When it is midterm break, I write in the mornings. The children have creeped downstairs to watch a documentary on birds of the African air and the coffee is perfection. They feed, clothe and entertain themselves so I can sneak away to my pinterest-inspired nook and write a few words in the autumn sunrise. The burning bush out front is half-bare, undressing slowly each day, leaving its tiny red leaves like a tease from our front door.
Our house is a sanctuary, a tidy one. The only thing out of place is a creamy throw welcoming visitors as they sit on our sofa, which is not broken under the back left corner, nor is it pink velour covered with a fading blue-flowered brocade. It is deep and cushiony and I slipcovered it myself. The house smells of vanilla and cinnamon. The children eat fresh fruit under the pendant lamp. The bathrooms are clean and my bed no longer squeaks.
After a calm morning of writing (me) and reading (them), we walk in the tall shadows, collecting leaves and skipping ahead. No one cries over fear of bike-riding, no one fights over the Harry Potter DS game that has been bought and sold no less than three times between two siblings. No one has to go to the bathroom. No, no, we walk and walk under the always blue sky of Ireland. We find four leaf clovers without looking. And when we return home, we cuddle up under that same ivory throw and instagram our extreme Irish cuteness for far away friends to see. We all fit in the same frame at the same time and our smiles display the contendness we feel on our imaginary couch in our imaginary living room in the big house we own in a breathtakingly perfect country.
That's me, waking up from the reverie.
There has been some sort of lightsaber play up and down the stairs, and cheap plastic has hit delicate fingers and her squeal brings me back to life. This life. The one right here. Our burning bush is as it was above, but there is a bra on the floor by my unused sewing machine-turned-desk and a child standing next to me, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy." I can't understand half the words he says and I worry for his speech development.
My coffee went cold 20 minutes ago and I'm too lazy to get some more (the coffee's cold downstairs, too, a hidden clue of the recent time change). The girl is in her room pouting. Laundry and rubbish await my arrival downstairs. The eldest appears to be missing.
We finished painting our bedroom and bathroom - an 8-month process - before the landlord comes to have a look at our power shower that's been out of service for five days. There is paint on the woodwork, on the floor and the baseboards, and I'm fearful he'll take out his white glove and chastise me. I told Matt last night, "I don't want to lose our deposit!" forgetting once again I want to "live here forever." How quickly we forget and fade back into our old ways of unpacking, living, packing and moving within a year's cycle. How temporary everything feels, as the leaves fall down and I'm so afraid to miss each one's descent, I cry at the thought of it. Autumn will be over so soon and even now darkness envelopes our house by the dinner-bell hour.
It's a mess and I'm still a mess, even though we are finally at home here. It is not perfect, and I'm frustrated more - by the kitchen counter, tapping my foot and making mental lists - than I'm content in the window seat, drinking from this same cup and reading in the sun. I've still not balanced the peace with the crazy. Don't think I ever will.
And yet, the four-year-old has made himself at home in our bed. Curled up in sheets that now match the duvet that now matches the walls, which now match the vision in our head. In the morning autumn light he laughs at me. And if nothing else in the house but the bed is a refuge for a wild child on this week off from school... if nothing else gets made and tidied but those sheets... if the house is a giant nest of chaos, reeds of toys and papers webbing in and through each nook and cranny, it still contains these five souls at its center.
And we are not going anywhere.