Our youngest wakes up early and I am glad for summer because the room is filled with buttersoft light, the hour is raw but at least it’s not black and his voice calls again and again and we don’t want to get up but we do.

He chatters and points and complains about being dressed and my arms know all of this by heart, the way I thread his hands through the sleeves, the distractions, the eager thump thump thump of his feet, pedaling before they even touch the ground and he’s off.

His brother creaks open the door and emerges with nubbly blue blanket wrapped around his shoulders and blinks at us and he’s a heartbreaking jangle of knees and elbows and bruises and dark almond eyes and his sleepy hair is sticking up in tufts and his presence marks the almost-audible sound of the day’s machinery starting up. I ask him what he dreamed about and he tilts his head and says hmmmmm.

The kitchen smells of waffles and cereal and coffee and my husband folds back the paper and the newsprint crackles and one boy talks through a mouthful of bread while the other gleefully pounds his tray and I move dreamily from dishwasher to cabinet and back again. A bowl, nestled inside another. A fork, dropped in a drawer with a metallic chime.

Milk, juice, everyone’s on the move and we’ve got to find shoes, shoes, where did that one go, the dog has hidden it, the toddler ran off with it, our footsteps are a crazyquilt of inefficiency and laughter and impatience and the house is full to bursting until there is a flurry of kisses and bye-byes and suddenly it is empty. Things hum—dishwasher, washing machine, shower—but the silence is like a blanket. Only I am left, and I am leaving soon.

Cars and highways and buildings of steel and glass and I am elsewhere, at that other part of my life where I sit and type and read and sometimes dream of being home (where I sometimes dream of being elsewhere) and the sun is a presence I cannot really feel, behind the blinds and the window and the artfully exposed steel ducts and the companionable face of my screen which displays numbers on the upper right-hand side which I watch: 12:20, 1:45, 3:30, 4:25, 5:00, and it is time to go back into the cars and onto the highways and past the buildings of steel and glass.

I sneak up to the kitchen window and peer in and comically drop out of sight then pop back up and they both scream and point and laugh and that’s when I open the door and they are on me in a rush, one locking his arms around my legs and giggling and the other raising his arms and beseeching to be picked up, up, up.

Dinner and backyard games and there are clothes to be folded and things to be swept and baths to be had and walks to be taken and the evening passes in a way that is both a joyous dream and a punishing grind, it lasts forever and it’s done with before I know it, all at the same time, I never understand how this works.

Bedtimes go on and on and on, everyone protesting everything they can and I rock one boy for what seems like hours while I sing into the top of his hair and eventually I only hum, no words, and his body is an indescribably luscious sleepy weight. Into the crib and it’s over to the other boy’s room for stories and kisses and likely as not it’s back to the first one for a second stint in the rocking chair and I step lightly down the hall and into the other part of the house and exhale a gusty plume of the entire day in one long breath.

Then: shoes, laced. Shorts pulled on, Lycra tugged overhead. I need to sweat and so I move my tired body until unwanted things start falling away: cars, cries, complaints. When I’m done I feel scooped clean and again I am glad for summer and these stretched-out hours because it is growing late but the sky is only a dimmed lamp, I can still see my way.

Clack-clatter of keyboards and friendly silence dotted by murmured conversation and then the dual creak of our bodies settling into the couch and the flickering television and I am yawning and my eyes are hot and heavy and we tiptoe past the sleeping bedrooms and into our own and the faucet runs and the bedclothes are pulled tight and for a brief time there is a rustle of paper as pages turn but my head soon falls back and I dream of nothing and everything, conversations that make no sense and people I don’t know and half-remembered images and before I know it the room is filled with buttersoft light and I hear a little voice calling for us again.


116 Responses to “How it goes”

  1. Becky Mochaface on August 4th, 2009 2:21 pm

    Beautiful. Pure beauty.

  2. tsc on August 4th, 2009 3:56 pm

    A lovely post. I’m going to come back to it whenever the daily grind gets to be too much. Thank you.

  3. emily on August 4th, 2009 4:19 pm

    my kids are nearly the same age as your kids and i am in the middle of one of those punishing grind/joyous dream evenings and this unexpectedly made me cry with bittersweet happiness. thank you, linda.

  4. metalia on August 4th, 2009 6:34 pm

    This made me sit here, agape, staring at my screen, and I mean that in the best way possible. I love this. I love how you write. This is just beautiful and perfect and–LOVE.

  5. Jenny on August 4th, 2009 7:06 pm

    Golden. Splendid. Wow.

  6. Jen on August 4th, 2009 7:10 pm

    I’ve been lurking here for quite some time (pre-Riley) and have never commented. I don’t really know why. This post came at such a perfect time for me. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  7. Ginger on August 4th, 2009 10:54 pm


  8. Guenevere on August 5th, 2009 1:14 am

    Just love everything!

    Might as well be describing my life. Just love how you make it sound so interesting. You have such a way of drawing me to your stories.

    Thank you so much!

  9. Emma on August 5th, 2009 10:19 am

    You are truly an incredible writer, a capturer of scenes of life expressed so god damn well.

  10. kakaty on August 5th, 2009 9:06 pm

    Hot damn, you need to write a book

  11. Ryan on August 6th, 2009 3:38 pm

    You rock. I’m going to buy your book. Keep writing.

  12. Heather of the EO on August 8th, 2009 3:54 pm

    I feel like I just lived a day with you. Of course, this means you’re an excellent writer. So vivid and beautiful.

  13. suzr on August 9th, 2009 1:58 pm

    that was beautiful…poetic really.
    thank you!

  14. Christina on August 13th, 2009 7:48 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes…cuz that IS my life (well, aside from the Lycra and the exercising part lol).

  15. Veronica on August 25th, 2009 1:04 pm

    Reading that post was like gazing into a mirror. Right on.

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