Coming Back to Life

Daylight! We have daylight again! I have missed it so much. It might even have been worth losing that hour of sleep earlier this week just to be able to end my workday with the sun still streaming through the window. I know it’s not just me. The past few months have felt darker than most years. It’s amazing what a little natural light can do to lift the spirits!

It’s funny how the changing seasons can transform the same patch of sky that I see every single morning from my windows. Day after day, there’s a new piece of artwork inside the same frame.

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter by the day. I can breathe again and can’t seem to get outside enough to soak in all of this nearly-spring weather. Lucy and I have been going for walks after work. She’s a little bit out of shape and needs the exercise. And even my four-legged baby senses the renewal taking place, displaying her funny sense of exuberance. As we trek through the neighborhood, she gallops as far as her leash will allow, and sniffs every patch of grass, every stray leaf, every place her nose can reach. As soon as she feels the leash go a bit slack, she bursts forth again in the hopes of more new scents, more sights to see. When her initial energy wanes, she slows to a prance, her head held high, searching right to left, up and down, making sure she doesn’t miss a thing.

I’m seeing people again, a friend in the neighborhood strolling out to the mailbox who flags me over to catch up for a few minutes. There are little kids playing in driveways who don’t know me but who eagerly shout, Hi! Hi! Hi! and wave frantically as Lucy and I pass by. I smile and wave back and Lucy’s tongue lolls out of her mouth as she considers them for the briefest moment before pulling me forward. Birds chirping. Squirrels racing. Geese honking. I have missed all of this during the long quiet we’ve just been through.

Things are slowly returning to normal. I worried that this Easter would be another lonely pandemic holiday. But I am so grateful it won’t be. We can gather together again. A bit. Normally, holiday preparations stress me out while I impossibly try to make everything perfect and conjure up expectations that can’t possibly be met. Now, as I plan to host Easter brunch with my immediate and some extended family, I’ve discarded any ideas of perfection. I’m not complaining to myself that no one else offered to host a gathering at their homes (again.) No. Like Lucy, I’m exuberant. I have missed life. I’ve missed my people. I won’t soon take either for granted again.

Waiting for my Grandbaby

Jaeger sent a message out to the family in a group text earlier this week. “We got us a thumb sucker!” It said.

My oldest son’s words were accompanied by an ultrasound photo. Apparently he and Camping Girl had been to the doctor that morning. I myself had never had an ultrasound back in the day. I had uneventful pregnancies, and at that time, if all was well, then no ultrasound. The gender of each of my own children was unknown to Jack and I until the moment each made their entrance into the world.

I marveled at the picture Jaeger had shared. Ultrasound photos have come such a long way! I could clearly make out the shape of our granddaughter’s tiny little head and the curve of her back. She held her arm at an upward angle, her hand splayed open and four delicate little fingers pointed straight towards her nose. Her thumb, as Jaeger had said, was presumably in her little bitty mouth. I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes.

She’s not even here yet and already I am so in love with this baby girl. My granddaughter. My granddaughter! My oldest son is going to be a daddy and he is absolutely giddy. He and Camping Girl are going to be such amazing parents. As for me, I’m already buying adorable baby girl clothes. I can’t help myself! Jaeger will balance out the wardrobe some. He’s already got a camouflage outfit and a matching pair of Crocs for baby girl.

Staring at the photo, I was filled with emotions. Particularly after a year that’s been so dark, she is a bright and shining star making her way into our world. I cannot wait to meet her, to hold her, to kiss her sweet cheeks, to tell her how much she is loved.

I remember having my own babies, the anxious anticipation, the sometimes panicky sense that we didn’t know what we were doing, and wondering who in their right mind decided we’d make good parents. (Although, I’m glad Someone did. Being a mom has been one of my life’s greatest joys.) I remember one particular evening shortly after Jaeger was born. Jack had gone back to work – on the night shift – for the first time since Jaeger’s birth. I was alone for the first time with my newborn, sitting in my living room and holding him in my arms, thinking how perfect he was and feeling my heart about to burst with the love I had for him. I can still picture the fuzzy yellow sleeper he was wearing (because of course, we hadn’t known ahead of time whether we should buy blue sleepers or pink ones.) I started crying as I sat cradling my baby. I was thinking about how difficult this world can be and I was feeling guilty for bringing him into it. Of course, I later realized I was probably suffering a small bit of postpartum depression. For Jaeger, the world and life have turned out to be a pretty good adventure so far. As for Jack and I, we managed to navigate parenting fairly successfully. Everyone made it out of childhood alive!

While I stared at my granddaughter in the ultrasound photo, I had some of those same feelings of dread that I’d experienced when her daddy was a newborn. This world! It’s going downhill so quickly! How can I not worry about all that this precious child faces once she arrives here?

