that worked out, she moved the screen to make a little practice area for the upcoming piano season.
I posted this caption on Instagram with a picture of me walking a puppy. Yes, we now have a puppy.
And a guinea pig.
And a cat whose world is still rocking.
How did this come about?
Those who know me may be surprised by this news. I am not a fan of animals and certainly not puppies. I have shared my firstborn’s story and her disappointment with not getting a puppy in childhood.
Our cat, Zephyr, eased her way into the family via a friend whose husband was found allergic after a sweet little kitty was brought home. On a completely random note, her visit to the vet alerted me to the fact that this year we are the same age. She is 44 in cat years. I feel however old people years are in cat years!
Back to the puppy.
Child 6 has longed for a puppy just like her big sister. As the littles have grown, the possibility of a dog has been considered. We even watched a friend’s dog for a few days earlier this summer to see what it might be like to have one of our own.
We weren’t considering a puppy.
However, one evening two weeks ago, some serious discussion began surrounding the addition of a dog to our family. Lists were made and cases were made and preferences disclosed.
A puppy entered the equation.
An after-dinner family visit to the SPCA introduced us to Dewey on a Wednesday. The following day found us taking Zephyr to the vet for some last minute catching-up on her vaccines. She was supposed to have gone weeks before but disappeared before her appointment, and we had to reschedule.
Thursday also brought the news that there was a family approved ahead of us in line for Dewey. They had been called to alert them to our pending status and to give them a chance to adopt him first.
This caused much angst in our home Thursday night. Prayers went up that if Dewey was the right dog for our family, we would get him. There were many tears.
Friday morning dawned with Wren arriving to be watched for the day. This plan had been on the calendar before the possibility of our own puppy was even a thought. My daughter gave me wise advice and alerted me as to how the dogs might interact if we did, indeed, get Dewey that day.
The little girls and I loaded up in the van at 9:30 to be sure to arrive at the SPCA before the doors opened at 10:00. We sat in the parking lot, waiting.
There was much trepidation when another car pulled in a few minutes later, only to find that it was Daddy in the little car. I was grateful for the moral support.
When the doors opened, we were the first ones in, turning in our completed paperwork. We were approved and Dewey was still there, waiting for us to bring him home.
Which we did.
Introducing Dewey, our terrier-mix puppy. He was 2 and a half months old when we got him from the SPCA and is an answer to all kinds of different prayers, ultimately working together for the good of our family.