Our life at home on Grumblers Ridge

It is hard to believe it but I am sitting here with spring sunshine coming in the windows and both the doors are open. Birds are singing away in the bushes. I can’t see them and I wish I knew what kind they were. I can also hear kids – Marik running downhill pulling his wagon rattling behind him, then his frightened whine, but no wail of pain, so he’s okay

Briefly, I hear Shaye and the 8-year-old learning disabled girl from next door and the 7-year-old boy from the next house running by. I am astounded that they have accepted Shaye into their little neighborhood gang. Sometimes they even ask for Marik, who is only 2 and a half. I fear that we’re living in a temporary reprieve from modernity, where children do not play with kids of other ages. But I have gotten good at appreciating temporary blessings.

Then, there is quiet. They’ve moved off a bit. It is also astounding that I can let them move out of earshot. There are not many places in this country where you could. Our little dead-end dirt street, which is such a hassle unplowed in the winter has its own blessings to give.

Today, the kids were in preschool under the watchful eye of their wonderful teacher Tomas, who has pretty much joined our little family as Ember’s boyfriend. How handy that he already loves our children. And, given our recent worries over the preschool, it is also amazing luck that we have him there to keep them safe. I had time to make a Beltane wreath today and to go hunting the first spring herbs. I got small baskets of primrose and lungwort blossoms. With Marik, Dusan and I still suffering from terrible night-time coughs, I doubt the lungwort will last long enough to dry.

The children’s mini-garden plots are finally sprouting the earliest radishes. And my perennial herbs are poking out from the winter hybernation. It was a terribly long winter here, long enough to set 100-year records apparently. Even so, I have the odd feeling that another kind of winter has held us under a spell for much longer. For four years, I could not sit like this and write and listen to the springtime and know that all is well.

First, there were the years of anxiety, stress, physical pain and strain when we were trying to conceive, then the years of waiting and battling bureaucrats, when we finally gave up and looked for our children elsewhere. Then, Shaye was a baby and there were moments then, brief and fleeting when the world seemed right. Then, there was the terrible issue of the bureaucrat who tried to blacklist us and block us from adopting Marik, and finally there was the terrible hard time in the beginning with Marik, when he was so terrified and difficult to handle.

Now, he comes in from playing, flushed with joy, “Mama, I play. Big boys! I play with big boys. Potty now but then outside. Yes, Mama, I go outside again?” I help him with his pants as he chatters and assure him that he can go back outside with the kids. His body no longer looks like that of a bay. He has turned into a little boy, somewhere during this winter, when he was so bundled up that we didn’t catch the moment. Shaye has also shot up like a little spindly weed. Despite the somewhat grim atmosphere and endless illness of this past winter, both of them seem to be physically thriving. And now that they can be out and there are other kids to play with they are thriving with joy as well.

The walls are covered with posters and crafts from our recent homeschooling units – the five senses, community helpers, environmental problems, a mixed collage on our Czech, Romani, American, international identity as a family. I’ve got Czech-style thin fruit pie in the oven, chilly and rice in the fridge for dinner, torillas planned for tomorrow. Dusan has actually cheerfully agreed to cut a pole for us to make our own mini-maypole and we are inviting Tomas to bring his family to meet us and dance the maypole with us.

It is not that everything is easy when we’re at home. Dusan and I gripe at each other more than is really necessary. We seem to be both on edge, always expecting judgment and criticism from the other. It has been so long since there was any extra anything, extra time, extra space, extra affection. We both had to work every minute of every day, falling into bed late at night exhausted and getting up at five or six in the morning to start the whole thing over again.

That is mostly what feels like spring, the sense that I can sit and write without an urgent need and time stolen from desperately needed tasks. The strain has loosened a bit, if only for awhile, but we still both act as if the other might angrily comment on our inactivity, as has admittedly happened a time or two when one or the other of us stole a few moments of peace while the other worked.

I have heard that much less than this (simple infertility, even simple adoption) has broken many a partnership or marriage, and I can certainly see why. I think it easily could have broken us, except that neither of us really believes that we have any other place to go or that anyone else would want us. Neither of us were exactly sought after as singles. And so here we are, trying to heal the wounds of this many-year-long winter.

I hope now that there is this feeling of spring, that I can be gentler in my words and rules for the children as well. Sometimes there are things that they must know or do or accept that other kids in this day and age don’t have to, for one reason or another that is specific to our situation. They must answer me when I can’t find them. It is a stronger “must” than it would be if I could see well. The same goes for them learning the manners and social norms of Czech society. They must – even more so because of our tenuous social position here. But still I would like to be gentle in my enforcement of these constraints.

The children and Dusan are back now. They are all starving and dirty and in dire need of a mother again. so much for my moment of stillness and sunlight.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 19:06:48

    It is the most exhausting thing I ever did in my life; and the most rewarding. And then, suddenly it’s gone. I mean SUDDENLY. Not really gone — but gone in the sense of the unrelenting, unbroken demands of parenting day in and day out. And then there are other things that demand our energy. But nothing, nothing, nothing I value as much as I value the children and family we created while struggled internally and externally and stretched to meet overwhelming demands, including propelling myself somehow through the demands of evenings, too tired, often. to climb the steps to kiss you guys goodnight. You and Dusan are incredible parents..


  2. Beverly Ross
    Nov 15, 2013 @ 22:32:25

    I missed this post back in April. Its tenderness, Arie, and the tenderness of your comment, Julie, are truly redeeming after the harshness realities of your prior posts. Like the tenderness of the spring soil after it thaws in the warm spring rain.


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