A little over 10 years ago I found myself in the new role of wife and step mom. Both proved to be challenging roles for me though I certainly gave it my ALL. The lessons learned were worth their weight in marbles, heavy, gold gilded marbles. I am grateful for ALL my life experiences. I’m especially grateful to be where I am now…traveling forward to who knows exactly what….though it will be forever beautifully seasoned by the tastes, pleasures, bumps and colorful roads traveled in my past.
And for one season, I experienced a beautiful ‘Children Storm’.
The Children Storm
As a new step-mom and first time wife, I’ve grown accustomed to the anticipation filled calm before the “children storm.” My eyes dart out the window for signs of Sam’s Bronco turning into the drive whose entrance is 800 feet away, headlights a harbinger to the chaos I’m not sure I can embrace. I almost hear circus music as I see his lights. Visions of toys, games, papers, being thrown from bookshelves, as if from some poltergeist, fill my mind, food jettisoning from the fridge, peanut better oozing at abnormal speed down cupboards with a life of its own, fingerprints a Rand McNally of childlike enthusiasm, tantrums and abandon.
My need to control tightens. My stomach freezes and my face belongs in the wax museum. Immobile, I wait. Tick, tock, tick, tock. The dogs sign the next warning, my scouts, signaling my impending danger. They begin to howl knowing as I do that our peaceful haven will soon be transformed. They begin running in circles on the porch, nip at each other with the eager anticipation of their playmates.
“Rumble, rumble, rumble,” on the stone drive, “creak” of Sam’s old Bronco doors, aching from the force of being opened one more time and all at once, a cacophony of birds chattering, magpies arguing, the sound of symbols as the doors crash closed and Sam hollering, “Leo, shut the door.” Leo, in his customary 3’4”, four-year-old retort, “It was Jason.” Bonnie escapes the Bronco first, her curly red hair a pogo stick of color. She bounces out the car door leaving bookbag, pencils and papers flying like crows scared by an oncoming tractor.
Jason tumbles out the side closest to our house and passes Bonnie with a swift dodge to the left, then the right, making her teeter off balance. The unforgettable whine sings our like a lighthouse beacon, “Jaaasssooooon mooovvve. Daddddy!!!!” Her book bag, puffy with key chains and stuffed toys bounces on her shoulder as she leans left to regain her balance. Jason clips past her to the left, around our newly planted dogwood, his same height; it competition bends and springs back, a lucky survivor. Gazelle-like, he moves up the 3 porch stairs with one jump, into the front door with hinges flung wide as though they might spin like the revolving kind at Macys, through our walls and back again another turn.
Bonnie is a moment behind, her 10-year-old body somersaulting through the front door just behind her. She high-jumps a chair to the kitchen pulling down chips, cookies, tops are opened, contents spilling. Jason with dark hair tossed to the side, flips on the TV with Olympic speed while simultaneously landing in the blue chair, sneakers flung to one side. A “BOOM!” of high pitched vibrations, background crashing, the sound hitting each wall of our home like a WW2 bomber with an ability to penetrate through accuracy and speed, deadening all senses.
Leo trails behind and is curtailed as he falls over his forever dragging shoelace, “BAM,” onto the gravel with an instantaneous bellow heard round the world. “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” The deer in our forest take cover; the birds levitate in unison. “I’m bleeeeeding. I’m dyyying.” Sam unfettered by this ritual pulls Leo up by the arm to inspect the damage. No blood in sight just a feather of skin torn.
Willing to forget his near death fall, Leo shouts with eyes bulging, forehead crimson for Jason to give him his chair, which he claimed yesterday was HIS! Sam loosens his hold as Leo wiggles to freedom and scurries through the front door, a ferret out to kill. With Mighty Mouse speed, he pounces through the door to the now settled Jason who has both hands full of Oreo’s, the creamy white filling already being scraped from the dark cookie. With the swift twitch of his elbow, a practiced move, Jason flicks Leo to the floor with no more effort than he would swat an annoying fly. Skillfully he does so without disturbing one scrap of the cookie.
A louder, “Waaaaaa, Daaaddddyy, make Jason give me the chair, it’s not fair. It’s miiiiiiiiine!!!” Sam already headed out to the Bronco to collect the strewn pieces of wreckage shouts back as he ambles without turning his head, “Leo, stop arguing. Jason, let him sit with you.” He is as calm as a monk in meditation.
My head spins. I grasp the door frame to keep my balance. My home is invaded; my sense of self lost in the din, the movement, this merry-go-round set at warp speed. Who are these people? Even the dust is scattering to take cover. The dogs are in from the back porch now adding to the mix of circus, rodeo, amusement park backdrop. The pictures on the wall hang askew or is it my brain jumbled in the wake? The instant transforming of my peaceful space. An atom bomb would be more gracious.
Peering the wreckage from the safety of our bedroom, I make a fast getaway to our bathroom so as not to be discovered. Into this 4 by 10-foot windowless tomb, my sanctuary, I breathe, I pray, not sure what for, but I pray. My heart is pumping overtime and my temples are pounding, hot to the touch. I feel like a deer found out by an overzealous first of the season hunter.
I hear Sam entering the house quickly calming the havoc, organizing the mayhem and my stomach, not yet accustomed to this ritual, loosens a small notch till Leo bursts through the bathroom door like a clown at a surprise party. “Hi BB.” I fall against the back wall and hear a “clunk.” Is it my head or has my heart stopped? Having already forgotten his recent tumble on the gravel and his adamant need for the blue chair, he smiles and with all the pride of a newly pinned commander reports, “I have to drop a few friends off at the pool.”
My eyebrows move high on my forehead. I can’t move. I make a play at normalcy, attempt to slip on my loving adult face and demeanor, while the child that is me silently screams, shakes, bellows, “SPACE; I WANT MY SPACE!!!!!!” Leo in his meltingly sweet and infectious manner bursts, “Will you help me wipe?” My breath sinks like an elevator to the lowest floor as I sigh audibly, breath again as he waits for my response. His little fine red haired head is upturned and at an angle.
There is no choice here. I feel the mother in me emerge as a grin begins to cover my face. The heat has left my temples and has fallen to my chest. My heart is a hot ember. “Of course Leo, of course my baby,…call me when you’re done.” As I begin to turn I can feel the air reentering my lungs. I start to leave, then turn as Leo heads to sit on the john. “I’m so proud of you honey.” His little pants down to his ankles, a grin from ear to ear, our eyes lock and I wonder, how on earth did I get here, helping raise another woman’s children?
Blessings to the people who’ve traveled with me thus far (and most especially the three children who let me into their hearts…along with their mother, who to this day remains my beloved ‘wife-in-law’)…. AND anticipatory ‘cheers’ to the brave and fearless ones who’ll join me moving forward.