Standing in the Shadows

Sun Gets in Your Eyes and You See Things Differently

The kids are about to return to school. Are we prepared to return to “real life?” I can’t say I am. The warmth got under my skin. I don’t want winter, not even another nanosecond of it (as my eldest would say, “Sucks to be you.”). But hey, here we go. I am glad I have a warm jacket.

When you are one parent with four kids and your spouse is out of town and then you are out of town for an eleven-day solo-parenting stretch, you are “on” pretty much nonstop. Friday morning, I was able to leave them all and go to the beach for a run.

I ran for an hour, people. As I took five more minutes and five more minutes, like that, all I could think to myself is that I wasn’t so much interested in the run as the extension of “alone time.”

At 12, I babysat for a woman with a two year-old and a two-month-old. I’d come after school. She’d leave for a seven-mile run she did very, very slowly. This was a couple of years before I began to run and I admired her willingness to go slow but to go. Sometimes, on the weekend, I’d glimpse her in action when we drove in a car somewhere on her route. She really just powered along—at her pace.

As I grew older, I did understand that her runs were her solo time and once I had toddlers, I appreciated her level of desperation by about 3:30 to get out of the house without a small, sticky-handed marsupial creature. She would leave her kids with a capable 12 year-old, something most if not practically my entire cohort would never ever do.

But Friday, I felt it. I felt as if I were channeling her, exactly. I also remember that even at 12 I knew to admire her good humor, the way she laughed as she recounted the day’s bad parts, even as she hugged her children despite the fact that a tornado seemed to have a direct, daily pathway through her house—the kind you have when you have a toddler and an infant and no help, save for a 12 year-old babysitter after school for your routine but not daily escape.

Sometimes, you just have to smile—and on this week away, I remembered that. Also, I can run for an hour.

Amongst the ridiculous and fun moments on the trip was this finale to perhaps one too many Yahtzee games: there was a lucky chair anointed after Remy sat in it and got two Yahtzees and later I sat in it and also got two. My mother was determined to win, once and to get her first-ever Yahtzee. She does, in real life, have a blindingly strong will when it comes to perseverance about such things sometimes—and like the ending to a great Hollywood tale, her first-ever and winning moment—her Yahtzee in the lucky chair—came on her very last turn of that very last game. Sometimes, you just have to stick with your ability to cultivate your half-full perspective.

On the plane ride home, the teen that provided some truly ornery and miserable moments on vacation said he’d had a great vacation and was sorry he’d made mine worse. But he’d also made some moments better and in this different venue and scenario, I’d seen some things with the perspective that super-bright sun can provide. I needed that. It’s helpful. So, I practiced that half-full take on things, too.

I hope that the half-full part seeps into my skin, like warmth—and carries me through till spring. Or even, longer.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate