When Maile is Away For Five Days

Photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser
Photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser

We have an old house, and the cold leaks in around the windows, the bottoms of the doors. There is an old chimney behind one of our walls, and if you press down on the carpet the slightest of chilly breezes creeps in under the baseboards. The heat escapes, like some invisible thing drawn inexorably toward the sharp stars. Winter in this old house is all about slippers and warm clothes and keeping the laundry door shut.

Maile is away this week. She took Poppy and left the other five home with me, which isn’t as challenging as it sounds. It’s all fairly straightforward. Except for Leo. Nothing is ever straightforward with Leo. His new thing is that he’s realized we’re not crazy about him saying “No” when we ask him to do something, so instead he says, “I can’t!” or “I don’t know!” An interesting diversionary tactic.

“Leo, please stop throwing things at your sister!”

“I don’t know!”

It’s so nonsensical, I’m not completely sure how to respond to it.

* * * * *

There seems to be so much chaos in the world that at times I’m not sure how to respond to that, either. Syria and crazy weather and Trump and Russia and what can I do, Shawn Smucker who lives in a row home on James Street in the middle of a small but wonderful city? I turn off the news and close my laptop and do the good in front of me. I give Leo a bath and make dinner for the kids and do a few loads of laundry. I pray for peace and give a small amount of money to Preemptive Love and work on the stories others have entrusted me with. I say hi to people I pass on the street and listen when I’m driving for Uber or Lyft.

And I go to bed at a decent time and try to eat better and wonder what the future has in mind for me or these seven other people I share a house with.

* * * * *

When Maile is away, I sleep on her side of the bed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s so her side isn’t empty, and then it doesn’t feel like she’s quite as gone as she is. She’ll be back in only a few days. Still, I climb into her side and the whole room feels new, like I’m seeing it in a mirror.

No matter which side of the bed is empty, though, it is quickly in high demand. Tonight Sam sleeps in the bed with me: our rough-and-tumblest, our most confrontational, our boisterous one. I told him he could sleep there if he stayed way over.

“Over here?” he asked, hanging one arm and one leg over the side. I rolled my eyes.

“You don’t have to be falling out of the bed. Just don’t kick me.”

Now, he’s tangled up in blankets using Maile’s Boppy for a pillow. He’ll be sleeping sideways in the bed by midnight, I’m sure, and I’ll spread a blanket and pillow on the floor for him and wrap him in it. Then I’ll have the bed to myself.

* * * * *

These are the days when we need simple grace more than ever, when we need to speak the truth loud and clear but also remember, with humility, that we are only who we are. These are the days when we must be grateful for what we have and fight as hard as we can to hold on to hope. It may be hard to believe, but these might be very good days. They will be very good days, if we can live the life that’s been put in front of us, and give it our best shot.

One Reply to “When Maile is Away For Five Days”

  1. I needed this today… Cannot stop feeling overwhelmed with sadness about the new president, about taking away the Affordable Care Act, about the mean spiritedness. I miss reading the paper, but it is too depressing. But I’m going to try to “do the good in front of me”. But, oh how I wish I had littles ones here !

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