After I posted last night, I did go back and do a bit more work in my bedroom. I shook out the single rug that keeps me from having to step on the unfinished cement floor. I swept the place where it had been (oh. my.), as well as the rest of the bedroom that was not still cluttered by my husband's stuff (most of mine is put away now). It made a huge difference, just to have a clean floor. I still need to clean off my dresser and end table and dust them thoroughly (they're bad), but my side of the room is looking pretty good.
My daughter was still up, for some crazy reason, even though it was eleven o'clock at night. I hadn't made her go to bed as we were still waiting for the guys to get home from the concert. We were anxious to hear how it had gone, as this was their first time being asked to film something important with the new video camera and Tano's new videography skills. They had spent the afternoon in the shop manufacturing a custom jib arm to mount the camera on and be able to swing it smoothly out over the crowd. The concert featuring three local screamo metal bands, one of which features two of my very talented public speaking students, was kind of a big deal. Although neither of us (the girl and I) had any interest in attending it--having learned from experience that it's really not our style--we were excited to hear how it had gone.
Ellie came into my room while I finished sweeping and plopped down on my mostly made bed. This very rarely happens, as my "bedroom" (never intended to be a bedroom and really not set up like one at all) has not ever been a pleasant place. We threw a bed and a couple of dressers in there four years ago because our new bedroom, the one in the addition to the house, wasn't finished yet, so this was to be our very temporary home. Did you catch the part about four years ago? The temporary room has never been improved in any way and really has only served as a place for us to lay our heads at night. We try not to enter it for any other reason, so my daughter coming in and plopping down on my bed, although for some of you might seem like a normal part of life, for me was nearly unprecedented--at least in the last four years. It was enough for me to pay attention.
This is what life should be like.
"I like your bed," she said, and stretched out luxuriously.
"I'm glad," I replied, and I truly was. I kept sweeping.
She hopped off of the bed and headed up the steps (told you it wasn't meant to be a bedroom) to the long rod mounted against the wall that serves as our closet. She was taking full advantage of this new access to my bedroom and began to browse through the clothes hanging on the rod. Already 5'4" (maybe 5'5" by today, at the rate she is going) and just over 100 lbs., she is the size of a woman, but definitely an 11 year old girl in her heart.
"Oooh!" she squealed, "I've never seen you wear this dress before! It's so pretty!"
I turned to see her holding a dress Andy had bought me when we were dating, twenty years ago. Although it hasn't fit me for many years, and is definitely a style from another era, I've never had the heart to part with it. How many guys have the guts to buy their girlfriend a dress? And when he bought it, it fit perfectly and was a style I absolutely loved. I treasured that pretty flowered sundress with the drop-waist that tied in the back. Ellie held it up against herself with dreamy eyes. Her daddy, her hero, had bought this dress. The romance of it all was making her swoon.
"Go ahead and try it on, Babe," I suggested. "It will probably almost fit you."
Her eyes sparkled. "Really?" And in a bid for modesty, she ran out the door and to her own bedroom, just across the basement.
While she changed into the dress, I pondered the day I'd had with my baby girl, quickly becoming a young woman. Earlier, she was working on a school project ("Einstein's Suitcase", purchased from Enrichment4You at CurrClick.com--$4.95 PDF download, totally worth it, really cool as a wrap-up of a study of Einstein biography), and she needed an old wristwatch. I told her that I had several old and old-looking watches and she could borrow one for her project. Thanks to my efforts to emerge from the chaos, I even knew where it was and sent her to the barn for my old jewelry case.
Opening the case, it wasn't the watch that first caught her attention--it was the earrings. Yes, I was a teenager in the 80's, and we knew how to rock the earrings. She oohed and aahed as she held up each sparkly, dangly pair. I had to chuckle at the collection, as I know now (as I knew then) that I am allergic to cheap metals and every pair of those earrings would make me break out into an itchy, scabby rash. It was worth it to me then, not so much now. Not at all, now, in fact. I own three pair of good-quality earrings now for my two sets of holes and I rarely take them out. I realized that there was no reason at all why Ellie couldn't have any of that costume jewelry that her little heart desired. She was beyond thrilled and immediately put in a pair of silver danglies covered with light aqua beads in assorted shapes, including tiny hearts and stars.
