By Jessica Edelen
The other day I went to return a few items to a local children’s store. I had gone on somewhat of a spree, enticed by the pretty pastel goods in the window and then, inside, by the beautiful ruffled frocks on the racks. Inevitably, though, my kids responded to most of what I bought with “What is that? A dress? Where would I wear that?” and “I don’t like sharks anymore. I don’t want a shirt with sharks on it.” Sigh.
As I parked in front of the shop, I glanced in the window of the sleek black Mercedes sedan next to my car. The lush tan leather was spotless, there was a perfect little trash bin on the floor on the passenger side (with nothing in it), a Fiji water bottle in the cup holder, and three more perfect Fiji bottles in an elastic net within the driver’s grasp. That’s how I want my life to be, I thought; neat, clean, perfectly polished. I envied that car and it’s mysterious driver for some time after that.
Because until a few weeks ago, I truly believed my family was coming out of its messy, crumbs-all-over-the-car phase. But then…we decided to add on to our house.
Well, truthfully, we had made this decision almost two years earlier. But with the usual rigamorol and politics that surround these kinds of decisions in pretty much every family, the plan had only recently come to fruition. And all of a sudden, a rental apartment needed to be found, a storage pod ordered, and all of our belongings either shifted to fit into new rooms, or sent away for the duration of the project. It all happened so fast and furious, then one morning I found myself sitting in a two-bedroom condo on the other side of town with a cartoon-like spasm of dust swirling around me.
These weeks have swept any semblance of balance right out from under me. We are all having to adjust to new digs, but more than that, to everything being new and different. There's attempting to fit a Costco-load of groceries into a tiny refrigerator; timing the new commute to school for my 10, 7 and 5 year old kids; hushing them at night over and over (and over) because now we can hear each other through the walls; and figuring out how to make one dresser work for all three of them. It’s exhausting. And the hardest part? "Regular" life doesn’t stop even as we make these new adjustments. I still attend the baseball team parent meeting, get the school newsletter done (without a desktop computer, which I had to pack into the pod), and remember to get my daughter to swim practice. And if we make the swim practice, figuring out where the goggles are amongst all those boxes.
So, here’s my approach: Cry a little. Lean on my steady husband’s shoulder. Attend a yoga class when I can. Try to let some of the stress go. My life is never going to be like the sleek black Mercedes owner’s. Or at least, probably not until I’m 60. But guess what? I’m luckier than most people. I have a calendar on which I can X off the days until my house is renovated, and I’m actually enjoying holding my growing children a little closer for the time being…it’s tough not to in this little cave we’re calling home. I’m choosing to call it a blessing. So is the fact that, with two swipes of a rag, I can call my tiny rental kitchen clean.
Photographs courtesy of Jessica Edelen