Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg:
'I'm tired and I'm bored and I've kinks in my leg. From sitting, just sitting here day after day. It's work! How I hate it! I'd much rather play! I'd take a vacation, fly off for a rest
If I could find someone, I'd fly away free...'
Then Horton, the Elephant, passed by her tree.
'Hello!' called the lazy bird, smiling her best, 'You've nothing to do and I do need a rest. Would you like to sit on the egg in my nest?'"

This opening scene, from "Horton Hatches The Egg," by Dr. Seuss, somehow struck a chord with me as I read it to Esther last night. What a naughty little mother bird that Mayzie is. How much like her I have been feeling, I'm ashamed to say. On a smaller scale of course. Mayzie, that naughty mommy, cut out indefinitely, headed for an oceanside palm tree in Florida and stayed there lolling about in the breeze for months on end while Horton endured all varieties of hardship to keep that little egg safe. I'm just looking for a babysitter.

We've had babysitters, of course, with Esther, but not often and she was just one child. Now, the thought of finding a competent, trustworthy, available person to watch an almost five year old and an 11-month old baby who has a penchant for eating dogfood and trying to escape out the screen door, is more than daunting. It is paralyzing.

Ian and I just celebrated our tenth anniversary and I decided, on the morning of, that we should try to spend a part of it alone, with each other, having a conversation that wasn't interrupted by intermittent screeching, begging, tugging, whining, pooping, or life threatening situations. Imagine it. Just us, walking through the woods with a bottle of something cold and bubbly in our backpack, some bread and cheese maybe, and nothing else. We would talk, or hold hands and not talk, as we made our way up the mountain trail to the overlook to sit in the grass and gaze out across the green mountains in total silence.

Then, I woke up. Problem: Aside from a little bit of mother's helper time, I have never left Isla with anyone but my sister. She is right smack in the middle of what is considered to be, "stranger anxiety" time. And the likelihood of my sister, who has two school -age kids of her own, being available to take my two kids, at such short notice was not good.

Tenth anniversary. Nothing planned. What kind of wife am I? I thought of friends with exciting anniversary tales to tell. Dinners high above New York City, exchanging jewelry that sparkled in the candlelight reflected off crystal wine glasses. Trips to Ireland. Weekend cabin retreats complete with three-meal-a-day room service, hot tubs and massage... I should know from my life as a competitive athlete, it's never a good idea to pay too much attention to what other people (the competition) have done or are doing. I sometimes wonder if you looked up the phrase "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" it might possibly say: "An illusion which most people know not to fall for, but Betsy can't get through her head."

Instead of crystal wine glasses and hot tubs, it was us, all four of us, at the dinner table eating steak and french fries and acorn squash washed down with a too- delicious bottle of red wine Ian brought home, and which we slurped surreptitiously from too -large glasses lest Isla, who spent the meal in our laps, insert her fist in the lovely red liquid to see how it would feel again and again. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, and for us, for not having a "proper" celebration, I managed to open my eyes to the sublimity of the scene before me. Stubbly-faced daddy, as handsome as the day I married him, though a little more tired looking, with a lovely chubby baby girl on his knee and Esther, in a sleepy yet smiley mood, eatiing with her hands and grilling us about what outfits we, and different wedding guests wore to our wedding. She's still a bit miffed by Daddy's kilt.

Isla started to rub her eyes and I whisked her up to her crib, which she embraced without protest. And Esther fell asleep soon thereafter with her head on Ian's shoulder as he read her a Roald Dahl story on the couch. Two kids down and it wasn't even 8 p.m. ! Looks like we were getting a freee night after all, a gift from our thoughtful, exhausted children.

A gift! Yes, what about a gift. So out of practice are we in gift giving, we both hesitated to discuss out anniversary for fear the other might be put under pressure. "I do have a little something I wrote for you," I finally said. And ran upstairs to print a document I had been working on for two years, the story of our courtship and beyond in a fragmented narrative style. I handed him two flimsy pieces of paper with my words on it, taking solace only in the fact that paper is made of wood and wood is supposedly the material associated with tenth anniversaries. He didn't cry when he read it, as if, but I did imagine I heard a sudden intake of breath when he got to the last lines : "My heart flaps like a bird's wings when I see you with your daughters. Your hands are more beautiful than ever before when they are holding them; when they are holding us."

Not that I am in any way converted from the philosophy that mothers and fathers need to go on dates and take small breaks from their children in order to maintain sanity and lust for life, but it was nice to discover that, sometimes, those little oases of peace can be found right under your own roof.