This weekend my family did my job. Well at least somewhat.
Since it was Mother’s Day weekend, my husband and the kids asked me what I “wanted” for Mother’s Day. It didn’t take me but a second to answer.
“I want you to clean the house for me this weekend so that I don’t have to.”
You could see the brief flash of disappointment over their faces. Why? Because it is a lot easier to go to the store and buy some flowers and pick out cards than it is to have to devote hours of physical labor.
So they tried to lead me in another direction.
“No really. What do you want?”
I thought about it. This was the moment I could think of some materialistic gift to send them out to hunt for and wrap then feel like they had made me happy by giving me what they thought I wanted. I had some ideas –books, headphones for my iPod, a new Yankee Candle for the kitchen… you know what I mean. But before I knew it – I had spoken again.
“I want you to clean the house for me.”
Nothing more was said by anyone. I was fairly sure it would not happen but it couldn’t hurt to be honest and say it, right?
Saturday morning my husband awoke early, collected and brought all of the laundry hampers throughout the house into the laundry room. He did the laundry ALL DAY LONG. Every bit of it. The kids cleaned the house in between dance lessons, longboarding, SAT test taking, lacrosse games, and playing with neighborhood friends on Saturday. My husband led the troops assigning tasks and giving chores. After each completed assignment he would go to inspect their job. He inspected with “Mom’s eyes” only approving of what would be acceptable to me.
My husband told me that he was going to fix Mother’s Day dinner for me. Now this is a big deal because I have Celiac Disease – so it’s not like he can just throw anything together – he has to work to be diligent to avoid all gluten. But while I was out running errands on Saturday evening, I began thinking how I would really like to get some crabs on Sunday...
Besides, he had worked all day long as it was – I didn’t want him to have to do the dinner thing too. Why? Because honestly it is hard to enjoy yourself when the people around you are constantly working. It made me wonder if that’s what my kids feel like when they just want me to sit with them and I am flying around the house working.
Anyhow, I decided to call my mother to see what she thought of the idea of getting crabs for Mother’s Day. She seemed to be in agreement. So crabs it would be.
Sunday morning, I awoke and Son #3, my 12 year old, was downstairs frying bacon. I came downstairs to the family room and my husband presented me with two enormous bouquets of flowers and a hug. All three boys awoke early and there was a great deal of motion in the house for a Sunday morning. Son #3 walked over to the couch and handed me a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Mmmm. My favorite. Then he returned to the kitchen. I was called to the breakfast table. The table was filled sliced cantaloupe, fresh pineapple and strawberries. Orange juice, bacon and homemade gluten free waffles with blueberry and raspberry syrups. My husband had cut and arranged all of the fruit beautifully on plates. It was a magnificent presentation.
After breakfast, everyone was in motion again. I looked outside and my 11 year old daughter was outside washing my car. She worked all by herself. Eventually she called me outside to the garage. She had scrubbed the wheels and given it a great deal of elbow grease. She said, “Mom, look how shiny it is!” And it was – no question about it.
By the time my mother and father arrived at 1:30 on Sunday, my family had cleaned the house, cleaned out the garage, vacuumed and cleaned the sun porch, scrubbed the patio furniture and cleaned the patio, cut the grass, made me breakfast, washed my car, finished the laundry and gone to the grocery store. They rolled the lunchmeat and arranged it on platters preparing for the lunch/dinner that would accompany the crabs.
We all gathered on the patio to eat the first crabs of the season. Everyone sat together, the air was cool and the sun was warm. It was a perfect weather day. After the crabs, I pulled out the trays of lunchmeat, cheese, rolls, olives, pickles, chips and fruit. And we had what my grandmother used to call “nice sandwiches.” Whenever she didn’t feel like cooking, she would say how about a “nice sandwich”?
After our nice sandwiches, the kids went over to play on the trampoline. My parents watched. My mother began to give trampoline instruction as she remembered her days of elementary school phys ed and the trampoline. Eventually, my mother got on the trampoline. Then my father got on the trampoline. I took my turn as did my husband. I think the kids truly enjoyed watching the old folks give it a whirl. Later my mother said, “You know, inside you can remember how it felt as a kid to do things like be on a trampoline, but when you do it now – it doesn’t feel like that.” We all had a good laugh about it.
Later we retired indoors after the bugs seemed to make their entrance. I scooped bowls of ice cream for everyone. My mother’s favorite, High’s Butter Brickle, my favorite, Chocolate Mint Chip and Black Cherry for a third option. Everyone had full bellies, soaked up the outdoor weather and expended some energy.
After my parents had gone, my husband disappeared. He was upstairs ironing and packing. He would be getting up at 3:00 in the morning to catch a flight out to the west coast. He has a business trip that will keep him in San Diego until Thursday night. I knew how tired he must be because it is how tired I normally am. I heard him softly speak to each of the kids before he retired to our bedroom. “Make sure you help Mom out this week.”
He gave me the greatest gift that he possibly could. He knows how difficult it is for me when he travels and I am left to run the show with the four kids. But this Monday morning when I woke up, I knew the laundry was done, grocery shopping complete, prepared food stocked in the fridge, the car washed and the house cleaned. For me, knowing all of those things are complete, I am allowed to begin the week of single parenting in a different frame of mind. I don’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted. I feel a bit more optimistic about the week ahead.
Last night I thought about all of the Mother’s Days of past years. The years I killed myself preparing an amazing meal for my mother and grandmothers. The four years that we baptized our children on Mother’s Day and then I had everyone back to the house for brunch. The years that we were away on vacation and I was away from my own mother. There have been many over the top Mother’s Day celebrations. All of which were wonderfully...exhausting.
There was nothing fancy about the celebration this year. But it was the first one that I completely enjoyed. I wasn’t tired from shopping, cleaning and cooking. I was relaxed and able to enjoy the day. I wasn’t busy working hard trying to be a great hostess.
No one on this Earth could appreciate all that they did more than I can. Because I know. I know how hard it all was. I know how much easier it would have been to go out and buy me material gifts and then take me out to dinner. But then I would have been left with a very heavy load this week that would have weighed on my mind and taken a toll on their lives.
But this morning I am thinking it’s not going to be so bad while my husband is away this time. I’m thinking that I will have more time because they gave me the gift of time for Mother’s Day.
What will I do with that time? Get my nails done? Go shopping? Sleep in?
I’m thinking that because they gave me the gift of time – I shall take my time and give it right back to them.
"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."