Friday, June 03, 2005

Why I haven't written

I haven't written in a few days. Why? Because I was descended on by family, that's why. I have come to think of these visits as being produced by the gods and goddesses, a sitcom titled "Be Careful What You Wish", because while I am blessed with my family, I am also burdened by them. They're all sitting around somewhere (the gods and goddesses that is, not my family) maybe up at Mt. Olympus or perhaps the local Pantheon Tavern, drinking wine, popping grapes (or if they're keeping up with the times, popping jalepeno poppers and nachos) and laughing at the antics of that wacky but lovable family, the Zekas'.

Not that I'd have it any other way, mind you. It's simply that I'm a bit rusty on the ability to juggle seven people all the while enjoying the sights and sounds of the circus. When the kids were younger, it came as naturally as breathing. I discovered somewhere along the way that immersing myself in the process, not fighting it, gave the most bountiful returns both to my family and myself. As each child grew up and took flight, as I stood on the edge of the nest with my heart trying to leap out of my chest and follow them, I was sure the empty spot they left behind would be hard to fill.

It wasn't. Well, okay, at first it was. I had to rewrite the concept of family to see us as a network rather then a nest. I had to learn to use the phone to tuck them all in instead of being able to bend over them in bed. I had to learn as well as they did that their decision making abilities worked pretty good out there in the real world and that when it didn't, they were as entitled to make their own mistakes as I was at their age. But learn I, we, did and as each kid went off to write their own stories, I found that I recovered my center a lot faster. Not because it was less poignant, certainly not because I loved each child less, but because I'd discovered that that empty hole wasn't left empty for long. There were other chapters of my own life to write, and I have discovered as much anticipation and pleasure in creating this stage of my life as I did the ones already ready for the memory books.

So, when the kids come back, and they do, they don't slip into the spaces they left behind. Instead, they come in and fill up the day to overflowing, crowding out the regular routines and schedules of those of us still here, the naturally occuring pauses and patterns we use to pace ourselve through the day.

It's usually the same process each time. First there's the excitement of their arrival, then the feelings of being overwhelmed with coordinating everyone. Often the kids come home in need of a "fill up" emotionally. Eventually everyone slows down or at least it starts to feels like it. I find I'm finding my groove, getting a rhythm, and relaxing into the new full house routines. Finally, the "family fix" filling up for everyone, both visiting and staying family, we all begin to realize that there's things to get back to - school, appointments, sleeping in one's own bed. Yet by the time goodbye's are looming I'm not sure whether I want help them pack or cajole them into just a few more hours, a few more days.

When the last kisses are kissed and waves are waved and I walk back into the house and shut the door, the house once again has a big empty hole, the vacuum of the kid's departures hissing loudly in my ears. Usually I launch into something "normal" - reading e-mail, working in the garden, going out for coffee with a friend - and in a few hours, the quiet is friendly and soothing once again. I like to think this is the way it should be - a healthy need to be together and an equally healthy need to be apart.

The gods sure do love to watch us zany characters dance though, don't they.


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