“I don’t think that it needs to be cleaned under there. No one is going to see under there,” I addressed the headless torso lying halfway under our car. The torso slid out and became my husband. He struggled to his feet and dipped the sponja cloth back into the bcket full of soapy water. He was humming. His eyes were bright with religious fervor. He dived back under the car. I guess the difference in our approach to cleaning the car is in our relationship to the car. I would consider cleaning it a chore. My husband looks at it as bathing his firstborn child. When he washes his car, angels sing.
I don’t really understand the love between a man and his car, but I do understand getting lost in the desire to do it right, especially if it’s something that you love. As a teenager, I loved writing, I loved reading, I loved acting. Journals spilled out of all my desk drawers, filled with my poems and angst-filled prose. I read 20 books a week, and I was always the main part in any production. I spent years of my life practicing my lines in front of a mirror.
I never really thought about how I would be as a mother. I was never the kind of girl who drew pictures of herself in wedding gowns and had all of her children named before they were born. When I thought about it at all, I assumed I would be good enough. I was raised well; I could get away with it. I did not count on not wanting to get away with anything.
When my oldest daughter was born and they placed her on my chest, over my heart, the first thought that sprang to my mind was, it’s you! I didn’t realize that it would be you! And my whole world changed, and narrowed. I worked at home, to be near her. I catered while pregnant with the next one, letting her play with the eggshells and her own set of bowls and spoons on the floor. When my next daughter was born I babysat, her with the others. When my third was born, my husband’s business took off, and in my spare time, with him on my lap, I try to make something of my writing.
The problem is, raising kids is not washing a car. Although my husband, who watched the skies open up 2 hours after he finished rubbing the car down with a diaper, would disagree with me, in general, a physical thing that one wants to get finished, gets finished. Kids don’t get finished. Kids don’t even really sleep. And a victory of one day does not a victory of two days make.
Like the other day. It was going to be sweetness and light and honey and a thing of beauty and a joy forever in terms of the absolute amazingness in which I was going to be as Mommy. I would start off by singing "Good morning" to my precious progeny when they entered my sleeping haven. Then I would give them breakfast as I smoothly floated about the immaculate apartment, gathering things up for gan and preparing perfectly balanced lunchboxes. The baby, already (mysteriously, now that I think about it) fed, would gurgle happily on his mat. Angels were going to sing, too, I think.
The problem started at 4:30 AM. The day, that is, started at 4:30 AM. The girls were up and eating yogurt before the sun even got its pants on. 4:30 is not really my hour of glory, I must admit. I prefer to spent it drooling on a pillow, truth be told, but I stumbled out of bed and took a deep steadying breath and pulled out the coffee.
"Good morning, girls! Who want to get dre--Coco-pop, off the baby. Who wants to get--"
"Ima! Can you pour us orange juice and also I spilled my yogurt on my shoes."
"Ima, Princess doesn't let me use the glue."
"Ima, Coco-pop is using the big scissors and I told her you don't let and she didn't listen."
"Ima, Princess pulled my hair!"
"Ima, Coco-pop is yucky!"
"Ima, the baby is crying."
So he was. And so were they. And there was a huge pile of laundry that I forgot to fold from last night that was being used as--well, not exactly sure as what, but it entailed the used-to-be-clean articles of clothing being dragged through puddles of semi-dried yogurt.
I tried. I did. But at the end of the morning, the apartment is in shambles, my nerves shot, and Coco-pop went off to gan in tears. I'm afraid I said something to the effect of, "She gets it from your side," in rather a hiss when Outdoorsman came home for breakfast.
After I put the baby in for a nap and started seeing which items of laundry could be salvaged I sat down to two cups of coffee and sighed.
Why can't I pray and aim for a GOOD morning? Why does it have to be perfect or nothing? Why does my home have to be immaculate, my writing perfect, my children doting and sweet? And I see the same look in Princess' eye when something doesn't go her way--okay, might as well let it all out. Day's ruined anyway.
Why can't I aim for a decent start and for everyone to be mostly happy? I can't sing first thing in the morning anyway, I would scare small sparrows out of the lemon trees. I see it in my children when they don’t understand something on the first try, the frustration and the automatic reaction to give it up as a bad job. Why do something if you can't do it perfectly? Is this what I am passing on to my kids? Don't bother if it's not going to be guaranteed perfect?
Tomorrow, I will be pretty good. I will be good enough. And the good-enough angels will sing, in my glorious morning voice.