My knee has been a little achy since yesterday afternoon so instead of going out for a group 8K I'm at home waging war. Now normally the first line of defence in my organic garden is the curse. Yep, each morning I inspect my garden and when I see that either my wiener dog has been sitting in my strawberry patch, yet again or some critter has been munching my lettuce I stand there and shake my fist uttering threats of bodily harm. This ought to be enough to intimidate at least one of the guilty offenders.
Second line of defence. Beer. A dish of my husband's favourite Mill Street (which my husband in the freezer to chill but was forgotten and frozen...perish the thought that the slugs get the viable stuff) gets offered to the Garden Gods. Libations for all that needs satiating. Sometimes it's the very same offending wiener dog and he gets a little too sleepy to finish off what is left of my strawberries *grrrrrr* Mostly this helps keep the slug population down and away from my mixed lettuces, as this year my boarder of red lettuce doesn't seem to be doing it's job.
When the beer has been exhausted then comes more cursing and hand picking which is just as gross as it sounds. The neighbours must love this. Dressed like a doll and swearing like a sailor and visibly not pleased with the task. Once I've exhausted that then comes the heavy artillery. Nematodes!
This is an ugly death for any offending non-wiener dog garden offender. Bio-warfare. Take that you slimy little bastards! Then comes the inevitable pleasure I take in saying the word Nematodes in various silly voices while I prep the back yard to be nuked down. Nematodes. Nematodes...Nematoooooodesssss
This chick plays dirty. That's what happens to the little creeps that get between me and a summer salad especially on days when I'd rather be running with the girls. What a way to take out my frustrations!
It's funny that after the age of 21, having a birthday roll around each year starts to become a little painful. Another year ticked off, a few more wrinkles and only my stylist knows how much is blonde as opposed to "Norwegian Blonde" (our code for grey). My birthday this year came creeping up on me. I've actually spent the last few weeks lost as to what day it is and what is on the agenda for each day. It's little wonder that a few days before I realized that I would be checking off another year. Mentally tallying up everything that passed in the previous and creating a wish list for the next.
Then there is the inevitable thoughts that float through the transom of my mind. What will it be like when there are twenty more years that have been ticked off? What will I have checked off for my bucket list? Then of course the thoughts turn toward mortality and what that really means. It is becoming less vague with each year. With the thoughts of what will it be like to not be alive then turns back to what shall I do with what's left? Each year that particular thought becomes a little more uncomfortable. No one likes to mark what time is left especially when there is no guarantee that there is any time left.
I will say that I'm pleased with this last year. I have accomplished a lot, a heck of a lot more than I did when I was 20, young, thin, energetic and unattached. My accomplishments in this last year in particular mean so much more too. Now when I look back at twenty, it's not so much with wistful dreamy thoughts. It's more defined now. If I had only known then what I know now, I'd have wasted a lot less time. I'd have been getting on with the business of being alive and really living, instead of merely marking time. Wishing days away, wishing years away. Now I'm so busy living that I can hardly recall what day it is. When I'm told what day it is, I could nearly care less, except for being a little too aware that there may not be decades before me. Really, what shall I do when I grow up?
What I do know is that waking up on a birthday morning to my wonderful husband and two incredibly smiley kids with nothing in particular to have to accomplish, is the most wonderful gift. The gift of this life with them is more than I could have dreamed of when I was twenty.
Tonight is the night I get to step outside the Mommy/Parent role for a couple of hours and get to stroll through yesteryear...that life I had before the kids. Though now it's calculated. There are rules of engagement. It's an exercise in making sure that we don't discuss the kids and don't go to kid friendly restaurants or movies. The rut having worn deep that leads to East Side Mario's. We make sure we don't pick things up for them while we are out, should we find ourselves shopping. We do allow ourselves a chance to peek at the cell phones to make sure we haven't missed a desperate call from the babysitter, because well, we aren't heartless *giggle*
Date nights are few and far in between this year. Our calendar has been nearly filled to capacity since the beginning of the school year. If there isn't a club, ball game, practice, lesson or meeting then its downtime we use to catch up with housework, homework and sleep. When we do find a night together we sit in a daze wondering what it is we are forgetting to do. Clearly we need a break from this dizzying schedule. Tonight's excuse is that tomorrow is my birthday. So tonight I pick the activity. I am at a loss. There is just so much that I'd like to do with the freedom.
