The Oyster Bed, For Now

It is an oyster, with small shells clinging to its humped back.  Sprawling and uneven, it has the irregularity of something growing.  It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life...It amuses me because it seems so much like my life at the moment, like most women's lives in the middle years of marriage.  It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with accumulations and...firmly embedded on its rock.

It is a physical battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society.  In the midst of such a life there is not much time to sit facing one another over a breakfast table.

--Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, pg. 74-75

I have been preparing for today for two weeks.  Nesting, I suppose.  I've been dreaming about it for even longer.  The children are coming home.  There will be time, once again, for staring at each other over the breakfast table.

Oh, joyful day.

During all my preparations, the cleaning and organizing and sewing and refinishing, my mind has been thinking.  Mostly about Lindbergh's oyster bed, the sprawling, heavily encrusted, humped-back oyster shell I live in, and the year I have just survived clinging to my rock.

I thought about it when I cleaned out the drawers and make a stack of all the children's clothes that no longer fit.

I thought about it when I filed the drawings my children had made before they could make letters.

I thought about it when we sorted through the toys they had outgrown and no longer use.

I thought about it when I sanded the finish off the chairs of our first real dining set that we bought before Savannah was born.

I thought about it when I took the teddy bears off the boys' shelves to make room for the certificates and plaques and baseball trophies.

And I thought about it when I folded up the winter quilts and put out fresh summer pillows on the couch.

The world has gone around its axis one more time.  

And I am feeling dizzy. 

Grateful, but also reeling, I watched my children walk out the door this morning and I'll admit I was a little melancholy.  Too much pondering, perhaps.  I told David that I needed to talk, but he had to go--to provide, to secure our place on the rock.

My children are coming home today.  They are coming home for the summer.  And they will come home for a few more summers after this one, maybe a dozen, if I'm lucky.  But I can see that one day they won't, that my summers staring at them across the breakfast table are limited and precious.  This year amid the spelling tests and math facts and tricky letter "e," I taught my oldest daughter how to shave her armpits and my nearly teenage son learned how to talk to girls.

I can feel the earth turning under my feet.

Three days ago I went to the bookstore and spent all of my birthday gift cards and some of my grocery money on books for my children's summer reading.  It was a sizable stack and when I got to the counter the woman said, "Wow.  Are you a teacher?"

I said, "No, I am a mother."

She looked up at me, surprised.

"I am a mother."

And I said it all the way to the car.  I am a mother.  I am a mother.  I am a mother.  And my time has come. 

I'm in the oyster bed, for now.  Lovely, crazy, wild, busy, teeming, untidy, exhausting, perfect oyster bed.  And we have made it, again, to summer, when the sprawling, spreading life stops for a few glorious months and it's just us.  Just us--across the breakfast table, across the game board, across the country.  With all the time in the world.

At least, that is what I am telling myself this morning.