I smiled as my past collided with my present in a most sparkly way. "You know," I reminisced, "I think I remember a photo of me in one of my yearbooks where I'm wearing those earrings."
"Really? Where are your yearbooks?" Again, I was pleased that I know the answer to a question like that now. She headed back to the barn and came in with a stack of yearbooks, both mine and Andy's. Time went backwards as we sat on the floor together and leafed through the pages. She was a little surprised to learn that--no--people in the 80's (at least 85-88, when I was in high school) were not all about wearing bizarre combinations of neon colors. In fact, they looked fairly normal, aside from the big hair on the girls and short shorts and mullets on the guys. We laughed a lot, the girl and I, sitting together on that (clean!) living room floor, and we did find the photo I was thinking of with the earrings. Of course, I hadn't thought about the fact that the photo was taken at a school dance or banquet, with some guy other than her daddy's arm around me. I wonder what goes through her brain when she sees things like that.
We went out for the evening, just the two of us, after all that strolling down memory lane, and had an excellent time together, just talking and dreaming, and now here she was, waltzing back into my partially finished partially finished bedroom wearing a dress I'd been given by her daddy before she was even a twinkle in his eye. And she wore it pretty well, too. I tied it up in the back for her, cinching it around her tiny waist and she twirled and floated around my humble (but almost clean!) bedroom before collapsing back on my bed in giggles.
It was wonderful. I told her to go change into her PJs and hang the dress back up in my room.
"But, Mom, can't I keep it and wear it if you're not going to?"
"Maybe next summer, Babe. It's still a little big for you and it's not exactly sundress weather yet anyway. But while you're getting ready for bed, why don't you go get The Yearling (the book she and I are currently reading together) and bring it in here when you're all set."
She scampered off to change and find the book. Upon returning, she put my dress back on the hanger, hung it up, and crawled under the covers on Daddy's side of the bed. She snuggled in next to me and I read several chapters by the light of my little lamp. Eventually, she began to sink lower and yawn more often and we called it a night. I told her Daddy would probably have to wake her up to get her back into her own bed (she's a little big to carry these days), but she was welcome to stay and sleep next to me until he returned. What a treat. For both of us. She began to twitch almost immediately and fell sound asleep. It was wonderful.
There are benefits of emerging from the chaos. Little things like cleaning a bedroom to make it into a pleasant place can enhance a relationship! Who knew?
Oh, and there are other benefits, too:
In wanting my house to feel more like a home, and wanting to free my brain up to actually enjoy my home life instead of just trudging through and surviving it, looking for something more exciting outside of the home, I actually got on a baking kick this week. I baked four times in one week! Two kinds of cookies, muffins (some for now and some for the freezer), and brownies (half for a funeral service and half for sharing with friends tonight). Having a house that smells like baked goods definitely makes the place more appealing, that's for sure. Plus, today I even made a huge pot of baked beans and put a ham in the oven, with half of the pot of beans for the funeral and everything else for us to eat the rest of the weekend. Wow. Cooking ahead? Who does that?
I had the kids straighten up their rooms and I did a little straightening up, too, with the intention of inviting some friends to come home with us from the funeral to spend the evening. But guess what? Having just returned from the funeral (a beautiful, heart-wrenching service in which I cried and laughed and cried some more), we are off to someone else's house instead! So that means I now have a clean house and plenty of food to eat, going into Sunday. Score.
It's good, friends. It's worth the effort. The blessings of emerging from the chaos are just beginning, I can tell.
How is your own journey coming? I'd love to hear about it.
Love to you all.