I hear them whispering in the kitchen as I fold laundry in a room nearby. I can tell they are setting her up. Sure enough, she toddles in, carrying a box of brownie mix, so very proud that, despite her tender age, she has been entrusted with the mission.
“We make brownies, Mama?”
I hesitate for the briefest moment and then I’m slayed by the most charming two-year-old smile and big, brownie eyes.
“Yes,” I reply, hoping the joy on my face mirrors hers, even just a little.
She goes back to report, yelling “She said ‘yes!’” And the phrase rings in my ears.
She said, “Yes!” It’s a phrase often associated with the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and asks her assent to being the mother of God. Mary wholeheartedly embraces God’s plan with her fiat. She said yes. Her “yes” set in motion the salvation of mankind. It also set up mothers everywhere to work like crazy people for the first three and a half weeks of December.
We have our lists, our errands, our planning and packaging. We do it all for these dear people whom we love so much. But in the doing, do we forget the loving? The active loving? Do we say many more “nos” than “yeses?” Forget advent, I am pretty sure I am guilty of that all year ‘round.
But it wasn’t always like that. We have a home video of me with my firstborn. He was not quite two. I had just turned 24. We were both had a tendency to wholeheartedly go for the “yes.” Outside of the deck of our little house, we spread butcher paper. And we fingerpainted. With our feet. There was much giggling and much smooshing of paint through our toes. My husband, behind the camera, asked why.
“Why, exactly, did you feel the need to do this? Make this mess? Haul out this stuff?”
“Because we can,” came my reply. “Because it’s fun and we’re playing with colors and we’re creating art (of sorts) and it’s an absolutely beautiful day out here. Just because we can.”
“Works for me,” came the reply and he continued to tape.
That is the last videotape we have before I was diagnosed with cancer. “Because we can” rang in my ears for the next year. I promised myself over and over that if I survived I would be a “Yes” mom. I wouldn’t be too busy, too grownup, too preoccupied to get to “yes.” I’d find a way to connect, to create, to cuddle, to care in a very active way. By golly, I’d do it because I’d be just so very grateful if only I could do it. I’d live each day fully and I’d seize every opportunity to actively live love.
And that’s the way I’ve lived, mostly. I think most folks who know me would agree that I’m pretty into my kids. Over the years, though, I have become more sedentary, a bit too likely to delegate the playing with them part, and far too likely to think twice before letting them make a mess or better, yet, making a mess with them.
That afternoon, when Sarah Anne asked for brownies, I decided that this is the Advent of “Yes.” I did it really in hopes that I could revive an old habit. So, yesterday, when Karoline asked to watch Ramona and Beezus for the bajillionth time, I said “yes.” That was pretty simple. Might even buy me an hour and a half of time to do something productive. Except she had a followup request. “You sit and watch it with me?”
Me? Sit? For an hour and a half on a Thursday afternoon? I am so not a sitter. But sit I did. I watched the whole darling movie with my three littlest girls. When it was over, there was a song playing after the credits.
“Get up and dance, Mommy!” And I did. I twirled and picked my sweethearts up in the air. We joined hands and danced in a circle. They looked at me with wonder. The wonder of “Yes.
The song? Live Like There’s No Tomorrow. We danced, in part, to these words:
Take a leap and fade and hope you fly, feel what it’s like to be alive
Give it all, what we’ve got and lay it all on the line
And we can find a way to do anything if we try to
Live like there’s no tomorrow, (cause all we have is here right now)
Love like it’s all that we know. (The only chance that we ever found)
It’s nearly Christmas. We have right now. Say “Yes!”
It's been inked in the calendar since the steamy days of late summer. December 10-14, five days at home with just the girls. Mike would have the younger boys at a four day soccer tournament. The big boys would be in the thick of exams. No driving to soccer. Scaled down meals. Scaled down laundry. The perfect window during which to hunker down and finish preparing for Christmas. Gift making. Gift shopping. Gift wrapping. Meal planning. Baking. Canning. Sewing. All would be ready to welcome everyone home to soft, cozy Christmas on December 15. That was the plan.
Until it wasn't.
Patrick is scheduled for surgery in Charlottesville on December 17. No problem. Change the plan. I'll go down there on the 16th, be back here on the 18th. Then, we can all be cozy for Christmas.
The plan has changed considerably again. Measurably. And I'll tell you all about it later. Just know: I've done about 20% of my shopping. I've baked nothing. My oven still isn't clean (I feel compelled to tell you this because I shared my cleaning aspirations last week). I haven't sewed a stitch since Nutcracker.
But I heard the disappointment in a voice. And the plan changed.
I'll get back to you on how that worked out.