These questions so … grown up

The sky was blue this morning, early, when I woke and opened one eye to gaze out over the quilt at the haze of the early-morning light.

My husband lay still beside me, his face turned away, peaceful in the way only early-morning sleep seems to let him be. I turned over, curling my legs into his, closing my eyes, snuggling down.

Yet sleep eluded me.

The rain started sometime after midnight. The rock star got up to close the window. I lay awake picturing the thrift-store desk I’d painted white the evening before getting pelted by raindrops, the water seeping into the drawers, warping the wood. I lay awake wondering just how bad it would be.

I lay awake remembering those yoga breaths the Grand Junction teacher taught me long ago, the three-step inhalations, the three-phase exhalations.

I tried it again, filling my lungs with the sweet night air, a somehow hopeful mix of hay, of cat, of outside, of the incense that marks bedtime for the grown-ups in the trailer.

I tried to turn the other thoughts off.

I looked at the clock, wondering how much longer I had before the little girl cried through the monitor, “Mom! I have to go to the bathroom!” or “Mom! I’m scared!”

I tried to sleep.

I drifted, after awhile, into one of those almost-asleep-but-not-quite restful places.

I dreamed about my family, in a house I don’t know but did in the dream. The place was bright. The kids moved about doing their own thing. The grown-ups worked in the kitchen, baking or writing or music making. I wore an apron and our stove was a shade of brilliant vintage green.

The happiness flowed like a river.

The house that didn’t appraise is now on the market for its appraisal price. The rock star and I have (had) moved on to another, smaller home, on the other side of Aspen Street. It didn’t appraise either, but we were able to make up the difference.

Because of a costly repair uncovered in the home inspection, though, we’re now really thinking hard about what to do.

What do we do?

Do we pay for the costly repair, plus the other work the house needs to make it what we want? Do we go back to the original house that didn’t appraise and hope we get it in the short sale?

Are we meant to find a home somewhere else altogether?

These answers are hard. These questions so … grown-up.

I work at the coffee shop most days until we get that home of our own. The sky has opened up now and raindrops are hitting my jeans, my toes. I am cold.

But my family is waiting for me. My husband is making dinner.

Time to go home, hopeful, peaceful, thankful all the same.

Where she got that dollar

My son once paid my daughter a dollar to go away and leave him alone.

I found the little girl in the workshop (sewing machines, not wood and tools, remember?) turned temporary kids’ room by herself on her bed, clutching her dollar.

The boy and his friends were outside, carefree and clearly up to something. They eyed me as I walked past, looked down and picked at their fingernails when I said, “Where’s your sister?”

I’d been in the house, see, the grown-up house, doing some grown-up chore like making dinner or washing dishes or starting the dryer a second time so those towels might actually dry.

I asked the little girl: “What are you doing in here all by yourself?”

She looked up at me with those eyes big as moons and smiled. “I don’t know, Mom!”

She is 3. Going on 9.

I scooped her up. I stroked her hair. I asked her where she got that dollar.

She told me.

And I freaked.

And the thing is maybe I shouldn’t have been so upset at the older brother. Because the little girl? She didn’t really seem sad. No. She simply seemed like a little kid in a room filled with toys, television and food, unsupervised. I wonder if the possibilities felt endless.

To me, however, this wasn’t cool. This brother’s bribe was blatant snobbery, selfishness. It was mean.

I don’t like mean.

So. We went outside. The older kids were still gathered by the tree house. Their voices hushed. Their gazes shifty.

Calmly, I asked my son, who is 7, where his sister got that dollar.

He pretended to be confused. (And I thought the mantra I’d been repeating since he learned to talk – “Never lie to your mother. She will always find out” – had gotten through. Silly me). He squinted his eyes, he furrowed his brow, he shrugged his shoulders.

“What dollar?”

And that was when my eyes flew out of my head, bouncing over the lawn to the street.

