“Do you think we can make it to the bridge today?”
I ask Lincoln as we trudge through the tall grass next to the creek as two kittens follow us like a pack of dogs.
“Um. Maybe. But it’ll take a long, long, long, time,” he responds.
During my maternity leave I turned the options over in my mind on what I could do. Being a stay-at-home mom was something I knew I wasn’t cut out for and I enjoyed my job and wanted to continue it. But I also couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the tiny swaddled burrito in my arms 5 days a week with someone else.
I was stupid lucky and my employer-at-the-time agreed to let me work four days a week. Linc would go to daycare during those days and then on Friday we would be together. “Mommy/Lincoln Days” as we called them. Sometimes these days went great, other days I’d constantly watch the clock counting down the minutes until Chris would come home and I’d get a break.
In May, when I went on the farm full-time, to make our finances work without me having a steady, full-time salary, we had to reduce Lincoln’s days at daycare to two days a week. It takes a really good village to raise children, but it also take a damn good village to run a business. My mother-in-law willingly stepped up and takes Lincoln a day a week as well, leaving Lincoln and me two days a week for “Mommy/Lincoln Days”. The days where Lincoln isn’t with me, I don’t mess around and can (mostly) cram a week’s worth of work into two days. (If you wonder if corporate America can do the same….yes, yes they can – but they will never admit it.) The past few months, my mother-in-law has had to work or attend to her life (how dare she!) and Lincoln and I have had many three “Mommy/Lincoln Days” in a week.
Being a stay-at-home mom who has a business to run three feet from her all day long and that business doesn’t care what day it is, IS THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE. This time is precious and sacred and fleeting. Lincoln will go to Kindergarten in August and these days we had together will be gone, forever. I keep telling myself this, but the day to day minutia being with a five year old in the middle of nowhere as your human interaction is difficult and I sometimes still find myself watching the clock waiting for Chris to come home.
NASA has been doing social experiments to see how humans interact with each other in confined spaces in order to determine if we can send people to Mars. The whole thing is recorded on a podcast called The Habitat and it’s fascinating. I can’t help but feel like Linc and I are a part of this experiment. Two people cooped up in the country, in the winter, with not enough funds to go and do fun things everyday, and the highlight of our week is the local public library. I think any day now someone will call, offering us our own podcast deal or reality TV time slot.
To help alleviate the stir crazies that are setting in with these short cold winter days, I force us to walk along the drainage ditch that sits in our backyard when the sun is out. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, we bundle up and head outside. Half a mile down this creek there sits a rickety ass wooden bridge the commodity farmers use to haul their cartoonishly large equipment from field to field. It’s nothing amazing, but there’s no railings and it’s about ten feet above the creek and it’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s a great place to chuck rocks into the small stream and watch the minnows. I’ve only ever been there by myself – when I’d walk in my post-partum rage I’d sit down, let my feet dangle and see our white farmhouse, a tiny square in the distance.
The bridge has become the ultimate goal each time during our walks. But it’s hard to go far when you’re five, your boots are heavy on your small feet, and we have to stop every 20 paces to let the cats catch up (why they follow us, I have no idea). We normally make it about half way in before someone (Lincoln) is too tired and is complaining about the wind is hitting their face or trying to save all the snow in their coat pockets. We turn around, cats in tow, with the promise of getting to that bridge someday.
Do we even need to get to that bridge someday? Maybe I don’t need the bridge. Maybe I need to be okay it’ll take a long, long, long, time to get there and even if I do get there, it’s not going to make the journey there any different. Maybe none of us need that bridge. Maybe we think once we get to the bridge we will be happier, thinner, more confident, a better person. “If I can just get to that damned bridge all of this will be better,” you tell yourself. I hear myself saying that a lot.
Or is it enough that we simply try to get to that bridge each time? Shouldn’t it be enough to get the opportunity to bundle up at 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday and scrunch my shoulders to hold in the heat as I walk and feel a little arm wrap around my thigh? Shouldn’t it be enough to get to answer questions like “What are feathers made of?” “Where does the water come from for this creek?” “Can you see Sweet Pea still waiting for us?”
Will I make it to the bridge today? I don’t know. That bridge isn’t going anywhere, at least I hope not, for a long, long, long time. But my time with this tiny human is flying by at warp speed and I need to remember we’re not part of a NASA experiment, we are part of this one life we get and we are lucky to be in it.