For years now when I’m feeling restless I act out a Robert Earl Keen song and drive into town. I cruise once down Main Street and turn back around. Arlee doesn’t really have a Main Street but it has a main drag and when I feel the need to get out of the house on a winter evening or a summer afternoon I turn my car toward that tiny town, make the big turn toward the gas station and let the mountains fall away behind me.
Last night I was on train exhausted-from-traveling and Eliza and Lucille were on train been-stuck-together-too-long. Both trains were barreling recklessly toward each other headed for a collision. Chaos and mayhem awaited us all. Earlier in the day Eliza and I had had maybe the worst tussle we’ve ever had. Shouting and tears on a neighborhood street corner, gritted teeth and threats. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t proud of how I’d acted. Someone has to be the grownup right? Well, not yesterday on the sidewalk on the Northside.
So by the time we finally got home I agreed to a show on Netflix and left my children on the couch while I watered the garden. Standing there, hose in hand, watering kale and carrots I could barely see because two weeks of weeds threatened to overtake the whole space, I thought about the diametric pulls in our lives. Living in the country while our whole lives are in town. Finding time for our family while being active members of our community. Fueling the embers of long-distance yet fundamental relationships with parents, grandparents and family I wish we saw more of. My own desire to be with my children in meaningful ways while answering a deepening need to do something for myself. Is that ambition? Desperation? A little bit of both?
I have been a stay-at-home-mom on and off for almost six years. I have worked from home, worked part time and even, for a stint, worked full time. But through all of this, my children have taken priority even to the point of making myself really, really sick. Sometimes I feel like their doormat and they are only four and five. How will I feel when they are teenagers? What can I do now to avoid the wave of resentment that will surly come if I stay on this path?
Some days I feel as though I’m completely in the service of my children. I take them places, make sure they have play dates with friends they love, long bike rides by the river and healthy snacks along the way to swimming. I forgo my own runs or dates with friends to make sure my kids aren’t over stimulated or too tired or that they have enough unstructured play at home.
I’m deeply tired and it isn’t just because we traveled for most of June.
So last night I cruised once down Main Street. As I drove into Arlee I saw the weekly farmer’s market there. I almost didn’t stop thinking I needed to get home then I thought better of it and pulled my car into a parking spot. Always a sucker for farmer’s markets, flea markets and junk shops, I walked around the booths smelling flowers and fingering cherry tomatoes. I stopped and talked to a woman I’ve known for years, one who once offered to come sit with me while I was having a miscarriage so many years ago. I didn’t know her well then, she’s just that kind of person. I talked to a local lady about a strawberry pie and the quilts she’d made, to another about pageboy hats and then another about birds’ nests. I bought a handful of flowers and left feeling a little renewed.
As I headed home I breathed deep the sweet pea bouquet and my shoulders eased a bit. It was small. But it was something.