I worked with a purpose because I had a long way to go if I was going to get both of the projects I had hoped to complete, done before Amanda got home. We were getting a rare warm day and the three youngest were occupied in the driveway re-routing the stream of runoff water with shovels and hoes to make a series of pools and rivers to float things in. I had been texting my brother trying to figure out what ailed the planer he had lent me for the job. I was pretty sure the planer was fine and the error was with the operator, this guy. It was also highly probable that my brother wouldn't check his phone for texts or voicemail for hours because...he just doesn't. So I switched gears to the shorter project which I should have started first. Then, when I had one in the bank, go on to the more in depth job and get as far as I can. Stupid hindsight, why do you ridicule me?!
The stair railing to the second floor in our house has been deteriorating quickly, particularly as the kids get bigger and heavier and still use it like a pommel horse every time they descend. I did the same thing to the railing in my house growing up and, unless one of us plays hall monitor all day to catch them in the act, it will probably continue. Rather than waiting for it to collapse on a budding gymnast, I went to work securing the wobbly rail and removing each baluster, sanding them smooth and resetting them in place. It was nice to sink into something and have my own head space amid all of these long days in a row on my own with the crew. I thought about how excited Amanda would be when she came home to a finished job or two, ya know, on top of handling life for two weeks while she was in like, Indonesia. Naturally, it wasn't too long before young Annabel returned from outside and I heard her talking in the kitchen but she is three, almost four years old and generally maintains a running dialogue of her own for the entire length of her waking hours.
I think she was saying something like, "the kids aren't 'cluding me, Papa, kids aren't 'cluding me!"
"Ok, sweety!", I yelled, "take off your boots if you're coming in, please".
I ripped three more balusters out and carried them to the workshop to be sanded. On my way through I passed Annabel sitting at the table by herself snacking on an apple.
"Hiiii Papa", she said dejectedly.
I kept on rolling and when I came back through she was gone. Hmm, maybe she went to coax a story out of her Gram. Mom will keep her busy for a little while I figured.
"Oh, Hi Annabel!"
"Gram was having quiet time."
"Maybe you could have some quiet time. Can I set you up with some paper and pencils in the library?"
"I guess", she replied, pretty unenthused.
Man, I thought, all of these things are in bad shape. I'm going to have to sand every one of them for this to be done right...
"How 'bout I'll be Emily and you be the Papa. No, you be Santa and it's Christmas and you bring me this Mama dog and this puppy", stuffed animals in hand.
"Ok, Annabel - I'll play with you in one. minute. I just have to get three more of these done and I'll take a break."
"Uhhhhhhhh. I'm not Annabel! I'm Emilyyy."
"Sorry Emily, I'm almost to break time, k?"
"Can you step back please honey? I'm trying to take some pictures of the stairs as I go."
A tiny hand crept into the shot. Barely perceptible. Almost invisible.
I looked up the stairs and there she sat, in real life, looking right at me with big blue eyes. Patient. Gentle. I slipped the phone into my pocket and looked right back at her.
"Hi", tilted head, more eyes and a smile.
Suddenly, I felt exactly like the dad in the old Church of Latter Day Saints commercials that pretty much ignores his kid because he's too busy doing his own thing. And the kid repeatedly asks for attention and eventually, after being beaten about the head and shoulders with the obvious needs of a child, the dad snaps out of it...mmm hmmm, I'm a sappy religious commercial straight out of the 80's. Remember those? Guilty as charged, I guess.
So, I put down my tools just like the Mormon guy from the commercial. We sat on the couch and she made me a phone from two magnetiles stuck together and then she called me on my magnet phone and I was Santa. Each time she called it was Christmas Eve and she told me exactly what she wanted and even sort of brought the gifts over so I didn't have to work too hard coming up with ideas. Then she would pretend to go to sleep and I would kind of "hohoho" quietly so as not to wake up Emily and I'd deliver the gifts to her house made of couch pillows.
Before long it was mid-afternoon and the other kids were rolling in, wet, muddy and ready for some nourishment. Once a snack was complete and picked up it was time to start dinner, eat, then farm chores etc etc.
On the way up to bed, holding Annabels hand as she was replaying her version of what we did that day and she stopped in mid step, "Huh. You shouldn't leave your hammer on the stairs Papa, somebody could get hurt!"
By the time I got to my own pillow I had about two minutes before my eyes were closed for the night and I traded texts with Amanda. It was late morning in Bali and she was out and about but thought about me at bedtime and checked in to send her thoughts and love. She'll be fine if my projects don't get done...but maybe I have enough time to finish. At least one...
* incoming text sound *
from my brother - "the planer was fine the last time I used it"...
Another day catalogued with the rest of history. Come home soon Mama.