Monday, October 7, 2013

Over the Bridge


My clothespins hang on my laundry line like freshly caught fish, and the sunlight slices horizontally into my kitchen windows. Lee and I watch the days growing shorter, so we greet the mornings early with a walk, and in the evenings we watch the orange sun set before Philip gets home. The air is as dry as the brown leaves that the stroller crunches. We collect seedpods up and down Greenleaf, Bright, Comstock, and Broadway. Then we place them on the kitchen table for Phil to identify during dinner. It’s a plant ID test.
We have settled into our new house rather like Cinderella’s foot into that glass slipper. It feels like we’ve been sojourners for the last several years and now we’ve come home. Despite the stained toilet, the receding shower grout, the dishwasher with a soap dispenser that doesn’t open, the gaps around the screens for flies to enter, the stucco peeling off the foundation walls, the splintering wood floors, the painted-shut windows, the outlets that don’t work, the front porch light that doesn’t turn on, I have found a new peace in this unfinished place. It is who I am. I am quite unfinished. And as soon as I believe I have fixed one thing, two more things fall apart. It is the way with old houses, I think. But it is beautiful.

I am in love with the white trim around the windows. I am in love with the open spaces between the kitchen, living, and dining rooms. The old wavy glass on the front windows is magical. The sagging wooden floors are perfect for Lee’s cars. The five doors—six if we get one unstuck—usher in such pleasant fall breezes. And the redone kitchen is a masterpiece. It functions well. It stores all my worldly possessions with room to spare. Now the yard spaces are ours: a breakfast nook, a sideyard with a garden and row of citrus trees, a front porch with views of the brown hills, and a backyard with a great big avocado tree for climbing and hanging wind chimes and a tire swing.

 In the evenings the front porch is shaded and cool. We can watch the sunlight change colors on the tops of the podocarpus trees and on the craftsmen homes across the street. Our neighbors string up orange Halloween lights and walk their dogs while Phil and I sit in our rockers and people watch. We talk about our future dreams for the house, what tree we should plant in honor of the new baby coming January—Hollywood Juniper, Fig, or Saucer Magnolia.

I give Phil the small news for the day, though to him it is big news. Lee told me three times this morning that he had to use his potty chair. He spent a good five minutes pushing your Allen wrenches in and out of various holes around the house. Our backsplash is scheduled for installation on Wednesday. I planted lettuce, carrots, and beets. The butternut squash is almost ready for picking. The baby was playing me like a cahon today.

I welcome the movement inside. It is so much less foreign and frightening second time around. I know what is coming and while I still have moments of wondering what in the world am I doing—I can’t be a mom; I’m still the same me that I was when I was little—, those wonderings come less frequently. I have crossed the bridge and I can’t go back.

Two years ago at my first SCBWI conference, a speaker explained how the older we grow, the better we become at understanding our childhoods. That is the tragedy of it all. The more we understand it, the farther away we are from it and the harder it is to relate to it: to speak in a teen’s voice, to write for the young reader, to see the world at 40 inches tall, to cram sticks into cracks and follow ant trails and hear Mommy and Daddy talk about Christmas.

At my first SCBWI conference I had yet to part ways with being a child. I was still holding on, with white knuckles and tears in my eyes and a 5-month-old at home. As I sat in the Marriott Ballroom for my second SCBWI conference this last August, I looked back and saw the bridge behind me. I’d crossed. It was gone. I could do nothing to go back. Now I was looking over the river at a waddling little toddler. He was pushing Hot Wheel cars down an empty carpet tube and slipping down a slide into an inflatable pool. He was pulling all the DVD’s out of their boxes and leaving the broom lying across the den. He was digging like a mole into my lap and collecting seedpods on our walks.

I have gone over so others can follow. Let them come. one by one, into each new season.