The kiddos came home from school early on Monday, an hour before the first flakes hit the pavement, and the giddiness I felt as a child on the brink of a snow day crept to the surface and bubbled over. I served an early snack and we chatted about the weather, literally, before I hit them up to volunteer for child care duty. It was my first day with the cutest little baby from down the street and I longed to give her the first bath she’d had in six days. The girls jumped to serve and I jumped into full-on mothering mode. I bathed that baby in the kitchen sink and she wailed the length of her good long bath. I took 10 minutes to let her soak and then 5 more to slick her down in baby lotion and when I zipped her into a fleece sleeper I’d bought at Wal-Mart, she let me snuggle her close.
Monday was a sugary-sweet day.
On Tuesday, everyone slept late and the Man and I spent the day close to the fire while the kids ran in and out and in and out and in and out. I made head way on some things that needed to get done and then snapped pictures of the kids in various stages of living.
Tuesday was a savory-sweet day.
Wednesday and Thursday were spent in a blur of activity. Neighborhood kids came and went. The kids I watch every day came at odd hours and left at even odder hours and I plodded through the days like someone unsure of where to step next. I kept looking for the babe from down the street, but she never came.
And those days were hard ones.
I woke this morning at 4am to a neighbor’s dog barking. The house was frigid and I knew it would be. The temperature was supposed to be somewhere around zero. Even at 4am, my first thought was on that dang dog and the hell that it must be living on our coldest night of the year. In my head, I cursed its owners and thought about all the ways I could have their dog taken from them. Cruelty against an animal and negligence and pure sorriness were at the top of the list at the crack of dawn and at 6am, when I finally rolled out of bed for good, I thought about that poor dog. I cried in the shower for the dog and my neighbors who don’t know any better, or can’t do any better, and for that babe down the street.
At noon, the Man left for a weekend trip to Maine to speak at a church for a pastor friend of his who is naming his third kid Harris after the man who discipled him when he was in high school. It’s also his birthday, but around here we have so many birthdays we tend to not make much of them. He left the house before the first light and then left town before we ever had a chance to wish him a happy 38th year. I know this man and I know he hasn’t given our lack of well wishes a single thought.
At 2:30, right about the same time the Man should have landed in Boston, I began to look for the littlest baby on my block to arrive in her stroller. But at 2:45, when she still had not arrived, her mom called looking for a ride to work.
“Who is watching the baby?” I asked the mom when she climbed into the truck.
“Her daddy’s mom,” she said. “She spent the night there last night since I had to work late. I couldn’t go get her this morning because mom had to be at work.”
I looked straight ahead, every ounce in my being rising up to fight or flight. With her dad’s mom? The same dad who beat the crap out of you, her mama, 4 weeks ago? The same dad who made you choke on your own blood? That dad’s mom??
“So when did you last see her?” I asked. “You think she’s okay? When is she coming home?”
“Yesterday. And maybe she’ll come home tonight at midnight when I get off,” she said. “I’m not really sure.”
I drove the rest of the miles to her job site in silence. I wanted to cry and scream and shake a knot in her.
But I did nothing.
“Work your hiney off, girl. You need this job,” I told her. “Call me if you need a ride home.”
And I choked down every feeling and thought and plan I had to save this baby from the jaws of poverty and despair and hopelessness.
Tonight, the kids have long since gone to bed.
The ocean plays in the background, its waves intermingled with crashes of lightening and the howling of wind and I sit by the hearth of the fireplace.
The weatherman tells me the temps will rise tomorrow with a chance of rain. It will be 41 degrees by noon.
The morning will come with no donuts and chocolate milk for the neighborhood kids since the Man is out of town and the mama part of my heart is happy about this. To be alone, with my children, on a Saturday morning is a rare gift and so I choose to receive the gift, rejecting the shadow of guilt that looms.
I know who casts the heavy shadows of guilt and Jesus is not his name.
I watch the fire dance on the last log and the wood crackles and pops, the blue flames licking up between the splintered wood and I am caught up in the dance.
I think on the babe who lives down the street and know she should be home now. It’s nearly midnight.
And from the depth of my heart I hear Jesus whisper into my soul:
She is mine. Do you trust me?
I shrug my shoulders as the tears roll down my face and I know Jesus is beckoning me deeper still.
And it’s this deeper still that keeps me on my knees.
Joining Lisha’s community this weekend because I am swimming in grace today.