Romero

When I was 22, I was not young enough to think I could change the world.

But I was young enough to think I could at least help it.

And so I flew off to the other side of the country to live in a house with seven other people and eat off mismatched plates and rock tired babies to sleep while their mothers fought for a better life. The others gave clean socks to people who were homeless and stocked the pantries of those who were hungry.

The name of our house – a Jesuit Volunteer Corps House – was Romero, after the man who was shot as he said the mass. Died as he gave bread to eat.

Oscar Romero becomes a saint today. A saint who, with his time on earth, built a better world for those he served. A future that he never lived to see.

Last week, I got drunk in the middle of the day.

Not on whiskey, mind you. That buzz would come later as I fought off a cough and my husband wisely suggested a hot toddy.

I was drunk on the glorious ness of fall. In October, there is such a short window where everything is positively exquisite. The air is refreshing, a sweater is sufficient, and the trees practically erupt in color.

I spent the day glancing out the window whenever I could. It wasn’t a particularly good day, either. The baby wouldn’t take her morning nap, or her afternoon nap. I was sick. But the sheer beauty of the world filled me with joy.

We have ten years to solve climate change, they say. Ten years to dramatically turn our world around. My oldest is nearly six years old and I have barely caught my breath from him being born. He held my hand when we walked home from school that day. He won’t do that in ten years.

Ten years is another lifetime away. Ten years is tomorrow.

As much as I love autumn, it fills me almost with a sense of panic. I feel the need appreciate every moment before it fades and we are plunged into winter. The beauty is a reminder of the long cold days ahead. This reminder pushes me outside in attempt to store away all the waning sunlight before the frost.

I don’t want to look back in ten years and wonder if I could have done more.

I didn’t live in that house very long. I became less concerned about helping the world and more concerned about making sure my own babies got enough sleep and what the hell was that weird stain on my carpet. (Truth: I’m not that concerned about my carpet stains).

It seemed so easy then, that maybe if we all just tried a little harder the world would be a better place. Turns out it’ll take more than that.

But, you know.

Might as well try.

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Don’t try to cherish every moment

If our house was an abandoned lot, books would be the weeds. They’ve taken over every surface in the house – baskets on the floor, toy shelves, stacks by the bed, the coffee table.

I can never say no to books. They come from trips to the library, ten cent splurges at the thrift store, or that intoxicatingly enticing Scholastic book fair.

And yet, there are some days that I took my children into bed and realize we haven’t read a page. The day flew by, cluttered with sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving and eating. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, “tomorrow we will cuddle on the couch and read book after book.”

Tomorrow comes and the story is the same. Sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving. I get the baby down for her nap but they are busy playing. They are bored but now I am cooking. Night time comes and as soon as their pajamas are on the baby calls for me. I rock her to sleep, listening to my husband read to them.

“Savor this moment!” everyone tells me, as spit up drops down my shirt and the cries of yet another who-had-the-hot-wheel-first argument rings in my ears.

“Let the housework wait another day!” everyone says as I step on Cheerios, rushing to grab a LEGO out of my baby’s mouth

“You’re so lucky to be able to do this!” everyone says as I hold back tears from another day where everyone needed me, me, me.

My oldest started kindergarten last week. I did not wonder where the time had gone. It was folded into the thousands of piles of laundry I had done. It fills the footprints we left behind on trails. It’s tucked between the sheets and washed off our dishes.

It does not seem like yesterday that he was a baby. This is the best and worst part. The days have been long and the years have been long too. I have gotten to fill them, albeit not always as I please. We have had five long years to love, to suffer, and to laugh together. Five long years since I’ve seen those sweet baby smiles.

I cannot cherish every moment, nor do I want to. Some days I am glad to wash down with a hot shower and a lager.

In twenty, thirty years, I am sure I will wish I had done it all different. Read more books, kissed more heads, watched more clouds by. Perhaps by then I will have forgotten about the laundry, the dishes, the fighting, the yelling, the driving to and from appointments. Maybe by then I will just remember the times we cuddled on the couch and read stories.

I can’t fill my days like that. But maybe I can at least fill my memories.