“Get up! Psst, get up!”
My eyes pop open and struggle to focus on the clock. It reads 5:59 am. The rousing isn’t directed at me. In fact, it’s all the way at the other end of the hall, one girl to another, but I have spent the last dozen years of my life conditioning myself to wake at the slightest child-made noise.
The stairs creak as several pairs of feet tip-toe down. I groan and roll over. I want my coffee and computer. How long will I have to wait till my tray arrives?
I lay in bed for 15 minutes, listening (there are no noises, hmm) before heading downstairs to investigate. I’m halfway down the stairs when the kitchen explodes in panic, running feet, and frantic voices. “She's up!" and "Stop! Don’t come down!"
“Okay, okay,” I say. “Can you please make me my coffee? And I want my computer. Now.” To the male parental figure who is feigning sleep on the sofa, I say, “Help them.”
Soon my coffee arrives. And then a little later my youngest daughter, apronclad, shows up with my reading glasses. “Everything stinks down there. We burned the butter.”
When the tray arrives, it is mounded with an impossible amount of food. Four eggs? Or maybe six? There are also two thick slabs of toast, a jar of cherry jam, and a piece of margarita cake. I have to laugh at the cake. My kids sure know what makes me tick.
The eggs are incredible, moist and light, and I am surprised to learn that Papa had nothing to do with them.
Then the littles, giggling with excitement, give me their cards. And the bigs, each bearing a half, deliver their jointly-made card—but wait! Oh my, look at that! It’s a book!
They had cut out our faces from some old photos and glued them on the pages. My daughter decorated the pages, and my son wrote the poetry, riddled with misspellings (for example, “poems” is spelled “powoms”).
So this is what they had been doing last night when they were holed up in my son’s room for hours on end.
Here, I’ll give you a sample:
When It Was Messy
There was a time
back in our prime
when it was a mess
we had to confess
when it was just cleaning
and also the weaning
and that’s the story of
mom and us.
And this one:
Here we are all
cozy and small.
Quite suddenly, my eyes spring a leak. My children’s goofy, round faces beaming up at me from their heart-shaped picture cutouts—it pierces me through. They are growing up and all too soon this will all be just a memory, waaaaaah!
I blow my nose, wipe my eyes, hug my daughter (who had promptly pressed up hard against me as soon as the tears started to squirt), and read on.
This is us
so why all the fuss.
So long, farewell, auf
Good-bye, good-bye, Mom.
We all love you.
They finished off the letter with their names and a torrent of X’s and O’s.
So, for a little post-letter analysis. According to my children, I
1. Fuss a lot.
2. Am obsessed with cleaning.
3. Equate messes with sins and make my children confess them.
4. Need to take a chill pill.
5. Have taught them they are past their prime at the wise old age of nine. (And what do they think of me? That I have half a leg in the grave?)
6. Nursed babies for as long as they can remember.
7. Traumatized my children when I weaned them. (I mean, really! How many kids talk about weaning in their mother’s day cards? Anyone? Anyone?)
8. Have encouraged so many viewings of The Sound of Music that they now can no longer simply say good-bye, but instead have to sing-write it, and in German.
This same time, years previous: warts and all