I am in my happy place, sitting on a stool at Caffe Fiore, sipping a latte with a breathtaking rosette and nibbling on a walnut anise biscotti from Macrina. Thank God for Saturdays, sunshine, Rona and all the unexpected graces that befall me wherever I go.
I was here the other morning and met the owner. I had seen him a hundred times and finally asked one of the baristas if he was the owner. When I got outside, he and his friend commented on the twins. "You're really doing it," they said, nodding their heads in approval. This is the kind of thing men who are dads say to women like me and I find it quite charming.
So I told him how much this place has meant to me, how it's been the secret to my happiness since the girls were born (an overstatement and at the same time, on many days, true), how it's been my "Cheers" experience- the place where everybody knows my name and what I like to drink. No wonder that show did so well. Community is an incredibly powerful force and it can be found in a variety of ways. Some moms find it in a mom's group. I have never been organized enough to make it to one of those. I have found it here.
I have happy memories of visiting Newberry's Coffee Shop at Eastgate Mall with Grandma Barb and Grandpa Hal. I'm kind of tearing up thinking about it. I loved to see my Grandpa greet friends. He just lit up, made everyone he interacted with feel noticed and special. Boy, you just don't know the power those experiences have over you until you start reflecting on them. Now, I have tears streaming down my face and a really sweet guy just asked for the stool next to me and I have soggy bits of biscotti in every sip of latte and it just all mixes together. The then and the now. The coffee and the memories.
Manny keeps asking to hear the Michael Jacks song, by which he means, "Beat It" and "Smooth Criminal" and sometimes "Dirty Diana". Sam and I agree that Manny is quite a dancer and he's got the attitude to sell it. When he grooves, it's gold. What's remarkable about the Michael Jackson stuff is that I vaguely remember all of those videos and Manny moves similarly to the dancers in those videos. It's like Michael's music dictates the dance, and if you're open enough, the music just flows through you and comes out with a specific vibe. When I turn music on, Manny takes a moment to absorb it, the movement starts in his shoulders, he gets the "I'm about to get down" face and then he starts pumping his arms and his legs and he reeks of "cool".
Sometimes Elena and Glory join in, but if anyone is going to sit out, it's Glory. She wants to be cuddled and observe, or maybe she is just in too much pain from being bit by her sister.
Sam has a small piece of his face missing. When he was small, his sister was holding a turtle and was so excited about it that she lifted it up to Sam's face so he could get a closer look. The turtle got scared and Sam has worn the end of the story on his face ever since.
Elena is that turtle.
Glory has had a red welt on her back, the exact shape of Elena's open jaw, all week long. When Elena starts to bite, I have to scream and yell and run and unhinge Elena as fast as I can or Glory is going to have dents all over her body. Since that particular incident, Glory has been biting Elena, but there's no commitment in it. She doesn't even leave a mark for a few hours, let alone an entire week.
And yet, this is the same child who always needs an extra hug before bed while Glory contentedly sucks her thumb and strokes her blankie in the next crib over. Every time I give Elena that extra hug, she yawns the biggest yawn. It's like the extra hug is the release she needs to retire her curiosities for a time and rest.
Once all the kids are in bed, they aren't really. At least half the time now, Manny pads down the stairs and says, "I need another hug and kiss from Mom." And then I hoist him into my arms and carry him back to bed, blanketing him in kisses and snuggles and, of course, the pink silky blanket he can't seem to part from. It's a funny thing. Kids get bigger, but blankies don't. Manny's going to have to start sleeping in a ball if that tiny baby blanket is going to cover him for much longer.
And then sometime around 10:30pm, I hear the saddest whimpering I've ever heard from the other end of the hall and there's Manny shaking, needing to pee, but too tired and weak to know where to go or what to do. It is an honor to help him and a relief to place him back in bed, silent and peaceful again.
If only the silence and the peace were as easy to impart to myself. And yet it is always available, just on the other side of my busy mind and my crowded heart.
I watch other moms up here who have disposable income for babysitters and gym memberships and manicures and there is a part of me that wishes I could have that too, but I am reminded by my own experiences that though those things are wonderful, for me they don't solve the emotional difficulties that arise while I am in the heat of my relationships, when Elena and Glory have taken off all their clothes and their diapers and peed on their beds twice when they are supposed to be napping, when Sam and I both need more from each other than we each have to give, and when Manny is throwing his twentieth fit of the day because Glory should be on the other side of the room not touching anything and Elena should be having the time of her life sitting in Manny's spaceship box doing exactly what he says at every moment.
I find myself thinking of my great-great grandmother a lot, who of course, I never knew. She had twice as many kids as me in a much more rural area and her only choice was to go deeper, not to go away. I am surrounded by women who regularly have the option of going away, but my option, most of the time, is only to go deeper...with a latte in my hand, which my great-great grandmother didn't have the pleasure of either, so I still have it much easier (the washing machine and dishwasher help too). The thought of her brings me strength, which is a mysterious gift that hopefully I can hold since it is now time to go back home.