This is a strange picture of me, taken by the YaYa sister one sunny day when we were in the park. The sun seems long gone, which is not entirely terrible, because it has taken the intense heat with it. But also our view of the mountains. I think we've barely seen them this month, and they're RIGHT THERE.
Why do I show you this strange photo? Because that look on my face? I think it's on my face a lot. And especially, especially when Chinua is away. I stare off into the sky, I dwell, I dream, I pine. And then I hop up to take Solo to the bathroom, or help Leafy clean himself of mango stickiness without just wiping his face and hands on the WHITE towel. I do an okay job of being here.
But that's okay, because Leafy's actually almost never here. And Kid A has been having a hard time being here. In Leafy's case, it's because his imagination never stops going. Never. Tonight we were having a little cuddle and he was whispering under his breath about riding on a turtle. The turtle told him he was too heavy. Leafy disagreed. And that's all I heard.
For Kid A, it's because he really, really misses his dad. For YaYa, it's because she loves the color yellow so much. If she's coloring with yellow, she's kinda lost. And we all know that Solo is just out there. VERY loosely tied to reality.
My point is, we're all dreamers. We land again and find each other. We interrupt each other's dreams, or reading, or drawing, and that's annoying, and maybe we snap at each other or, for those of us less socially developed, give a pesky brother a shove, but then we touch down again and find each other again, and so it goes.
I heard a lot that my thought life would disappear once I had more kids, or once my kids talked, or once they were older and could monologue about all and sundry. That all of them would crowd the life of the mind out. And it's true that I have to be present, that I love being present, that it's wonderful when we are all sitting around the table engaging each other with eyes and words and thoughts.
But it's also wonderful when we sit around the table and doodle, or read, or write, or dream. When the stuffed animals join us (not during mealtime) and have tiny conversations with their tiny voices. When Leafy hums and mutters with his eyes way off in the distance. When Kid A can't be retrieved from his book until the third time I say his name. When Solo insists that a picture of a sheep is a fish. When Chinua plays music, his fingers flying, his mind all wrapped up and focused.
I think there is a lot of time for thinking and dreaming, even with a big family. It's true that I am called back more often, and often to the tune of shrieking, which is my least favorite way, but I know that if we sit down and find each other right now, sit right down on the ground and play, we'll settle down again. We can be together really hard, tickle and wrestle, or put the world's most annoying 3D puzzle together. We paint, we laugh, we tell each other stories.
And then later, we drift off to our own corners of our little house. I wash the dishes with my eyes out the window, Kid A finds a book or stares into space. YaYa draws and draws and draws, Solo takes his shirt off and runs back and forth with his chest muscles flexed, and Leafy walks in circles in our living room, with walls that cease to be walls, that turn into forests, into oceans, into endless worlds.
It is possible to have a life of the mind with a family. You just have to do it together.
(And get away occasionally, which you know I do. But that's another story.)