After three days of turkey, dressing, and pie, my family has decked our halls, adorned the trees outside with lights and ornaments, and held our requisite family Christmas movie marathon (The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Carol).
It’s been a grand holiday weekend, but the warm-fuzzies got off to a gut-wrenching start. Early this week, I got a heart-stopping reminder of how thankful I am for my little monkeys.
Every mom knows that feeling when the children have just been a handful and all you want is to sit down in a quiet room for three and a half minutes. I am not above occasionally hiding in my own closet/bathroom/car to do this. But I couldn’t fathom what I would do with constant solitude. And after this week, I don’t want to.
My littlest monkey is two. She’s adorable, and precocious, and as curious as any three monkeys should be. She has also just figured out how to work a doorknob.
Wednesday, my hubby and older monkeys went with the grandparents to see a movie. I was busy in another room and had no idea that hubs had left the garage bay door open when he left. After maybe ten minutes, I went to the family room to collect littlest monkey and head out to do last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping.
She wasn’t there.
I turned, and the bottom fell out of my stomach. The door leading from the kitchen to the garage was open, and so was the exterior door I could see through it.
I sprinted through both, screaming for my baby at the top of my lungs. I scanned the yard as I ran down the driveway: no monkey. I ran all the way to the playground, screaming her name, trying to stay out of the panic zone that had me wanting to rip out my hair as I frantically thought about how tiny she is, and how many places she could have gone, and oh, God, the cars that speed way too fast down my suburban residential street. I ran faster, screamed louder, out-of-shape legs and burning lungs be damned. I got to the park and didn’t see her. I spun and ran the other way, screaming alternately for her and for help, because I didn’t have a phone with me. By the time I got back to my house, my legs had turned to jelly. I had to have a phone to call the police. Back up the driveway I ran.
I rounded the corner into the garage, skidding on a leaf and grabbing the back fender on my car to stay upright, focused only on getting to a phone and getting back outside to search for my toddler.
And then I heard my baby’s voice. I let go of the car and looked up to find her on the steps, playing with my handbag and smiling.
“Hi, mommy!” She grinned and held up her arms.
I swept her up and squeezed her so tightly she tried to wriggle away.
“Hey!” she said, pushing my shoulder. I cried and squeezed harder.
I found evidence later (namely, my credit cards scattered across the driveway) that she had, indeed, gone outside and had herself an adventure. A good friend told me there was a guardian angel watching over her the whole time. Very possibly: I lost my mother a year and a half ago, and if anyone could find a way to take care of me from the hereafter, it would be my mom.
Here’s what I’ve noticed since Wednesday: I’m not as quick to want that quiet time, and I’m quicker to hug all three of them. My house is in pretty much constant chaos. It’s loud with the sounds of piano practice, Mickey and Dora songs, and an unending refrain of “mommy, watch this!” It’s never tidy unless we have company coming (and even then it depends on who the company is, because I am blessed to have friends who love me even when the sink is full and the carpet is obscured by Legos and Little People).
You know what? I wouldn’t trade one molecule or millisecond of it for all the quiet time in the world.
I’ve had big things happen in my life this year, for which I am very thankful. But the small miracles of health, safety, security, and love are the things I find myself particularly glad of this weekend. I haven’t sighed any of the eleven thousand times littlest monkey has undecorated the bottom two feet of the tree, and I’ve snuggled them all longer at bedtime. I’ve also installed baby-proof doorknob covers on every exterior door.
I am thankful this week for a life that is so very blessed I have too much to be thankful for to make a proper list. I could have done without the gray hairs, back pain, and tears that came with my dose of perspective, but I’m glad, in a weird way, to have it.
What are you thankful for this week?