4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I ran into a friend at the kindergarten art show late last week.
“How’ve you been?” she asked.
“Ugh. I have shingles.”
She started to laugh a little.
“You know, I was just saying to T. that I have all these friends who do so much. I just don’t know how they do it. I used you as an example. I can barely keep a ball and a half in the air, and you do so much! How’d you do it, I wondered.”
“Yup. Shingles. That’s how I do it.”
“Ha! Yes! Shingles!” she cheerfully replied.
It’s been that kind of week, a week where it’s sometimes a funny thing. You know, “I got shingles!! On my lady bits!! Hahahaha. Right?! Who knew that could happen?! Hahahaha.”
Because anything that rhymes with Pringles and ends up on your lady bits has got to be at least a little bit funny, am I right?
So they gave me meds for pain and meds to try to shorten the duration of those shingles. And they told me to rest, which means now when I go to soccer practice in 45º spritzing rain, I lug a beach chair to sit on. I mean, while the doctor was looking at my bits and shaking his head and telling me I had to rest, I had three children ages 3, 5 and 5, crowded around my iPad watching Elmo in the examining room with me. With me. Seriously.
Last week was the week I was going to send out the invites for Jasper’s 7th birthday party and finish the owl woodcut for the pre-school auction. This weekend was the auction at the kindergarten, and I was going to help hang the art for the pre-school auction at the coffee shop. Then this week was the week I was going to finish printing and framing the pieces for my art exhibit. Are you following all this? Balls are dropping everywhere.
So this morning I limped around framing up the few prints already done before I got sick. I’d almost finished one piece -amidst the mayhem of watching the three youngest battle it out over Legos, ironing Perler beads and playing a hand of Go Fish- and then I realized I’d come up a ¼ inch short on the width of the frame.
That’s the metaphor for this week, the message. I am continually coming up a ¼ inch short. And shingles has just shined a shingly light on it.
I returned to the doctor and she told me I need to rest more. Because it turns out I’m not even doing a good job at shingles.
Fast forward to just now, this afternoon. Driving to my six year-old’s first ever piano recital, and I suddenly got this funny feeling. I’d asked the teachers at drop-off what time the recital began, but still. I had that feeling a mother has when she’s about 20 minutes away from school and she senses that right that very minute her adorable kindergartner, dressed in a tie and sport coat and brand new sneakers, was stepping out onto the stage to play Pretty Princess on the piano.
I called the school and yes, I was right that very minute missing the recital.
Do you see what I mean? ¼ inch short.
And as I sped through the country roads, crying and punching the steering wheel, cursing in German, calling myself stupid, stupid, STUPID, a remake of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror came on. And I looked in the mirror to see mascara running down my cheeks and my puffy red eyes… and my three year-old absolutely aghast, staring right back at me from her carseat in the row behind me.
So we missed his playing, but they had him play again, right there, in front of his classmates. He made a tiny mistake, a mistake he hadn’t made the first time. And so when I went up afterwards, he was crying.
“Why’d you make me do it again?” he gasped.
When the doctor told me I had shingles I started crying a little, too.
“It’s not like I told you that you have Parkinson’s!” he said. And I, of all people, know this. I know. These things are not that big. The prints and the show and these lost, lost days and helping my son’s first recital be a terrible experience; in the grand scheme, these things are little.
By the time you read this, and before I pick him up from school, I will have taken this 1/4 inch failure and I will have clenched it in my fist until it becomes a diamond. Then I will put it in my mouth and grind it between my teeth until it’s powder. And then I will swallow that powder down and exhale whatever is left. I will make it nothing.
But still, for now, that ¼ inch just feels like a little too damn much.