I see the trash bag sitting on our flagstone patio and I’m filled with the dull ache of dread. I hate the small trek from my back door to the side yard where the trash cans are kept. Releasing a sigh, I step outside and sling the heavy white back over my shoulder as I plot through the mounds of dirt and rock. My chest tightens with anxiety as I take in our yard in all its desolate glory. Holes and capsized trees litter the landscape, their stalky roots jutting out like the masts of sailboats.
I hate messes. From a small pile of coffee grounds on my kitchen counter to the chaotic scene of strewn toys and crumbs left behind from a playdate, messes make my skin crawl and trigger an immediate impulse to obsessively clean.
But I especially hate in-between messes– the untidiness that comes with an unfinished project. My husband has the logical thought that there’s no point in cleaning up when a project is “in progress.” That we should save the overhaul cleaning for when the job is completed. Part of me agrees, but then there’s the compulsive-anxiety-ridden-super-clean me that can’t stand leaving it. We’ll just say “under construction” is not something I do well with.
Since the birth of my second daughter, it feels a bit like our life is under construction. Everyone said, “just survive the first six weeks and things will get better,” but as I cocooned her in our home, I anticipated the days we could go in public, the nights when I could sleep, and the morning I could fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans.
My oldest daughter struggled with sharing mommy and daddy and made her feelings known in the only way a two year old knows how. With temper tantrums and visits to our bed at night, she asked again and again, “Do you still love me?” And as we gave her love and reassurance, people would tell us, “just give it time, when the baby can interact more they’ll get along great.”
So we waited away the days for a moment that our lives would fit the happy family snapshot in our heads or on our Facebook page.
But if I’m honest, isn’t all of life kind of an in-between mess? If I took a snapshot of this moment it would show me, tired and unshowered, my eldest in her underwear and a face smeared with food, and my toddling one year old, with wild hair, a dirty onesie, and in desperate need of a bath.
There will always be manic Mondays, grocery lists, and smaller size pants to fit into. And as my daughters grow there will always be another milestone to check off, from rolling over, to giggling, to starting kindergarten, going to sleepovers, driving a car, kissing a boy, and graduating high school. But the reality is that life is really the sum of those moments in between. Too often I fix my eyes on the next big thing instead of pulling up a lawn chair and settling down right in the moment I’m living in now.
We’re ripping out the bushes and trees to lay sod in our yard. I dream of the day when I can have a picnic in the grass, play duck duck goose with my kids, and have a family barbecue. But as I walk from the trash cans to the back door, looking down to carefully avoid tripping in a hole, I see a single dandelion standing proudly in a mound of dirt and pebbles.
The summer after my wedding, my husband and I went to visit his family home in Michigan. As we went through boxes of his old memorabilia, I found a square of crumpled paper that he had thrown discreetly into the “throw away” pile. I smoothed out the angular folds and read the small, boyish writing. It was a poem about finding a person who could look past his imperfections to love him for who he is:
“I’m just a dandelion.
But one day in the distant future,
I will sit across the table from the one,
She will see a flower,
when others saw weeds.”
Precious moments are hidden beneath the dirt and pebbles of a life that is under construction. They’re under piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and unpaid bills, if only we have eyes to recognize them. As I sit hear in the quiet dawn of morning, I leave an unmade bed and a pile of dishes in the sink. I feel my daughter snuggled against me, and watch my baby smile and clap, and I thank God for my garden of dandelions.