Dried Cereal

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up yet another unsavory mess, the question came to mind, what is worse, worrying about teenagers getting drunk and having sex? Or stepping in poo and/or pee every day? 

Today is the first day of school for my oldest. He is in second grade, rode his gigantic bike all by himself (with Dad and little brother trailing–I’m a little protective), and decided he wanted to use his dad’s old messenger bag instead of a backpack. I love him. And I can’t believe he is this old. And not pooing on the carpet. Or etching his name in our van (and if you know his name, you will know why this was pretty bad). 

I go from moments of utter overwhelming-want to scream-chaos, to feelings of nostalgia and sadness that these boys are growing up faster than I have time to breathe. 

Sometimes I feel like I never get ahead. I never get anything done. I never write enough. I’m never becoming the person I could become because I’m too busy scraping dried banana off the floor. Or stopping fights. Or beating myself up for yelling. Or eating chocolate chips with peanut butter in my closet.

What if I could be a prolific, famous, influential writer holed up in a beach house on the Oregon coast, creating poetry and music that could change the world if I only had time? Or what if I could be traveling to Egypt or India or Africa and learning and saving and teaching and  becoming a wise and traveled soul full of memoir-material If I didn’t have this house and these responsibilities and this kitchen floor? Or what if I could be a full time professor, immersed in study and reading and writing and talking and going to lunch and flying away to Rome on sabbatical and changing young minds if only there was no laundry? 

One of my favorite books is the Bell Jar. I love it because I related to it as a young women and in some ways, I relate now. She has all these things in front of her: jobs, more school, boyfriends. How to choose? How to make decisions that will forever shape the rest of our lives? I think YA lit if full of these kinds of questions. Maybe all lit. is. Who are we? Who do we want to become? How do we know what we want to become? And what if it’s the wrong choice? Is there a wrong choice? And how do we find joy right where we are? And if we can’t find joy right where we are, what do we do about it? 

I am tired often. I have a lot of kids and I have one more coming. Sometimes I do find myself wondering. Wishing. Maybe even envying. But at the end of the day, I know down in my intestines, that this is a good place for me. That seeing him ride off on his bike, my heart breaking but also soaring just a little bit, is what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I will keep writing. I will keep thinking about these pretend people and their decisions and their heart-breaks and their triumphs and I will keep scraping rice Chex off the floor. 

Because that’s who I am right now. 



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3 responses to “Dried Cereal

  1. CLW

    So says your grandmother.

  2. rbirkin1

    Between cleaning poo out of the bathtub or wondering when they’ll get out the bath and finally tell you what happened at school? They’re both hard. But one does give you more writing time. Meanwhile, you are learning more about how to be a writer, and a person, than any professor studying life from afar could do.

  3. A BIGGEST FAN from the PAST

    Your grandmother is lovely. This post was beautiful. I liked it.


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