A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~ Tenneva Jordan
I remember learning about magnets in school, but only understand on an intuitive level how they work. Metal attracts to metal, and it has something to do with poles and fields (no-one ever accused me of being scientifically-minded). Now that I am a mother, I have discovered another magnetic effect, an attraction not between metals but between organic materials, manifesting itself on a daily basis in my house.
My kids are magnetically attracted to me. It’s the only explanation for why I can’t get more than four feet away from them before I find them trailing behind me. The trigger for this effect is any attempt on my part for a few minutes of alone time. I can go unnoticed by them for hours when they are busy with their own activities, a comforting presence in their peripheral vision, but leave the room and all three kids gradually become aware that something in their universe is amiss. One child will eventually start a search. From my basement bedroom, where I’ve gone with my tea to escape the atmospheric onslaught of music, video games, movies and sibling arguments, I can hear the process unfold:
“Mom? Mom… (footsteps)… where’s Mom?”
“I don’t know.”
Footsteps down the hall. “Where’s Mom?”
“I don’t know. Get out of my room!”
Door slams, followed by more footsteps to the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom; then they head to the top of the basement steps.
“MOM? YOU DOWN THERE??” I don’t answer; it’s not really necessary. I sip my tea, awaiting the inevitable. I’ve been down here less than ten minutes.
The footsteps now come down the stairs. There is a pause, and then my ten year old daughter, Mikaela, appears in my doorway. A huge smile, tinged with relief, spreads across her face.
“Hi Mommy!” She comes in and throws herself on my bed. “Me want cuddle with Mommy,” she says, clambering over the mattress to snuggle under my arm. My drink sloshes precariously.
“Watch my tea.”
She chatters away, wanting to know what I’m drinking, what I’m reading; can she taste my tea; why am I down here. Looking for some quiet time, I say. Me too then, she says. While we snuggle, I listen, waiting for what I know is coming next. Sure enough, more footsteps now cross my ceiling, heading for the basement stairs. Seconds later Madeline, half past 16 and ostensibly beyond caring about her mother’s whereabouts, walks in.
“Here you are. What are you doing?”
“Having quiet time,” says Mikaela.
“Cool.” Madeline joins us on the bed and starts talking as fast as only a teenage girl can, telling me about her day, her classes and her friends in a verbal tsunami of information.
I try to sip my tea as I listen, which is difficult now that there are three on the bed and the mattress is not quite still. I am trying to get as much of it down as I can before Act III commences. Then another head appears in my doorway, and quiet time is officially over.
“Hey, why’s everyone down here but me?” says Meredith, 15 and brimming with middle child ostracization issues. She climbs up on the bed, complaining loudly that there is no room for her, while her sisters protest that they were there first. They push and prod each other, fighting for territory.
“Hey Mom, can we look at our baby box?”
“Ya! Baby box!”
I put aside my tea, now cold, and pull out the box I have with all my keepsakes of their respective babyhoods. Birth announcements, ultrasound pictures and first birthday cake candles; Mikaela’s Spiderman pajamas, Meredith’s first shoes. There are several pacifiers, or “nukkies” as we call them, and there is spirited discussion over which ones belong to which kid.
The four of us sit on the bed, sifting through memories, my quiet time forsaken for this precious time with my girls. I don’t mind; all too soon every day will be quiet time. We go through the entire box while I tell them yet again the stories of their births. Eventually, there is a fourth, heavier tread on the stairs and ten seconds later my husband appears in the doorway.
“There you are! I was looking for you.”