Lincoln always closes the door behind him. He loves to open and close doors, never misses an opportunity to complete the cycle. He lets himself into our bedroom and closes the door behind him with that telltale click. Even the sound he makes when closing the door is expressive, recognizable.
Lincoln moves almost soundlessly to my bedside. If he didn't insist on closing every door he walked through, he would move in complete stealth. He makes no sound until he sees me stir, and then I am calling out to him, pulling him into the bed, kissing whatever piece of his head I can reach easily. He climbs in between Sam and me, wriggling under the edge of the blanket, laughing. I kiss him again and again, his skin still baby soft, and I ask him how he slept and did he dream and does he love me. He responds with cheerful babbling, an animated telling of nothing I can understand, though to him, clearly, it is a lively story.
Nico arrives next, standing in the doorway for a moment and peering into the dark room. When he hears our voices, he scrambles into the room and up on the bed. Lincoln makes room for his brother, his favorite human, saying his brother's name happily as he scoots back and holds up the edge of the blanket in welcome. He pronounces it Neeto, Neeto, and I say, "Nico, your brother is saying hello to you."
"Hi, Linc," the older brother answers, and Lincoln wraps him in a hug.
~ ~ ~
The paint is peeling on the broad side of the house, and the shutters are in mismatched shades because one day I decided I would just repaint the trim and the shutters myself and then almost fell off the ladder and haven't been able to get back on that particular horse.
There are holes in the carpet on the stairs where the dearly departed cat scratched his last will and testament into the fibers with a final, vengeful burst of strength. He still resides on the property, though, buried under the big tree in the yard. The rain and the sun washed his makeshift headstone down to almost nothing, but we all know the spot anyway and to us it's like he's still there somehow when we stand near that patch of dirt.
Someday, I know, we'll put enough spare dollars together to get the house painted fresh. We'll rip up the old carpet and put some lovely replacement down. For now, we hope the new growth on the Live Oak trees out front will camouflage the mismatched shutters, and I have an old throw rug draped unconvincingly over the worst part of the carpet on the stairs.
~ ~ ~
I don't greet the day singing. I never have, and I probably never
will. I begrudge the morning, wincing my way into the day. I roll from
the sheets and lumber, shoulders hunched, into the bathroom to begin my
Weekday mornings are a thing of cruelty. Up at five to exercise, in the
shower by 5:55 so I can be in the car to sit in traffic by half past
six. Even two minutes late getting out the door, and I'm cursing at the
clock and sending angry glares at the obsessive braker on the road in
front of me.
Weekends, though, we lay in bed with the boys til the decadent time of 6:15 or so, all holding each other, crowded up under the blankets. I kiss whoever dares come near me, kiss noses, knuckles, foreheads. We lay there all of us together, me tossing out sleepy kisses, Sam trying to sleep, the boys squirming more and more until the peaceful interlude disintegrates into a wrestling match. And then, I release the dog from her crate, and we parade one after another down the mottled stairs.
In many ways, this is not the life I pictured back when I was doe-eyed and untethered. The house was supposed to be bright and clean, perhaps not bigger and better but definitely less worn down. I was supposed to be more accomplished and less puffy. The kids were supposed to be enrolled in art and music and soccer and gymnastics. They certainly weren't supposed to eat so much sugar or know how to work the TV remote themselves.
And at the same time, in many ways, this life I ended up with has given me so many things I never thought to want for myself. There is love and warmth here, respect and hope. I live in a house full of people who like being together, whose most common frustrations come from not feeling like we are getting enough attention from each other. We are woefully inept at enrolling our children in much of anything, but
there is always a game of soccer or a light saber battle to be had in
the back yard. We eat dinner at the table like a proper family, and though nothing in our house ever thought of being white glove clean, we do manage to get the counters cleared and the dishes done sometime before our heads hit the pillow.
And in the morning, whether the hateful alarm chirps at me or the click of the door rouses me, though I still don't bound out of bed singing, I wake into another day of a life that's both less than I anticipated and more than I dreamed. I open my eyes into a loved existence, a place where I am cherished and needed and kissed and hugged more than I ever imagined I would be. The beauty of the life I ended up with is that it shows me every day that the life I thought I would have was so preoccupied with the appearance of a good life and so unaware of what actually makes up a fulfilling existence.