I want to tell you about my reality, about how boring and splintered it can be, how chaotic and bland, how unexpected and structured it is. In other words, I want to tell you about the ordinariness of my life and how that ordinariness doesn’t feel as beautiful as Wendell Berry makes it out to be.
That moment threw a quiet mantle of wonder over the rest of the season, tinging every act with a significance I had never known. A few days before Christmas I was up on a ladder wiring greenery onto a chandelier in anticipation of the loved ones that were soon coming, humming “Lo, How a Rose” under my breath (anything that had anything to do with roses seemed inherent with meaning that year), when suddenly I stepped down, clippers in hand, under the thrall of a singularly beautiful thought. I went straight to the phone, dialed the wholesale florist I use, and promptly ordered a huge box of blood-red roses.
Sorting the clothes on the floor of our bedroom, piling them into the hamper, measuring out the detergent and tossing the pieces one by one into our washing machine: this is how I know I’m home. The jerks and thumps of the washing machine, the pause just before the spin cycle, even the obnoxious beep of the dryer: these noises sound like home to me. Doing laundry means I am back in the place where my soul rests, the place where I can marshal my forces, and also lie down and sleep in peace.
In one weekend, we virtually erased it all. We peeled back all of the layers and tossed them away to start fresh. It was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sad. For every renovation and remodel we do to this house, we erase some of its story. This house has been through a lot — more than even the previous owner knows — and when we change it, we take something away.
Like so many of life’s other challenges — the marathon worth running, the job worth doing well, the piano sonata worth mastering — motherhood has taught me, as nothing else has, about process. The work of raising young children is no less essential or foundational than the tasks my younger, childless self wanted to rush through. I can’t neglect my children’s play time or resent their basic needs and still expect to have great relationships and conversations with them when they’re older, any more than I could have skipped writing the beginning of this essay and had the end come out the right way.