Tommy is outside, screaming with joy. He’s hanging on the side of the above-ground pool that’s killed all the grass around it and he’s laughing really hard. “Don’t splash me!” he screams at Austin, but it’s obvious he wants his brother to keep playing this silly game with him.
I watch him for a moment. Upstairs, my partner Chris is working. He’s sanding down a wall he just spackled, and I can hear the sports talk radio he’s put on for background noise. It’s Sunday, and we are both trying to prep for the week and get projects done around the house.
I am peeling cucumbers for soup. I decide it’s time to listen to my own soundtrack, so I put on the new album by The Chicks. I don’t know all the words to the songs yet, but I sing along to those that I do. There are a lot of cucumbers and I know that I’ll be peeling them for a while, but since it’s a Sunday afternoon in the summer, I don’t mind.
I stick my head outside to check on the boys. It feels like a sauna and I imagine it must be close to a hundred degrees. Tommy is still laughing, but now both boys have gotten out of the pool. “I’m freezing!” Tommy yells, and Austin runs up to him and wraps a towel around him.
I go back inside and keep peeling cucumbers, singing along to the chorus of the music. I peek out at the boys who’ve gotten back into the pool and are still playing their silly game. I layer spices on the cucumbers and taste one to make sure there’s enough salt.
And then – out of nowhere – I am crying.
They are not sad tears, although I’ve had many moments over the past few years when I’ve spontaneously started sobbing. No – these tears are different.
I am having one of those moments when I realize how happy I am.
I’ve had these happy moments before in my life, of course. Even in my 20s and early 30s, I had moments when I was able to step back and say, “what a perfect moment this is.”
But it was different back then. Yes, I certainly remember the joy I felt in the first hour after Claire was born, or when Austin took his first steps at the splash pad, or the day that Tommy skipped into his first day of preschool. Those moments overtook me, as I think they probably do with many parents. And sure, I felt a special kind of happiness on many average days too, because I’m a generally happy person.
And yet. Being a widow has made these moments – the ones when I feel overcome with happiness – it’s made them feel different than similar moments I had 5 or 10 years ago. Yes, I’ve had many more moments of sadness over the past two-and-a-half years than I ever had before. But I’ve also had more moments like the one I had when I was peeling cucumbers.
They are moments when I realize how damn lucky I still am.
Lucky to have my kids. Lucky to have this house and the dead grass in the yard. Lucky to have had love with Shawn that sustained me through the terrible grief I felt when I lost him. Lucky for too many cucumbers and wet towels on the floor. Lucky to have found love again with a man who likes to spackle walls.
Lucky to be alive.
Sometimes it all feels so unfair and I can get caught up in the injustice of both my personal life and the larger world. Why did my husband die and why there are so many other injustices in this world? I do not have an answer.
But on days like last Sunday, I do know this: there is still goodness in this world.
And somehow, being a widow makes me see that goodness just a little more often than I did before.
There’s rarely time for me to truly pause and appreciate these moments, because I’m a mom and there’s a global pandemic and I have to figure out how I’m going to actually teach this fall and also get groceries for the upcoming week.
So I dry my eyes and start chopping the mint. The soup does need more salt. The towels need picking up. The boys need to stop pushing each other in the pool. Chris probably would like a soda and I definitely need another cup of coffee.
I don’t usually pause at these moments of perfection. There is just so much to do with three kids around. Usually, I’m quickly back to the daily tasks that I need to accomplish and I don’t take a moment to step back and think, “thank God for what I have.” The pauses are few and far between.
Because, of course, life just keeps going. And even if I rarely pause to think about it, I’m grateful for that.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.