Friday, November 26, 2010

One Hundred Sows

Like most things in life, the term “rich” is subjective. I once read a silly joke in a children’s book … if you want to get rich, build a fence. In this fence put a hundred pigs and a hundred deer. Voila. You now have one hundred sows and bucks.  With the holiday season upon us and Christmas rapidly approaching I find my self once again wishing that I were richer than I am.


I don’t mean rich in love, it abounds in my life. I have children and grandchildren who amaze me every day. The amount of love in my life can be measured by the amount of refrigerator visible between the artwork. Stuck on with alphabet magnets, family photos and crayon masterpieces cover the entire contraption, crowding each other, overlapping each other, sometimes getting so deep that the magnets no longer hold them and they come softly drifting to the floor. Scribbles from the youngest, coloring book pages with blue dogs and chartreuse trees, bug-eyed body-less people with arms coming out of the sides of their heads and three hairs and a necklace standing under brilliant yellow suns, superheroes and imaginary friends brought to life in intricate story boards filled with smiling good guys and colorful explosions defined by starbursts, they are the perfect canvass for these perfect children’s imagination. I rotate them regularly but it is always full.

I don’t mean rich in events. My life is ruled by events. Illnesses, car wrecks, new loves and divorces, births and deaths, new homes and foreclosures… with the sheer volume of people in my family an uneventful day is just about unheard of. A perfect example: One daughter had been in the hospital three weeks trying desperately to not lose her third child. My younger daughter was days away from giving birth to her first daughter. I was waiting to find out if we had a renter for my old house while bunking down at my sister’s. I was also waiting for a call setting the closing on my new (hopefully) house. My granddaughter’s had their big 5th birthday that weekend and we were deliberating what we could do for them. My brother was visiting from out of state and we wanted to see him at some point in his short stay. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and my husband and I wanted to make some plans for us, to get away, to be alone for a short period of time without being out of touch or spending much money. I was at work trying to meet a deadline when the phone rang and I saw it was my older son. Panic hit me like a brick to the head, had the baby been lost? Had the baby been born? Was the closing off or the renters backing out? I broke out in a cold sweat and seriously debated just not answering, not sure if I could deal with the news on the other end.

“Mom, I am so sorry but I totaled your car” Not what I expected to hear for sure. The first words out of my mouth were “Thank God! Is that it” He was stunned, I was sincere. In the grand scheme of things at that moment in time a wrecked car was on a par with spilt milk. We teased him about it later but I honestly had so many other balls in the air that I just couldn’t work up enough energy to give a damn about that particular one.

I don’t mean rich in memories. My head is crowded with them, fighting for attention, trying to escape into the light of day. Some are so sweet they make me cry with happiness and some so tragic they make me want to disappear into a cloud of mist and become part of the universe, cold and quiet and very, very far from here. I have learned to indulge myself with the sweet ones. I take them out and run them across the screen of my consciousness when I have solitary moments. Like the “touchy feelies” in Orwell’s 1984 I smell the scents, feel the vibrations, relish in the entirety of the experience. I can remember times when I was a baby, when I had babies, their babies… it keeps me sane. When the black memories come, oozing out like phantoms from cracks in my subconscious I try to distract myself, read, draw, cook, play solitaire. I don’t write when these memories are seeping out because they dampen the page, smudge it beyond all legibility.

At this time of year, I wish I was the most common, the basest kind of rich. I want to be able to get everyone everything they need and want and wrap it in beautiful paper and present it with a flourish and a kiss. Every child’s heart’s desire calls to me, a doll, a bike, a puppy, a car, a house? Sure, here you go! I want to ease the fear and worry in their parent’s hearts, to give them strength and love and hope enough to see them through the difficult times. I want to treat every person I care about with a token, a wee gift that might give them an inkling of what they mean to me in the grand scheme of things. I bake, I buy, I wrap and tie with ribbon. It is always too much, but could be piled to the rafters and it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough.

Sadly, well into adulthood and many thousands of dozens of cookies later I realize that this is my weakness. Even if I were Midas it wouldn’t be enough to show what value these people hold for me.