the balm that is the rhythm of routine

i’ve known for years that i was a creature of habit, a girl who liked her days to unfold with familiar rhythm. you might call me a homebody. a nesty girl. or worse.

what i know is that the familiar soothes me. i sink into sublime inner hum when i unlock the door and come back home. when i hear the ticking of the clock i have wound 3,000 times. when my foot hits the one odd floorboard, just to the east of smack-dab middle at the top of the stairs, a creak that tells me i am here in the house that holds me. a creak i know is coming before i ever get there. a creak that sings the song of home.

i like when my car practically steers itself to the grocery. knows the corner where to turn, knows the bumps along the way. i like passing under the heavy limbs of oak and ash and elm along the way; limbs i’d notice were missing if the shadows weren’t there one morning.

i am a girl comforted by the balm that is my everyday routine.

and right in here, where all around me seas are roiling, shifting, shaking, i am soothed hour after hour by the little stitches in the whole cloth of my life.

in the living room, right now, five fat boxes stand in sentry rows. nearly two-thirds filled, they hold the whole of my firstborn’s college life. they’ll be sealed shut soon. a new address — AC # 1056; i’ve already memorized — slapped on front. shipped east. to be unpacked on one wobbly sunday coming soon, when for the last time i will try my hand at putting order to his life. or at least his dorm room.

my little one too is about to take a big step for a not-so-big boy. nearly lost in all the college swirl is the fact that the little one has left behind his “little school,” and is moving on to middle school, a school with many floors, and combination locks. a school where four times as many kids will roam the halls.

all around, the world i know is just about to change.

and i find anchoring, find knowing, in the simple building blocks of my every day, the way each morning i splash my face, slide into rumpled, hem-torn shorts, hip-hop down the stairs, click on the radio to the voices who greet me every morning. the way i make my coffee every day — five scoops coffee, three shakes cinnamon, water cold from the filter.

i find my shoulders wrapped, my back steadied, by that first stroll through the garden. find myself cheered by the pumpkin vine that’s set down roots amid my black-eyed susans. i like that i keep measure of its bold insurrection, the way it’s up and inching through the beds, hellbent on making a kitchen plot of my measly perennials.

i am heartened, too, by the red-cloaked gang of cardinals who chatter and pester me for more seed.

i am soothed knowing that they know they can count on me. i will be there, they must have figured out, like clockwork. i’m a girl they can set their clocks by.

i love knowing all the checkers at the grocery. love knowing them by name, by story. love knowing they know me enough to ask, “is he gone yet?” love knowing that when they see the volume of the grocery bags, they know the answer’s “not quite yet.”

when i think ahead to that spot around the bend that i can’t quite imagine yet — the morning and the days when his absence is first felt, when it’s raw, when the silence is so loud it makes me want to scream — i know already that my soothing, my balm, will come from all the little chores that steady me, that fill me.

i’ll cut stems from the garden, arrange the daisies and the black-eyed susans and the queen anne’s lace. i’ll fold the laundry. fill the pantry shelves.

i’ll try not to wince when i pass up the pack of cookies that he loves, knowing if i bought them they’d sit untouched till thanksgiving, when he comes home for a few short days.

i’ll try not to miss the teetering piles of his T-shirts, socks and gym shorts on the ironing board downstairs. try not to miss that the laundry basket won’t be nearly as heavy anymore.

and when the sting comes, when the salty stream of missing him fills the cuts and scratches on my arms and legs and heart, i will turn once again to the time-worn knowledge of my heart: i’m a girl who hums when i am bound on all sides by the familiar, the tick and tock of home. when my house and garden do their job, and shelter me from the storm that is life simply moving forward…..

for the blessing of home, of garden. for the gift of all these blessings. for the gift of a boy i love so much his absence will be a hole inside my heart. for all of this, i am so deeply grateful.

are you soothed by the familiar? do you find music in the same old sounds inside your house? are you a creature of habit? or do you find glory in the new, the exotic, the not-yet discovered?