Monday, September 8, 2008

Too Much Time on My Hands

By Margy McCarthy

I keep telling myself that this is my time.

For several weeks now, I have been down by half my offspring. The floor is no longer littered with gigantic dirty socks, I find less dirty dishes waiting on the counters to greet me in the mornings, and my laundry piles have shrunk beyond recognition.

On the other hand, I have not figured out how to cook appropriate quantities of food for those of us still here. Losing a teenage boy from the table is akin to a hungry platoon gone AWOL from the mess hall. The leftovers threaten us from every side; towering piles of delicious food teeter on the brink of no return- food that only a short time ago would have been consumed by a group of whispering teenagers skulking around after a late movie; plundering my kitchen by the light of a humming microwave.

I am putting out an APB on new recipes that call for milk. Send me your cream soups, your sauces, your smoothies-- I can’t keep up with a gallon a week any more.

Other adjustments have been easier; I have discovered to my delight that Shriek- the lone baby bird remaining in the nest- may well need a new blog name. The crystal-shattering squeals that were the soundtrack of our everyday routines are a vague and distant memory. When her brother phones (which is quite often) their conversations are of new, mature, moderate tones and peppered with soft laughter.

Huh. Go figure.

Shriek has also taken up the slack with regard to chores without complaint. She carries out the trash, empties the dishwasher, cares for the animals without the previously constant refrain of, “Why do I have to do it? I did it last time!” even flickering through her mind. She is amply rewarded for her willingness- paid in nail polish. Nail polish is the currency of modern thirteen year old girls.

I am suddenly at home by myself more than ever. With Sparky at work and Shriek away more and more for movies, or shopping trips, or overnights with her friends; the house is quiet, cool, and mine alone. It occurs to me that I actually have time to do the things I blamed holding two full-time jobs (teacher and mom) for preventing me from doing. I can start on that new novel. I can read uninterrupted. I can rise earlier and walk for miles along the canal to jump-start the diet I have procrastinated and simultaneously discover writerly inspiration in the wingspan of egrets, the downy fluff of ducklings, and the life-affirming promise of citrus trees heavy-laden with the winter crop of fruit.

I could do these things. Of course I could. I have lots of time. I could do these things and more. But I find myself looking at the time I have available now the same way I look at the huge bowl of leftover scallop scampi, or the half-full gallon of milk whose expiration date mocks me, or the lone giant sock pulled from under the couch.

I need to readjust.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Margy, I hear you--it seems the more time I have on hand, the less I do with it. I need deadlines, I need to feel pressured. I need a schedule.

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

You'll get used to it all, Margy - the time, the cooking. What's hardest for me is the ebb and flow..just when I get used to the quiet, and figure out how to fill it up all by myself, or just when I'm used to cooking just for two (because the teen left here at home is, well, hardly ever. Here. At home.) - well, just when I get used to all that, kids come home again and fill it all up and claim all your time, and you have to readjust. And then just when you get used to THAT - it's quiet again.

Flexibility has always been the biggest part of motherhood, and it's more important than ever, now.