I had forgotten what it was to not be busy.
This afternoon I wandered around town with my children and it hit me hard: I
couldn’t remember another time when we didn’t have too many plans to rush off
One by one I collected all three from school and once the oldest hopped in the car, we slowly unmade the only tenuous plan we had made for the evening.
We sat and talked through options. I felt some unnecessary and useless urgency to make a decision. But for what? We had nowhere to be. We were beholden to no one, no schedule, no obligation or commitment.
We started to drive to the store then changed our minds and turned around to get ice cream. It’s a Friday and the ice cream shop is within walking distance to the high school, so we found the lines long and too tedious for us. Instead we pointed the car towards the siren song of bubble tea and started driving.
Along the way one kid spotted the bookstore and asked if we could go. I made no promises but said it was a possibility. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the illusion of needing to have direction or a timeline.
We turned down a side road and one kid asked, “Hey! Isn’t your friend’s video game store on this road? Can we stop?”
I’ve become too accustomed to needing to click through a list of obligations to find the reason why we couldn’t make unnecessary stops.
No such reason existed and that was the start of my unwinding.
We went inside and walked around with no need or purpose or intention. I visited with
my friend whom I haven’t seen in almost a year. We looked at games and collectors items. The kids wanted nothing in the end but I walked out with a formerly loved figurine of one of Maurice Sendak’s marvelous Wild Things – an ornament for my new desk and a reminder to stay anchored in home but not lose the skill of getting lost and finding wild.
We visited a drive-through for a milkshake and ice cream for two kids then drove to another spot for bubble tea for the third.
There was no rush, no need, only being and wandering. The kids asked questions; we told shared stories; we sang; we laughed.
Finally I drove us to the bookstore and set myself free in the rows of paper and slick covers. The smell of uncracked spines and crisp pages found in a bookstore is among my favorites, closely rivaled by the different sweetness of stained pages, soft paper, plastic jacket covers, and copier toner scent of a library.
The kids shook loose as well and began amassing piles of their own, “How many books can
“Two?! But I’ve found six! Please??????”
“Three. You can each buy three. We can always come back!”
Aloud but to myself I said, “What a terrible thing to have kids who beg for more books.”
Down the row in front of me another mother, arms filled with children’s and young adult titles, began laughing, “Sorry. I was just thinking the same thing.”
We both giggled and nodded, knowingly. For a brief moment we felt maybe, just maybe, we were getting something right as parents.
I made my way to the children’s section and located Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I picked up a hardback copy, gold medallion shining on the front.
The Wild Things smiled and snarled and stomped back at me with love but also scoldingly.
For too long I worshiped at the altar of busyness and had started to forget how to be wild. I bought into the illusion that worth is measured by productivity and commitments. I didn’t feel valuable if I was obligated to only one event at a time. Success was scrambling to be three places at once, a sure sign of my add-value to my institution.
Other than on vacation, I don’t remember a weekend when we had nothing scheduled, no events to attend or appearances to make.
I look at my schedule these days, unstructured and unannotated, and a brief wave of panic must clear my system before relief can wash over me and settle in.
My system shakes and quakes and bucks at the lack of duties to perform and expectations to be met then settles and purrs. I can let go of the lie that doing is being and stress is success.
I boxed myself in, caging and taming my spirit to fit in a small house built for pleasing others and going “above and beyond.”
I lost myself in the structure and demands that I knew would give me a sense of accomplishment and worth.
This afternoon the Wild Things snapped and snarled to snag my attention: “Remember how to get truly lost, Mary. Come and join the parade. Don your crown and grab your scepter and catch up to the wild rumpus that’s been waiting for you.”
I looked at my kids, each dutifully holding only the allotted three books and we joined the checkout line.
“How about a reading night tonight?” I offer. “It’s going to rain all evening and we can sit and enjoy the sound and our books and just have a quiet evening.”
All three concurred and here we are.
Everyone has found their place elsewhere in the house. Some are eating the dinner I cooked when we returned home. My youngest just shed his raincoat and galoshes, having snatched them on and had his own wild romp in the rainy front yard in search of puddles.
My wildness tonight is quiet and my parade is set to the steady beat of the rain falling off the roof of the porch and onto the leaves around. It’s cool out here on the side of the house and the air is sweet.
Rebellion these days comes in the refusal of taking on the stress and harried beat from someone else’s drummer in favor of the soft steady patter that the heavens tap out. It is one that is varied, unsteady, unpredictable and untamed. It is the sound that doesn’t force one forward but lulls one to sleep and calls us to spaces of dream and creativity.
Sendak, I will do my best to stay both anchored in home while reconnecting to my innate gift for getting lost and getting wild. May your Wild Things ever snap and snarl, stomp and romp to call my attention back to where I need to be.