Saturday, February 25, 2012

Joy, unexpectedly

I’m on a spur-of-the-moment, utterly unplanned, mini-vacay.  The kids squealed with delight when I told them to pack their bags.  They swam in the hotel pool, gorged themselves on “free” cable and junk food, and are now tossing about in the way one does when the bed isn’t familiar and there’s too much novelty for quiet slumber.  Naturally, we plan to get up, hit the complimentary breakfast, and head right back to the pool until checkout. 

Did I mention that we’re less than 12 miles from my house? 
I came home on Friday to a waterfall from my kitchen and living room ceilings, and the brand-new wood floor under standing water.  Oh, it’s also my husband’s weekend away.  Not exactly what I had envisioned for his absence.  But there it was; and now, here I am. 

I will be the first to admit that I’m no good with emergencies.  Not blood, or breathing, or accidents, or allergic reactions, or broken bones, or head injuries, or even relational ones.  Now I can add: property-related emergencies to that ever growing list.  Quite frankly, The Officer is the emergency handler in our family.  It’s his job.  Literally. 

But he’s not here this weekend.  And that’s the way it is: things go wrong when The Officer is gone.  It grows us both. 

Thus, in the absence of his presence, his strength in my weakness, his way of handling these types of situations, I decided to tackle it in my own way.  I shook off the “you shouldn’t do this” restraints, muted the volume on the responsibility voices in my head, and watched the wadding-pool-in-the-kitchen, drive-all-the-way-to-Wyoming-for-one-night-in-a-yurt, Jenni draw a breath again.  And it felt good. 

I began to recognize her, that girl who insisted on carnival Mondays, bubbles blown in the house, and mud pit revelry as the necessary ingredients for a happy summer.   I felt almost me again. 
So, I was absolutely spontaneous; maybe a little frivolous, perhaps a touch escapist.  I got the hotel room.  Granted, I’ve developed a maturity about my frivolity: I was sensible enough to get a good deal.  I weighed the cost of entertaining and feeding children against the cost of a room.  And since they were equal, I picked a hotel.  Why not?  What will we remember more in twenty years: McDonald's and a movie, or a night at a hotel?  Grandiose memories are more my flavor, anyway.

So in the midst of all this upheaval, I have unearthed me again.  I was afraid I’d lost her to adulthood, lost the ability to play, to do things on a whim, lost the part of Mom that was made entirely of the Jenni who existed before.  And thus had become unable to see the elephant inside the boa constrictor.[1]

It took waterfalls and rivers and puddles, that I might find a bit of me again; unexpectedly.  And for this weekend, I let her roam a bit and test her weakened legs.  In this tremulous wobbling, I have found joy.  I abandoned [for a few hours] my studies and to-do lists and mustn't spend a dime outside of the approved budget mentality.  i splashed about in the pool, lounged in the hot tub.  I ate a slice of chocolate cake.  I sat and watched a cartoon show devoted to "what we're going to do today."    

I can only hope what follows is the X-ray vision of childhood.  And greater reclaimation of who I was designed to be.  Because joy isn't prescribed through maturity; it is experienced in the moments of childlike abandon.  When the hat becomes a snake who has just swallowed an elephant, more than merely pedestrian existance is possible.  Because then we realize that all of creation is our playground.   And joy is found in even the most unexpected of places.    

[1] Antoine De Saint Expury, The Little Prince

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