The boy old enough to know better went to timeout. He said he and his friends had just wanted time alone.

I reminded him what to do when he would prefer his sister not tag along. (It’s simple: Tell your mother or stepfather you’d like time alone AND THEY’LL HELP YOU! We’re awesome like that). Then I did one of these: “You will stay in time out. Until I figure out what your consequence should be!”

That’s the worst, right? Mom or Dad thinking about a punishment. Oh, man.

I ultimately decided to take the piggy bank away from Mr. Money Bags (he has a wealthy, generous great-grandmother) and keep it in my possession.

How long?! the boy wanted to know.

For as long as I feel I need to, I said. (Yes, I did that, too! Pulling out all the stops.)

The boy wasn’t happy but knew he hadn’t made a good choice. He is amazingly wise and clever and intuitive and has always been great at understanding faults, mistakes, what’s gone wrong.

He accepted his consequence and I gave him a hug and told him I loved him and all that business parents do because we mean it (and because no matter what our babies think, punishing them is no fun for us either!).

And we all quietly got up to return to our lives.

That’s when my daughter spoke.

“Mom?” she said. “Can I keep the dollar?”

A little piece of everything

The days are still hot, but it is September and the nights are cool and the babies and the love and I all sleep soundly.

Wrapped under blankets of their choosing – a thrift-store, Disney-princess sleeping bag for her and a Target Home velour-like throw for him – they sleep in what Grandpa thought she called a wood shop. I can only imagine the image in his mind. Stacks of logs and sawdust and machines and my babies asleep in the middle of a dirt floor.

Reality involves a workshop that housed sewing machines and books and an old trunk with someone named “Raber”‘s nomenclature on the front. The trunk and the books are still there. So is an old refrigerator with our food now inside and the kids’ beds – their real beds – and their clothes and our cat and the boy’s rock collection and the girl’s plastic kitchen and pretend food (from which, this morning, she made me vanilla soup).

Outside, around back, my love and I fantasize about someday being grown-ups old enough to travel the country for a living. We talk about recording an album in the travel trailer that looks like it should be a miniature keychain on someone’s keyring (my keyring). We lay on the lofted bed and read or work or answer kids’ calls. We drape arms around each other to help us (me) fall asleep. We split the covers; he takes the sheet because a rock star can’t sleep when he’s hot, I use the old quilt soft as my babies’ skin.

I look out the window at the tree in the yard of the $60,000 foreclosed home we thought for a day we wanted. A light shines at night. Outside, the black cats yowl, chasing and pawing each other with their hind legs. When it rains, we smell it through the screen windows, which are always open.

Last week, I dreamed about homes. My yellow house in Dundee was someone else’s (is someone else’s), but I was back, in the dream. Visiting. They’d added on, giving it the space I always wished it’d had. They showed me the work. In one room was all my old stuff I’d left behind. Funny, it wasn’t anything I wanted.

In real life, we have an almost home, here in our new town. We signed papers. We paid for inspections and appraisals and earnest monies and that sort of thing. I asked old employers for W-2s I hadn’t kept. My love even called the IRS for old documents he needed.

We made plans. In my head, I redid the upstairs bathroom. I painted the wainscoting on my daughter’s bedroom walls white, and I debated between lavender or yellow on the top half. I decided to look for an antique lighting fixture for above the dining room table. I’d begun refinishing the 1900 original hardwood floor. I’d decided to buy a new comforter for our bed. I’d searched Pottery Barn online for curtains for the kids.

But the almost home didn’t appraise for the purchase price, which means unless we come up with $22,000 cash in the next three weeks (which is not even a possibility in my imaginary world) or the appraisal is overturned (for which we’ve asked), we’ll stay in the workshop and the travel trailer for … well, I have no idea how long.

And … it’s OK. Because home is where your babies sleep, where your love makes you laugh first thing in the morning, where your heart feels happy.

Home is where you are, where you were, a little piece of everything that’s you and yours.