The boys are tucked under the same blanket with their heads at opposite ends of the couch, feet touching. I hear them giggling and saying things like, “Good night! No, bad night!” We’ve just finished a Sunday dinner—which is lunch, really—and I’m thinking of my Grandma, whose abounding love and gracious femininity shined in the Sunday dinners she prepared her family.
She always served us a gigantic from-scratch meal, with which we stuffed our bodies until we could eat no more and then moved to the living room of her tiny Mary-Poppins-clean home and collapsed like puppies on the carpet. She then tiptoed around the kitchen, cleaning all traces of our feast as we snoozed the time away until dessert. Squashy-eyed, we’d take our seats at the table while she dished up chocolate milkshakes or majestic slices of pie, dressing each piece in the expensive ice cream.
Dang, joy feels nice. Right now my house smells like her chicken soup, our lunch, with a touch of slow-cooking beef curry, our dinner. It’s sanctuary-silent in here, just like it always was afternoons in her home, and it’s warm. I’m moving slowly, for once, from room to room, checking on the boys, washing the knives, cleaning the countertops, looking out the window to see if Brian and the dogs are back from running at the beach. My body is at rest, which, paired with this kind of general contentment, is a gut sensation I admit I haven’t enjoyed for more than a few minutes at a time. Ever.
The deliciousness of the moment brings forth a glaring question: Why haven’t I done this before? It feels amazing.
Seriously, why haven’t I done this before? I look around and notice it’s the same as any other day. I’m cleaning the kitchen, the boys have gone from resting on the couch to making mischief in the sunroom, I need to put Kip down for his nap and he’s going to throw a fit about it. The only difference in this picture is me: I’m relishing every domestic act I’m performing, from saying things like, “If you aren’t kind to each other, I’m separating you two” to scrubbing the heat-crusted chicken stock splatters off the gas range. None of this is causing me stress. It’s a stark contrast to most days, when I’m racing around the house like a Roomba vacuum picking up this thing, and that thing, bumping into this, planning for that and beeping in outrage when I get stuck in a corner. Ick. Where’s the fun in that? Can I do my regular duties and experience joy, and even have fun, while doing them?
Here’s how my mind has been working. Today is Sunday and, because it’s Sunday, therefore I’m allowed permission to feel good about being a homemaker. Monday through Friday, I’m expected to be an ambitious, all-doing woman who could have a power career if she really wanted it, while also being a full-time Super Mom—no excuses, missy. Not hard to see the ego at work in my unconscious deciding which days I can relax into and even enjoy motherhood and which days I must pretend I have something better to do. In truth, it’s perfectly wondrous, if not Zen of me, to find joy in the routine moments of my life. Every day.
How did I take so long to understand my Grandma? I’ve spent years wondering how my radiant 92-year-old grandma always seems so unconcerned with the pace of the material world and so detached from the usual trappings of it. Sure, she loves fancy make-up as much as any girl, but she doesn’t seem to define herself based on any of the usual modern pitfalls: wealth, beauty, career, social status, intellect, the success of her kids, religious beliefs (she’s been known to cry at a beautiful hymn, but she never puts a stick in the ground about her faith), etc. Moreover, for as long as I can remember, she’s been the plain old personification of love.
“How do you think you learned to be this way, Grandma?” I’ve asked her.
“What way?” She is sincerely clueless.
“You know, you’re just so good at living in the moment, at doing things with love, at not getting caught up in the stuff of the world…” I try to lead her to the grand revelation, her secret to a happy life.
“Oh, honey, I just don’t know any better,” she has the laugh of an opera singer—it’s up there. “I’m not very smart, you know.”
“Dang it, Grandma,” I demand. “I want to know how to be like you.”
“Honey, you don’t want to be like me,” she laughs again. “You’re perfect just the way you are.”
Here’s how things are going to be around from now on, Mind. The four of us spent the morning coloring, making art, watching a bit of Sunday morning TV, eating breakfast, playing dodge ball and preparing lunch together. It was downright satisfying to settle into the slow pace of children with Brian by my side. Brian has always been the gentle hand to still my spinning top and, till now, I’ve genuinely needed him to adopt the authoritative “Relax right now, Emily. You have to stop what you’re doing and relax.” role. However, in enjoying the peace of a regular day, I’m newly aware my ego-mind is the very warden who makes things hellish. On any day but the day of rest, this warden demands more and more and more of me, faster, cleaner, smarter, thinner, wiser, healthier, better, now! So I’ve fired the warden. Good riddance, Warden. From here on out, I’m approaching every day like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s.