My next installment in Minibury’s “Our Favorite Things” series is up, in which I share the two hair-care secrets that brought peace to our family’s grooming routines. Click here to read the full article!
The cow was hanging on the wall, opposite the checkout counter at the Sweet Charity resale shop in Vergennes, and I fell in love with it immediately.
That I was in Sweet Charity, without children, on a Saturday afternoon, was due to a series of anomalous events. My husband was in Chicago for work, so a generous friend had taken pity on me and invited all four of my children over to her house to play for a couple of hours.
Faced with two precious hours of free time after two days of single parenting, I did what any woman would do: I went shopping for home furnishings with my mother, of course.
One afternoon earlier this month, my daughters and I gathered around our kitchen island for a snack. I began asking my eldest daughter about a book she was reading. After a few one-syllable responses, she was tired of my questioning. Looking me right in the eyes, she said:
“’Every man his own priest,’ Mommy.”
She was quoting the followers of Martin Luther (“The original, not King, Jr.,” as my daughters are fond of saying.) During the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, Martin Luther started a movement that changed many of the practices of the Catholic Church and put the Christian faith more firmly in the hands of the people. “Every man his own priest,” was the rallying cry of those who advocated translating the Bible and making copies more widely available, so that people could read and interpret it for themselves.
In other words, my daughter was using a cheeky historical reference to tell me: “If you’re so interested in what I’m reading, read it yourself!”
One year ago I started homeschooling my two oldest daughters, who are now in 2nd and 3rd grades. As much as I’ve taught them over this year, they’ve taught me more. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is just how much children love history.
The cultural world of our daughters – our two oldest daughters, in particular – currently revolves around the Star Wars saga. They have watched four of the seven films created by George Lucas: a multi-generational epic of the Skywalker family’s adventures on the dark and light sides of the Force, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” They have read every book about Star Wars that they can get ahold of, including a biography of Lucas himself. They are so well versed in Star Wars trivia that they know the backstory of every minor character, can sketch out the Star Wars galaxy from memory, and measure time in terms of B.B.Y. (Before the Battle of Yavin) and A.B.Y. (After the Battle of Yavin.)
Last month, one of our daughters celebrated a birthday (Star Wars-themed, of course.) Her aunt and uncle gave her an online gift certificate for Amazon.com. It was hardly a surprise when she decided to use that gift to buy herself a lightsaber: the weapon of choice for both Jedi and Sith.
She spent a great deal of time perusing the lightsaber options. “I want to make sure that it’s not junky,” she explained. She counted the days until it was delivered to our doorstep. When the chosen lightsaber arrived, it was all that she had wanted: an extendable blade, complete with lights and sound effects.
Several minutes later, I was preparing to break down the lightsaber box for recycling when this same daughter approached me with a melancholy expression.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I guess the lightsaber’s just not as exciting as I expected.”
On the morning after the 2016 Presidential election, I took my daughter to preschool. This preschool – a magical place that looks and feels like a throwback to 1970s Vermont – has a daily morning “circle time,” during which parents and children sit around the carpet to hear a story, sing songs, and greet each other. As I looked around the circle that morning, the contrast between parents and children was dramatic. The adults were haggard; nearly everyone appeared exhausted from staying up late watching the election returns. And although I can’t pretend to know how everyone had voted the day before, most of the adult faces around that circle bore glazed looks of shock.
Then there were the children: These three-, four-, and five-year-olds did not look exhausted, shocked, or anything other than excited and ready to begin the morning’s activities. If their world had changed overnight, they seemed unconcerned. They were busy just being kids.
So, in a performance that felt slightly unreal, we adults put on the show of a normal morning for our children. We helped stash lunch sacks and choose daily chores, we listened to a story, we discussed the day’s craft. We kissed our children goodbye and told them to have great days. We saved urgent, whispered conversations for the parking lot.
It felt like the best thing I could have done that morning. Even when the world does change overnight, what can we do but continue to breathe in and out, to put one foot in front of the other, to take our children to school?
Our new wood stove arrives today, not a minute too soon. We no longer open our windows at night; instead, we’re sleeping in socks and pulling up the comforter. The mornings are dark and cold. The world is turning gold as every day more leaves decide to shed their chlorophyll and show their true colors. ”I think you girls are keeping us in business!” Mary at Happy Valley Orchard exclaimed when we showed up for the second day in a row, after two of my daughters put away seven apples between snack and lunch. This weekend there was a Canada Geese superhighway crisscrossing the airspace over our house.
Fall is well and truly here in Vermont.
Our family is outside more than ever, clinging to these beautiful days before freezing temperatures drive us inside. I’m putting old garden beds to sleep, and preparing new garden beds for spring. My husband is playing with his new weed whacker and brush-cutting attachment. And my daughters are just playing.
Last week, somebody asked me if we’d put up a playground in the yard of the house we’ve occupied for two months. I’m afraid I stared at him more incredulously than his question warranted before answering, “No, that’s not in the plans.” We have no need for a playground. Our daughters are in talks with their grandfather about building a tree house together, which would be great, but for the time being they have 12 acres to call their own. They dig holes and make mud bricks. They climb trees. They swing in the hammock. They roast marshmallows in the fire pit. They ride their dirt bikes up and down the back hay field, the topographic features of which they’ve named in honor of various Star Wars characters. And they catch critters.
My immediate thought, after my three-year-old daughter swallowed my wedding band, was: Well, I guess there really IS a first time for everything!
This past month has been full of firsts for our family, which is typical of early September. There were the first days of the new school year, with one daughter entering a new third grade class, one daughter beginning kindergarten, one daughter starting part-time preschool, and the remaining daughter resuming homeschool. We visited new classrooms for the first time, packed our first lunches, navigated the first day jitters (and completely forgot about the requisite first day photos!)
Three weeks into the school year, and everything still feels new as we struggle to find our footing, figure out who’s going where and when, sign up for extracurricular activities, and help our exhausted daughters transition out of their lax summer sleep schedule.
We are experiencing additional firsts since moving to a new home in early August, figuring out how things work in this house and how our land is best managed.
And, in less happy news, one of our daughters is undergoing treatment for her first bout with Lyme disease.
So many firsts, so much newness! But the wedding band incident trumped it all.