The Scurrying and Crackling of Life: Motherhood is About Being With People

One of the little perks of our helter-skelter schedule this year is that I get more one-on-one time with our Lia. Once a week, we drive together to her violin lesson and then have some free time – just the two of us to do whatever we want.

This is refreshing on many levels. For example, I can give my attention to the violin lesson without vending snacks and noiseless toys to the younger siblings for 30 grueling minutes.

And, we have an hour in town that feels fairly unclaimed by groceries, meetings, or to-do’s.

To top it all off, Lia is simply a pleasant person to be around. She is enthused about everything and is a wonderful companion.

She’s also a shopper who is more invested in selecting your new shoes than she is in her own.

As I was shopping for a pair of black boots, Lia found a variety of options in my size, stood back to offer opinions, helped me weigh the costs, and agreed wholeheartedly with my selection.  As we sat side-by-side on the little leather bench at Kohl’s, pulling crinkly paper out of one of the shoe boxes, I told her that I love shopping with her.

I’ve never known how to shop with people. Shopping with people is like running with people. It’s like sharing entrees with people: I just don’t do those things very often. I must have a dormant fear that shopping, running, or sharing entrees with people will distract me, mess with my pacing, and limit me to half of the salmon I ordered just to suffer through half of the Stromboli you ordered.

Thankfully, God has surrounded me with extroverts who won’t stop inviting me to experience the beauty of “with people”.  I don’t know what I’d do without them. (Though certainly, I’d enjoy that whole salmon, no doubt about it.)

So anyway, after Lia’s music lesson, we ask ourselves what we should do with our time. Last week, we moseyed around the fairy garden display at the local floral shop. Both of our imaginations were sparked by the mossy hillsides, charming bridges, and whimsical fairy figures.

It all seemed so real.

We wanted it to be real.

We walked around slowly, side by side.

Lia talked about her plans to build her own fairy garden with gnomes who would bend over to look at their red-capped reflections in a clear, blue pond. She talked about the fairies who would put their hands on their knees and ask the hedgehogs how they were doing today?  And she shared every detail about the bunny family that would pop out from the ground and wheel carrots to an outdoor patio table.

Meanwhile, I was silently opening and closing the miniature doors on the crooked little fairy houses, wishing that just once, I’d open a door and glimpse a scurrying of someone iridescent or the crackling of a fire in a fireplace.

We arrived home with 30 minutes to spare before we had to pick up all of the youngsters from Grandmom’s house. All morning I had daydreamed about curling up on the couch with a book or – if I’m honest – just replying to a few emails, but there was Lia absolutely bubbling over with excitement about building that fairy garden.

A few pages in a book?

A few items checked off my to-do list?

An escape for my inner introvert?

But this time, instead of pulling my computer onto my lap, I pulled the hot glue gun out of the cabinet. I plugged it in, stretching its orange chord across the deck to the picnic table.

I pulled on my shabby garden gloves and mercilessly tugged at the underperforming tomato plant that had been sitting in a large pot on our deck for far too long.

The pot would be the perfect setting for Lia’s garden.

The tomato plant broke free from the soil easily and seemed ambivalent about being relocated to the pile of overgrown weeds down by the pond.

While I was down by the pond, I discovered a pile of curled bark from a locust tree that we recently cut and split for firewood. I instinctively squealed in delight and gathered the largest pieces to show Lia: it was just right.

For the next few minutes, she and I flew about the yard like robins in the spring, collecting nature’s treasures. Lia scurried about gathering sticks for fence posts, moss for carpeting, and large rocks from the driveway for stepping stones and furniture.

The warm autumn wind swept our hair from our faces as we arranged our findings on the picnic table and went at them with the hot glue gun, transforming a stack of sticks into a charming garden fence, a pile of stones into a patio table, and a bit of string into a fairy’s clothesline.

It didn’t take long for us to create a garden fit for our lone plastic fairy doll and the chubby hedgehog who has been sitting on the bookshelf by our Beatrix Potter collection for years.

The garden contains two neighboring homes: one for the fairy, with a garden in which she may grow a winter’s supply of carrots and a clothesline where she may dry her little plastic clothes. And the other where the hedgehog may sleep in late and amble down a stone path to visit the fairy and share a pot of tea.

Oh my darling girl, Lia.

I would have quickly forgotten the few pages in my book.

I would have replied to emails that have a limitless shelf life.

But those 30 minutes were precisely what I was looking for when I grasped the tiny knob of the crooked little fairy houses and peeked inside.


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