A few years ago, when we'd get a babysitter, the first impulse would be to pull the car up in a dark secluded place and do something that we had not done for years, something delicious and nearly taboo.....sleep. Ah, how times have changed. Both boys were always really good sleepers but chasing them around day-in and day-out was exhausting. Oddly, it still is but I guess I've grown hungrier for things other than sleeping. Like peace and quiet. It had crossed my mind to go and sit in the library and bury my nose in a book I wasn't interested in and just lap up the silence. Almost the way a perv goes around in the cover of night and surreptitiously peeks in women's windows.
Then there is shopping and trying things on. For hours on end. Combing through racks and shelves looking at everything every store has without hearing my boys bicker. Or having to keep on eye on them, for fear that they'd wander off or having them shadow me so closely that I have to watch my step, for fear of someone snatching them. Being a mother has, I fear, permanently altered my thought patterns. There is no more just being me. At peace. Just still. Just quiet. Now I'm a guard dog. Always on watch, always ready to rip some one's arm off at the shoulder and beat them with it, should they look at my kids sideways. Ah, the joys of motherhood. That is certainly a side of having those precious babies that the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" didn't cast a light on.
So? What shall I do with my few meager hours off with this man that I choose to spend my life with? That man that still makes my heart skip a beat when I see him. The man that decided to make this life with me...to have these kids, the same kids we are trying to escape (from time-to-time). What shall we do?
A fine day. We're off for a little adventure. On the road to the zoo with L's class for the day. L is practically wiggling in his seat. I'm bracing myself for the mayhem ahead. It might just be a really long day.
We arrived shortly after 9 and set out with our private guide. She's likely in her late 60's. She's stooped and weathered. But she has a kind, warm face richly etched with wrinkles that tell her story. She's done a lot of smiling and a lot of worrying.
She takes us in and around the various exhibitions. She herds us through the crowd and navigates the larger groups of tourists and class trippers. She's experienced and knowledgeable. She's been volunteering longer than she can remember, or so she says. The kids crane to listen to her tell the stories of the animals and she tries her best to answer every question tossed at her. The kids attentions spans are short but she's on her best game. She knows her audience and keeps us going at a pretty good clip so no one gets bored.
We make our way from one end of the park to the other and finally our tour is nearly done. We pause for a moment at a bench and she's quiet. I thought we were pausing so that everyone could catch up and she would tell us where we were headed next. Instead, she drops her head for a moment. Not caring what was going on around her, she takes this moment and she brings her fingers to her lips. Purses, kisses her fingertips and reaches out to the plaque on the bench. "In loving memory of Walter". A moment later, she's off and on her way again, briskly. Leaving me speechless.
This one moment. This one stolen moment. I've been thinking about it on and off all day. I wanted to pay homage to this moment of unguarded devotion, and this woman. I don't know her. I don't know her story but one can only surmise that her husband has passed on and that she misses him and thinks of him often. That, that bench may have been a place where they once sat together. That this place, this zoo may have meant something to him. That perhaps he had dedicated himself to it, just as she does still.
I felt like I had stumbled on that intimate moment like a clod. I couldn't even bring myself to drop my eyes to give her privacy. I was mesmerized. I was just so touched by this simple act. This quiet moment of remembrance. What must their lives together have been like? Were they soul mates? Did they have a great passion? I hope they had great passion.
Just a simple bench. Now it's a monument to some one's life together. A tribute to a life spent. Come sit by me. Think. Breathe. Be.
The zoo is forever altered for me. I hugged my child a lot today.