But then I thought about how my parents must have had those same fears, just as my grandparents must have, and all of the generations before them. And yet somehow in spite of it all, tiny humans keep arriving here. We do our best to protect them, and the world just keeps on turning. In spite of life’s inevitable difficulties, hurts and fear, we continue to find joy, create beauty, and experience love. And if, like the song says, all you need is love – then our precious girl is going to be just fine. Because I have no doubt whatsoever that she will be loved beyond imagination.

Winter at the Cabin

For years, Jack and I struggled to make time to go to his family’s cabin in the summers. We’ve always loved to go to the lake, but we had kids in sports for many years which meant that evenings and weekends often found us sitting and cheering at a ball field. Jack’s job was sometimes a roadblock as well with its rotating schedule that kept him at work every other weekend. Then my parents’ health began failing and their need for help became a priority over up-north escapes.

But the years passed by, the kids grew up, my parents passed on, and Jack’s work situation changed. Suddenly we had time again to get away to the lake, to unplug, to commune with nature and simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings of my father-in-law’s happy place. We have made a true effort to get there more often lately, to make use of it and help manage the upkeep the way Jack’s dad would have wanted us to do.

The cabin is a rustic dwelling and lacks many of the conveniences we enjoy at home. To be honest, that’s part of its charm. It’s small but it has a big farm table to accommodate the large extended family. There’s no cable television, (so get outside and play!) The rooms are few but there are many places to sleep. Just don’t expect any privacy. There’s no central air conditioning; just a small window unit used only on those days when the air is truly stifling and it’s too hot to sleep. There’s no furnace, but there’s a small stove to heat things up in the fall when the guys gather for hunting trips.

Jack and I have never gone to the cabin in the winter. The conveniences are even fewer during the cold and snowy months. Since the cabin isn’t occupied on a regular basis, the water and heat are shut off after hunting season. That’s not to say that we can’t go in the winter. It just takes a more effort. It takes a couple of hours for the cabin to heat up to a comfortable level, and using the bathroom means walking outside – day or night – to use an outhouse.

Last summer while spending time at the lake with extended family, the talk turned to planning some winter trips. The idea took hold and last weekend, we made it happen.

I’m often guilty of having expectations that are too high, ending up disappointed when things don’t play out as perfectly as I imagine. As the weekend drew near, I daydreamed of perfect weather that would ensure snow on the ground but not too much. I wished for temperatures cold enough to maintain the snow cover and to keep the ice strong on the lake, but not so cold that we’d be forced back inside. I envisioned all of my kids and their significant others being able to join us. And I pictured all of us frolicking outside happily until we were exhausted and starving for one of those simple cabin dinners that always tastes best when every chair at the table is occupied. I had to keep reminding myself to take the weekend as it came, and not to be upset if everything wasn’t perfect.

I’ve made a concerted effort to find reasons to be grateful over the last year. Our winter cabin weekend made it so easy. I sincerely could not have asked for more. All of my kids and their significant others were able to join us, as well as Jack’s younger brother and his family. The weather was spectacular! Saturday was overcast with really comfortable temperatures. Sunday brought a clear blue sky, brilliant sunshine and temperatures just a bit colder than the day before. And we did it all!

I have to give credit to my brother-in-law who is just a big kid at heart. He talked Jack into participating in this weekend when I couldn’t. And once we were all at the cabin, he bounced around encouraging everyone to do this and try that. He was like a cruise director, making sure everyone was happy and having the best time imaginable! We rode sleds and tubes down the hill from the deck of the cabin down onto the lake. We made and threw snowballs. The guys did some ice fishing and the dogs ran, and ran, and ran! Thanks to my brother-in-law, I learned to drive a snowmobile as well as how to cross-country ski. The snowmobiling was exhilarating and fun! The skiing was more work than I’d imagined but such a peaceful experience. I definitely want to do more skiing.

After so much activity, I truly did work up a hunger such as I rarely feel. The food, though simple and convenient, tasted so good because it was shared with loved ones. When it was too dark to be outside any longer, we gathered around the table and played board games together, our voices growing louder as the night went on and laughter bubbling over easily. Leaving at the end of the weekend was, as it always is when departing from the cabin, bittersweet. I was anxious to get back home to a shower and a comfortable bed. But I was reluctant to see it all come to an end.

I needed this weekend. It was an opportunity to escape the sense of COVID fatigue for a while. And it is so rare that we’re able to gather all of our kids together in the same place for any length of time, much less an entire weekend. My heart swelled with love as I watched my kids talk and play together. I love seeing the incredible adults they have grown to be and the way they’ve grown closer to one another as they’ve matured. Everything about this weekend was simply amazing and I was literally overjoyed. Before I closed my eyes last night, I said a prayer of thanks for such a beautiful gift.