domestic calculus

once, a long time ago, i was in accelerated math. only i never remembered to open the text book at night. so it made it hard to keep up.

the smart boy who sat one up and over from me, bless him, he took to sliding his paper off to the edge of his desk, the side that bordered near mine. occasionally, in the middle of a test, he’d drop it. oops, slipped. so sorry, teach’.

having been raised with pleases and thank yous, white gloves, and a knee-jerk reaction to lurch for falling objects, i’d be the one who stirred from my test-taking to behold what had dropped, right there before my wondering, wandering eyes.

why, i’d scoop it right up, return those carefully calculated logarithms to their rightful owner, and along the way maybe catch a number or two.

saved, once again, by the smart boy with dropsies.

and so it seems once again, here i am, sitting firm in my life, and once again the math of the day hardly adds up.
i can’t for the life of me, these past many weeks, get the hours and minutes to add up the way that they should, that i sure wish they would.

in one column, you see, there’s the stuff that’s gotta get done: the train ride downtown, the piles of baseball-stained clothes, the milk that’s not in the fridge, the piano books sitting mostly untouched.

in the other, it seems, there’s the short list of satisfactions i can’t seem to get to: the farmer’s market, the chair in the summer porch, the picnic packed and hauled to the beach, the bedtime stories told to a boy who’s scrubbed and pink and not smelling like too long a soak in the pool.

there’s the stoop, just off the kitchen, where, all around, my garden is laying down roots, and the birds–whole flocks of ‘em, red-headed woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches, sparrows and cardinals, even a hummingbird–flit high and low, anointing the place, trying out a leaf or a branch, nibbling a berry or blossom.

sad thing is, i’m barely home to greet them, and thank them, for blessing my labors. for bringing their wings to my garden, for bringing my garden to life.

it pains me, i tell you, a dull throbbing pain in the heart, this domestic not-adding-up.

it was one thing, long long ago, to miss out on all of that calculus–just think of the nuclear reactors i’ll never invent–but it’s a whole nother emptiness when the math that escapes you is the bare-boned essence of why you’re alive in the first place.

by now, after all these meanders we’ve meandered together, you might be onto the notion that i am nothing if not a romantic. and a dyed-in-the-wool believer in all things make-believe, to boot.

so you won’t be surprised, won’t sputter and spew, if i let you in on my latest mathematical delusion: i find myself wishing, it’s true, that mine was a life with days that stretched for 48 hours.

maybe then i could wake before firstlight, tiptoe out to the barn, scoop the eggs, milk the cow, slip-slide the breakfast cakes into the oven. then, in my lacey-hemmed nightgown, i’d stroll barefoot through my cottage garden, pluck a rose here or there, strike up a morning’s reverie with one of my birds or a butterfly.

oh, i’d have time to read the paper, rouse my boys with cinnamon-and-butter clouds wafting from the oven. we’d all sit and share thoughts at the start of the day. then i’d go off to my typing room, tap out the words to a children’s book, write a newspaper story bursting with wisdom and truth. take time to stroll through the garden, stake a drooping vine, pluck a fat ripe tomato.

in my domestic equation, there’d be time to cook a slow dinner, read a late-afternoon book, pluck roses for the wobbly old table i made from a door.

the stars would flick on in the night sky and still we’d be gathered there at the table, plates emptied by then of the feast that i’d cooked all from scratch, from my organic garden.

i’d soak in a tub, and so would my muddy-kneed boy. then off to bed we would toddle, where we’d read and we’d dream and whisper our prayers goodnight.

and then, come the dawn, i’d be the first and only one up. and i’d start all over again.

the beauty of life, after all, in the end, is each blessed day we get that breath-taking chance to begin all over again.
even when it doesn’t add up. even when, for the life of us, the answer escapes us.

we’ve the grace and the gift, hallelujah, to try once again to borrow and carry those columns of hours, those joys and delights, and even the sorrows.

it’s a math that’s essential.

and some days i swear i just might rub that eraser down to a nub, trying to figure it out.

but i’m not giving up. i’ll not be stumped on this calculus of the domestic persuasion.

how do you struggle in the math dept.? what parts of your life, your day after day, don’t seem to add up? have you found new ways to borrow, add, subtract, multiply or divide that leave you a bit more fulfilled at the end of each season? do share your math tricks. we’re eager to learn here.

that picture up above, that’s my little one, sprinkling sugar and cinnamon on just-outa-the-oven cinnamon rolls, the kind from a tube, people, don’t get excited. i had no real picture of the madness that is my too-short day, so i went instead with an image of what it might be like on a good day. a little dreamin’s always a good thing.
here’s to a day that adds up just the way you’d wish for….