Just another day

This story starts with a carpenter.

No, not that carpenter.

Although, since I've had this carpenter working around my house I've been imagining Jesus working in his father's workshop with all the shavings, teaming up to hold a beam in place, giving someone an estimate. "No, that is for the materials only. These are the labor charges." I wonder what kind of wood he used. Cedars of Lebanon?

I think he was probably taller than my carpenter, who is about five foot two. But probably he wasn't taller than me.  It's not likely, anyways.

I hired my carpenter to build a few pieces of furniture that have been missing from our lives.  I designed and drew out the furniture, and then explained each piece, with the help of an interpreter, for about fifteen minutes.  When the furniture came, every bit of it was off in some way, by a foot or six inches; a bookcase that was two feet wide rather than a foot wide.  It happens.  The bunkbeds that I ordered looked great, but the guard rail was completely missing.  The head and foot were missing from the top as well; it was just sheer across the top of the upper bed.  Not so safe.  So my carpenter came back and installed a belated guard rail, and then painted it.

This is where my story really starts.  (That was the preamble.)

The day after the carpenter painted, I was having a difficult morning because too many things were going on and I couldn't focus on school. I was rushing around, cleaning up, moving the laundry along, trying to get the dishes washed, retelling the kids to get dressed and ready to sit down and read together. Solo had something in his hand; a small packet wrapped in newspaper and I hurriedly took it from him.

Poof!  He and the floor around us were instantly covered in a fine red powder. Powdered pigment, the dye that the carpenter had been mixing his paint with. It was a mess, a really big mess.

I did what I normally do in such circumstances.  I tried to slow way, way down and appreciate the situation.  It was too good of a mess not to share, so I took Solo outside and held him out at arm's length to show him to our neighbors, two women from Switzerland and Germany who are part of our meditation community. "Johanna!" I called.

She came out and promptly fell over from fright.

It's only dye!

Yeah, I hadn't really considered the fact that the pigment looked a lot like blood.  Oh, okay, exactly like blood. Whoops. When all the fright was sorted out we all admired the mess, and then I went and hosed him down.

That was the introduction to the day.

Later Leafy and Kid A and YaYa and I were headed to the doctor to get treatment for a skin infection that the boys have. The great health that my children usually enjoy prevents me from uttering all the complaining that I could possibly spew forth on the subject of minor maladies like skin infections, which are annoyances to two active boys and a busy mama.  But anyways, we were on our way and I had elected to take a taxi because I didn't feel up to the drive that day. It was a long drive; we were headed to the capital, and it was midday. The sun was high in the sky and all of the ground was baking in it.  And then we got caught in the traffic jam of the decade. We couldn't go forward, couldn't go back, and soon we found that people were striking, that they had shut down the bridge into the capital.

No one knew when the road would be open again.  Meanwhile, we were stuck there like cockroaches. The kids and I got out and they scrambled up the scrubby hillside to play in the dirt for a minute. We took shelter in the shade of a truck, whose driver stared. All of the people on their way to the airport tried to figure out whether they could reschedule their flights. The pregnant girl from Bombay in the big car in front of us dashed out to throw up in the bushes. The men from the car had a discussion with me about YaYa's hair. After about an hour, all of the people on the buses started to evacuate and walk.  "How far is it?" I asked Alex, our taxi driver.

"About six kilometres," he said. I made a quick decision.

"Meet me at the hospital when you get through," I said.

And we headed off, walking. I carried Leafy, and YaYa and Kid A walked very nicely. It was either walk or bake a while longer, and at least this way we got closer to some of the river breezes. People walked all around us, and when we reached the strike scene I was relieved to see that it was very peaceful. Men were lying in front of traffic with newspapers on their faces. The police weren't beating anyone. "Oh!" said Kid A.  "So that's what caused the traffic jam." Like it's totally normal for people to lie on the road in front of traffic.  I'm amazed sometime at what my kids take in stride.

The bridge was hard because there was no shade.  We were very hot and thirsty.  We felt like pilgrims on our way somewhere, heading through the desert or gypsies moving through a dusty plain.  And then there was the river and a barge moved downstream, with three great pyramids of dirt.  We ran to get to the place where it would intersect the bridge, so we could stand right over it as it passed underneath. After the bridge we put our hands out and stopped traffic to cross the streets.  It still wasn't really moving, even on this side of the bridge, so it wasn't hard.

We stopped in a shady little restaurant and had water.  We washed our hands and faces. We found a rickshaw and wearily arrived at the hospital, a little flushed.

I guess it just makes me think about parenting and what it means.  I can't always get things to run as smoothly as I want them to, at my house. I keep up with the laundry and then suddenly lapse and no one has any clothes. I wake up to dishes in the sink after collapsing in bed at night. There are often bits of cut up pieces of paper all over the floor. Sometimes I pick things up myself that the kids should be putting away, because I just can't bring myself to try to get them to do it.

I have this ideal where everything flows along and we are all clean and no one has skin infections or is taking medications and we sit down gently to read together without red dye on our clothes.

But a lesson for now is that sometimes parenting is walking along a hot road with my children, and how they see me react. Can we be curious still? Will we run to see the barge float right under us, watching the barge man watch us on his pyramids of dirt? We will, and we did, and so we move along in wonder and love, not clean all the time, and in stops and starts.  But I think we are learning the right lessons, all of us, still.

And Solo is alright, just the slightest bit pink.

Solo flute