It started September 23rd. That was the first day of bedrest. For six weeks, I was confined to my house, my room, my bed. And then, there was a baby. And I was confined to the hospital, to the well-worn path to the NICU. We brought that sweet baby home. And the doctor said solemnly, "Keep her inside, away from crowds, and out of public places until the end of flu season. Probably late March." I tried not to cry. I reminded myself that I am an introvert, a homebody. I got to know the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. I counted my blessings and there were many.
But, slowly, I started to feel it creep in. The cold. The loneliness. My walls grew closer around me. The baby fussed. The big kids acted needier than the baby. I resolutely told myself a hundred times a day that this was not postpartum depression. We hit rock bottom.
A Package arrived in the mail. A lovely Package. A Package that made me smile to see the name in the sender's corner and brought tears to my eyes when I saw what it contained. It was a hat and booties--a darling hat that fit just perfectly. A hat with sweet hearts over baby's ears. Ah, but I sighed. We never go anywhere. And an urgent need made itself known. I had to get out of this house with the baby. I had to go somewhere worthy of The Hat.
Yesterday was one of my top five worst homeschooling days ever. And I can't even think of what the other four are. As I went to sleep last night, I remembered The Hat. I told Mike that I was taking the children to Bull Run. Bull Run--Home of the Bluebells--is the place where we go every year to herald the spring. It's the place where I am happy and relaxed and content just to be. It's our springtime. Gently, the love of my life reminded me that it is still February. Doesn't matter. I have The Hat. I had to be at Bull Run.
The day dawned a bit gray and windy, but not all that cold. The forecast was for rain by noon. No bother. I was up early. I had The Hat. I told the children the plan. Nicholas balked. He doesn't like rain. It's not a typical "not like," --it's sort of a "thing" with him. It's a really big deal "not like." I wasn't going to fight it. I told him he could stay home with Patrick. Christian had to go to art.No matter. This wasn't about them. It was about me. And my baby. And my place. And the Hat.
We took the familiar road and parked at a familiar place. We hiked in to "our spot," all the while noting how gray it all seemed. The landscape had changed. The log I posed the children on every year had decayed to a point where no one could sit there. Right next to it, however, a new tree had fallen--bigger and sturdier and longer. "Just perfect," Katie declared. "There are too many of us now for the old log anyway."
Several trees had fallen. The top of their favorite climbing tree was now laying across the river. I thought of those windstorms last month, the tree that fell and claimed the life of a beloved pastor. I heard trees creaking around me and branches snapping in the not too distant distance. Good thing Nicholas stayed home, after all; he would not have enjoyed this time at all. We tried mightily to find signs of spring. There were a few small buds and some tiny shoots, no signs of the bluebells yet, though.
I snuggled my sleeping baby (she sleeps?) and breathed deeply of the fresh air. Oh! how this place speaks to me, even in its grayness. I thought of how much I missed it last fall, when the leaves were changing color, and my only glimpse of fall came in my inbox through the kindness of a friend's photos. I remembered my long talks with God and how begged him to grant me many springtimes to hang out with my children in the woods. I thought about how much I wanted to walk that trail with this baby. I breathed gratitude. And hope.
I just sat there, nibbled on pistachios, and watched the delight of my two-year-old as she saw this place anew. Marveling at the familiarity and the changes, I understood that this place is ever old and ever new. My children looked different to me in the natural light. They were sweet and innocent and silly and fun. The baby slept soundly on my chest, warm and loved beneath The Hat. My head cleared. My shoulders relaxed. I had faith that I could get safely to the end of winter and reach confidently for the holiness of spring. Recalling that God has written two books, Scripture and nature, I resolved to read them both this Lent as my soul stretches and my face turns towards the Son.