Slow Down

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Today we have a special guest writer, Nichole Nordeman.

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I bought a house last year. As a single mom, it felt overwhelmingly intimidating. I called my dad in tears, more than once. Endless paperwork and hoops to jump through. Endless inspections and negotiations and financial blahbibbityblah, until one day, my realtor handed me the key, and I actually owned a house.

It was built in the late 70’s in a quirky neighborhood with heavy towering trees and plenty of Mad Men architecture.

When we moved in, there was an old beat up basketball hoop in the driveway, fixed permanently into eroded cement with a boy’s name etched in it’s base. “Parker.” My heart smiled imagining a sweaty haired little guy, finding a twig on the ground and writing his name in the wet concrete. I thought about the hours he must have spent working on his free throw, waving off his mom’s concerns that he might melt under the Oklahoma sun. Upstairs, in my daughter’s closet, I found more evidence of Parker. Little pencil lines to mark his growth from year to year were drawn just along the inside of the closet doors. I wondered if he stared at the same star that Pepper can see out her window. I wonder if his mom whispered the same blessings over him and if their dog woke him up with sloppy kisses.

And sometimes I wonder where Parker is, now. I suppose he might be pouring cement for his own boy’s hoop, and measuring his height with a ruler and a pencil in a closet somewhere across town, or the country or the world. I wish he knew how much my children love the home that he loved.

My girlfriend has a daughter, Charlie’s age, 14. The other day she said wistfully, “You know we only have like four more summers with them until they leave us, right?” I reached across the table to slap her.
FOUR MORE SUMMERS? I had never framed it like that. And now when I watch him doing back flips into the pool or popping popcorn for family movie night, her comment rings loudly in my ears. Four more.

How do we really slow down these moments? How do we suspend time and make these perfectly ordinary and simple days last? We don’t. We can’t. It’s an awful realization.

When my children were babies, time felt suspended, in different ways. The baby years feel eternal. Endless blurry months and years of exhaustion. You accept that you will never sleep or care about mascara again. You build the same tower of blocks twenty times a day, and watch the same Disney video, and wash the same pacifiers and get up and do it again for the next 7 billion mornings. Grandmas in Target stop your cart say “Don’t blink! This goes so fast!” And you smile sweetly and think balefully “You’re a dirty liar, lady. Step aside.”

She was right, though.
One day your friend says “four more summers” and all you want to do is wash pacifiers for eternity. I wonder if Parker’s mom stood in this driveway and watched him drive off to college and went and sobbed in his closet.

My daughter Pepper came into the studio with me to sing on this song. My heart stopped for a solid 4 minutes. I had coached and encouraged her a little on what the recording experience is like. Explained how far she should stand from the microphone. Taped up the lyrics so they were eye level for her. Told her what she’d hear in the headphones and counted her in before she was supposed to start singing. I made sure she was prepared.

I forgot to prepare myself. I opened my mouth to sing and nothing came out because my heart was lodged in my throat.

We can beg them to slow down, but they won’t. And can’t. And aren’t supposed to. What are our options?

I think the only real one is to slow ourselves down.
It’s such buzz phrase right now….BE PRESENT…but I don’t know of a better one. Be present. Be here. Now. Let’s get off our phones. Say no to dumb stuff. Trim all the life fat. Don’t say yes to every invitation. Don’t volunteer for every committee. An exhausted, overextended life is not the most sacrificial one. Hit the brakes. Order more pizza delivery. Play more cards on the living room floor. Declare spontaneous naptime for everyone on Sunday. Make up silly dances. Ask serious questions. Have more sleepovers. Declare ridiculous holidays. Jump in more lakes. Make breakfast for dinner. Have staring contests. Ride bikes. Be fully present in every small and fleeting moment with those babies, because they are gone, gone gone in a whisper.

Write all you can, in the wet cement.

Thank you to my friends at Daughters Of The Creator for the opportunity to write as a guest this week.

 

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