Window of Time
The bedroom we sleep in at our country house has no windows except for a skylight in the ceiling. When we bought the house it was barely a room, its rafters exposed and the underside of the terracotta-tiled roof in full view. The first summer we were here, we put in a proper ceiling and cut in the skylight to add some natural light. There was talk of cutting a window in the 18”-thick stone wall so that we could see the cornfield behind the house. But like many of the dreams we have about this rundown, part-barn, second home of ours, that was added to the list of things we’ll get to, eventually. This renovation is a long-term project.
There’s something to be said, however, for living in a house before you renovate it. The assumptions that you make when you first stand in a room are tested over time. Though the country kitchen of my dreams is still years away from being realized, the placement of its appliances will be different – having used the room and divined its natural circulation – than if we’d put a brand new kitchen in straight away.
And after sleeping in the windowless, womblike back bedroom for four years, I’m not sure we’ll ever put a window in that wall. I have the best sleeps in this room, thick and heavy with velvety dreams. It’s like being in a tank, oblivious to the outside world, protected from noise and light, impervious to everything, except a small child who decides it’s time for you to get up.
This morning I was curled around Buddy-roo in the center of our big bed, having both fallen back to sleep during the ritual morning cuddle. Short-pants had slipped out from under the covers earlier; I remember hearing her uneven steps around the foot of the bed. De-facto was exceptionally industrious, rising early to lay a belt of cement beside the house to add security to the foundation (don’t ask), preferring to work in the cooler morning hours.
“Mama.” I felt a skinny finger tapping my shoulder. Since Buddy-roo was motionless beside me, it had to be Short-pants.
“Mama, I’m hungry.”
I groaned. I was in the middle of such a delicious sleep.
“Mama, I want something to eat.”
“Ask Papa.” I mumbled.
“He said he’s too busy.”
It didn’t really make sense that De-facto would say he was too busy to make breakfast for one of his daughters. And Short-pants knows how to pour a bowl of cereal for herself. But when you’re half-asleep things don’t necessarily make sense. Maybe, I thought, if I don’t respond, she’ll leave me alone. I could still fall back to that dreamy slumber, if I just didn’t move.
I could hear her breathing behind me.
“Mama,” her voice sweeter than ever, “I’m really hungry.”
Later, after stirring honey into a bowl of yogurt – and explicitly explaining to her how to do it – I sat beside her on the rickety bench by our table. She silently spooned yogurt into her mouth while I cupped my hand around a bowl-like mug of café-au-lait. We sat together like that, wordless, and watched the sun pour through the window across the dusty floor. I can sweep that floor three times a day, but here in the country, it’s always dusty.
“Did Papa really say he was too busy to make you breakfast?” I said.
She shook her head no. “I didn’t ask him.”
“Why did you have to wake me up? I was having such a nice sleep-in.”
I was about to launch into the little lecture I’ve given before, about how impolite it is to wake us up early when it’s a weekend or vacation morning.
“I just wanted to have some time alone with you,” she said.
I wanted to be angry. But how can you be mad at someone who simply wants a little bit of undivided attention? It’s true that I’m always in the middle of something. I spend too much time doing and not enough time being. I live my life feeling barely caught up, always running someplace and I’m already late, taking care of something I forgot to do, perpetually spewing the busy mom’s mantra, “just let me finish this….”
When the girls were babies and I was up to my ears in their 24/7 care, people told me “it will go by so fast, enjoy it while you can.” At the time – given that some days I couldn’t even find a moment to brush my teeth – I resented this clichéd comment. But now I’m finding out how it might be true for me. While I wouldn’t go back to those diapered, toddler years again, I do sense that right now is a unique window of time, a window when they are (relatively) independent and yet still interested in having anything to do with me. I know it won’t last forever, this window. I want to take advantage of it while it’s here and now. Spending time with them is not something to be added to the list of things I’ll get to, eventually. They are my most important long-term project.
And I will get to them. I will, as soon as I finish this post.