Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Long, Strange Trip

Back when I was newly married and working full-time, I wondered about my sister-in-law. She had two school-aged children and didn't work outside the home. “But what does she do all day?” I asked my husband. I just couldn’t figure out how she spent her time during the day, how she kept from going crazy with boredom. After all, the kids were in school and didn't need her, right?

Then late one recent night, I got it. In a tired-but-adrenaline-fueled stupor, I set up my computer to make a karaoke CD for my 8-year-old's upcoming variety show. Then I put in a load of laundry and laid out lunch bags for the following morning, steeped some tea while I washed the dishes, and sewed three Cub Scout patches on a uniform for the next day’s den meeting. After the CD was done, I went online and confirmed both my sons' gymnastics class schedules, signed one up for baseball and sent an email to a class mom about supplies for an in-class party. All the while, the dog paced around the kitchen looking at me like I was nuts, and I started to wonder if he knew something I didn’t. “What?” I asked him. “What did I forget?”

If anyone had bothered to ask me what I wanted to be when I was a child, I would probably have said, 'alone.' A relentless young reader and oft-engrossed writer, I grew happy leaving the administrivia of daily life on the back burner for someone else to pick up or not. This m.o. worked well until I fell under the spell of a funny, family-loving man and cast my earthly existence to the wind. When I landed some 10 years later, I found myself at the center of a whirlwind household full of bills, kids, animals and noise. Now I seek writing time more than I seek sleep, eat when I feel dizzy and spend the rest of my time as tutor, chef, referee, dog walker, maid and animal feeder. Earplugs help.

While it's not the life I would have imagined for myself all those years ago, it is full of rewards and joys I could neither have fathomed nor gained had I not been dropped into it. Do I ever wonder 'what if?' About 50 times a day. But as Arthur Miller once said, "Maybe all we can hope to do is end up with the right regrets." On that count, I think I'm doing OK.

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