The first thing I did this morning was turn the calendar to February.
January was a bit of a doozy. We rang in the month with pukers, and rang it out with more of the same. That’s parenting, right? Don’t plan anything in the months between Christmas and Easter…
This round of sickness hit our house on Thursday morning. I’ll spare you the dirtiest of details, but let me just tell you that we’ve gone through a 12-pack of toilet paper in three days, and at the end of the day yesterday, there were nine pairs of underwear soaking in the sink. I broke out the dusty jug of Clorox, and if you know me, you know it takes a public health crisis for me to reach for the bleach.
My kids don’t know that they missed the field trip to the children’s museum with our homeschool friends on Friday and two weekend sledding parties.
They just know they’re getting way more Netflix and popsicles than usual.
Yesterday afternoon, in the midst of our game of musical toilets, I discovered that the largest of the frat boys I care for left the space heater cranked up in the three-seasons room, which led to some sort of plagues-of-Egypt housefly hatch. There must have been a hundred and fifty of those devils buzzing around the windows.
I came armed with a 32-ounce squirt bottle of water and essential oil blend (referred to by my father as Stink-um). I blasted those beasts with the precision of a sniper, then super-soaked them in their upside-down-leg-squirming peril.
I had to break from the genocide a few times to wipe rears, but with the snap of a freshly-powdered latex glove, I was back to it.
I wiped and squirted. I squirted and wiped.
When I finished exterminating, I filled bowls of pretzels and cups of ice-water for the boys.
Wash your hands and sit at the table, I told them.
Mom is going to be in the sunroom for ten minutes of alone time. I will be able to see you through the French doors. You may knock on the door if there is an emergency. An emergency is something like choking, pooping your pants, or a fire.
If you have a non-emergency, I will help you with it in ten minutes. Non-emergencies are things like dropping a pretzel, running out of pretzels, someone stealing your pretzels, or Netflix asking if you are still watching.
I poured a cup of tea and closed the door behind me, taking a deep breath of lavender/lemongrass/teatree/Stink-um. I looked around, admiring my work.
The windowsills were clean. The blankets were folded. The room was fresh.
I took a sip of tea. A fly flew across the room and landed on the window closest to me. I gave it the eye. It smiled at me.
I took another sip, then my son rattled the doorknob to let me know my wiping services were needed. I hustled to the bathroom (wishing I had brought the Stink-um) and helped my little honey get cleaned up.
Back in the sunroom, I noticed the whitetail deer lurking around the compost pile across the yard. I slid my bare feet into my Bogs and hustled out to the woods with a pitcher of corn.
As I approached, three of the four deer bolted. The fourth one, the bossy doe, watched me. Her tail flipped up, but she didn’t run. She leaned closer, almost squinting at me.
I walked slowly, looking into her dark eyes.
When I was 15 feet away, she turned and trotted down the path, then stopped to watch me sprinkle corn across a canvas of deer and turkey tracks.
As I walked back to the house, I turned to see her already back at the pile.
Thank you, I whispered.
The words surprised me.
I stopped on the deck as the other three emerged from the woods and joined the bossy doe.
Yes. Thank you.
Thank you for giving me a reason to get out of the house to see the birch trees against the blue sky, to hear the crunch of snow beneath my floral-print stompers.
Thank you for accepting my simple offering to you. As much as you needed to receive it, I needed to give it.
I turned my eyes to the river. It looked a bit slow with its ice-crusted edges, a bit stupefied, like those house flies.
Someone yelled Mom? from the house. I stepped into the kitchen and giggled at the odor of the house, at my two youngest standing around in their undies, telling me they were thirrrrrstyyyy before I even had my boots off.
I loved my life so much in that moment – our small house on the river filled with noise and mess. These little people who need me. The oafish dog and the stupid beta fish in his bowl on the kitchen counter and the goofy turkeys running through the yard and the bossy doe who kind of likes me — kind of trusts me.
It’s easy to love the days when the sun is bright and your family is healthy and you get to have the BEST talks with your BEST friends and exercise and cook a fancy dinner, but we need these days too, the ones where we’re dunked right into the physical world and all of its gross-ness and needy-ness. The days that are steeped in humanity. We need the days that make us roll our eyes at ourselves and the things we consider big problems.
I mean, one of my mama friends finished her last round of chemo this week and another is bringing her baby in for surgery today. Someone I love just lost her mother. There are refugee crises and terrorist attacks and outbreaks of illnesses I’ll never know.
Flies and fluids, we can handle.
February is going to be a solid month. I can feel it.
We’ll cut hearts from red construction paper at the dining room table. The chickadees will look in on us from the window feeder. The ice will slow its creep across the sleepy river.
February. The tipping point. The point where winter is almost ready to tap out – to concede to spring. The short month that doesn’t demand much of us on our way to the month of March, the month of seven family birthdays and so many candles and brightly frosted cakes.
February is the month that serves as a pause. A calendar page that’s mostly blank. Down time for a few last snowmen and a few more sled-runs as the quiet days grow longer and good health, I do hope, returns with the spring.