The poor CrazyStable, both the house and the eponymous blog; it has been a long time since I've given much attention to either of them. But just before Labor Day, the Spouse and I saddled up again and rode out to the renovation corral. Our task sounded deceptively simple: Repaint the Child's room while she was away in the mountains with her best-friend-forever. Things went a little deeper, however, as is their wont.
Child's room is a small one, with a funny little half-height closet built over a back staircase, and it still bore the gender-neutral paint job (yellow with very pale blue trim) that we applied when we still called it the "nursery." (We had called it that from 1986, when we bought the Stable, to 1995, when Child finally arrived; you can't fault us for long-term planning.) Now, in the summer of Child's entry into her teens, it was time for a change.
Over the summer, Child (now to be known as Daughter) desultorily went through her impressive library of books, charged with decluttering for the Big Paint Job. She couldn't part with many of her lovely picture-books, and I rescued a few precious baby books. (How could I ever forget reading Guess How Much I Love You every night?) As for the impacted baskets and shelves full of assorted childhood detritus, she left that job by default up to Mom and the Merciless Garbage Bags of Doom. I spent a rough couple of days unloading long-forgotten Toy Bouillabaisse into the bags, leaving just enough behind, I hoped, not to make the transition too brutal upon her return. (Yes, I did find an accursed Happy Meals toy in the dusty recesses of a bin.) There was only one rule: Do NOT throw out any stuffed animals. None were tossed, I swear.
The job itself progressed slowly; the closet interior needed serious spackling. I am proud of myself for taking back up the putty knife.
And of course we had unwanted assistants show up to nest in the dropcloths.
Daughter had chosen a pale smoky lavender with crisp white trim, and I had promised white curtains and shades with a touch of lace. Pricey ones from Country Curtains--to atone for the 12 years during which the window treatments consisted of a ratty old Home Depot shade, because Mom never got around to making curtains. (My mother made all our curtains; "You can run them up in an hour," she'd say. Sigh.) We've had some scary experiences in translating paint chips into real wall coverings, but this one came out fine.
As we worked right up to the hour of her return, Spouse and I wondered, in agency-speak, "Will client be pleased?" Client blew back in from the Adirondacks, as sun-kissed as the young bride in Mamma Mia! and looking about as grown-up, too. (She's now tall enough to look me directly in the eye, and does so constantly.) She tossed her sandy stuff down and proclaimed herself thrilled with her new digs. Books are being replaced, pictures edited and re-hung, while the pressing distractions of Eighth Grade compete for attention.
On this unforgettable date, I remember always that she had just begun First Grade. The day before, I'd watched her run into the schoolyard for her first full day of "real school," Catholic school uniform and gold curls flying. By Tuesday, I wondered what kind of world her childhood would unfold in: one behind concrete barriers, under a smoking sky? One in a distant town in a remote rural state, where terror perhaps couldn't come after us?
Thanks to the unimaginable sacrifice of so many brave men and women we'll never know, (and some we do), we are right here in Brooklyn, visiting high school open houses and riding bikes in the park, and looking out onto each new day through windows edged with lace. Life has become again that most tenderly miraculous of things: ordinary. A month ago, she and Goddaughter and I visited Ground Zero for the first time; all they saw was a bustling construction sight, and I realized that the apocalyptic events of that Tuesday morning had somehow slipped over the rapids into history.
Throughout these few weeks, I found myself humming this song, and resolved not to get into it. Today, I gave in and had a good bawl.
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
, sunset Sunrise
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
Music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick