On Silence and Cacophony and Things That Soothe the Soul

Jul 2 2012

I woke up yesterday morning to silence which happens to me exactly never and made me think that there was a strange and awesome aligning of the planets… or that kind, gentle faeries came in the night to cast magical, sleeping mommy spells… or that I suddenly went blessedly deaf… or that the Rapture happened and I didn’t make the cut and the apocalypse has been terribly misunderstood and only ever wanted to come in peace, after all.

It turns out, four out of five kids weren’t home yesterday morning which, in my book, was a miracle on par with the Second Coming of Christ. And the fifth kid? I discovered Aden (after I stopped for a leisurely cup of coffee) plugged into the television, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, and intent on charging her brain to Full Rot before she went away to camp for the week where there are – gasp – No Screens At All.

Early in the morning, Greg and my dad took our 12-year-old boy child to a major league ball game in Seattle, thanks to free tickets from a friend. Three hours by car each way to see the Mariners and the Red Sox duke it out and, most importantly, to eat processed, salty meat products and extra-garlicky garlic fries.

The dog and I were at loose ends in all the quiet, to be honest. There was no knock-knocking on the kitchen table or thump-thumping down the stairs or screeching at the siblings, and so we both forgot to bark for hours and hours, and we watched each other warily, unnerved by the constant serenity.

I went to church yesterday morning (not just to cover my Rapture bases), and I remembered to politely turn off my phone for the service.

A few weeks ago, which was the second-to-the-last time I turned off my phone, Abby texted me from a friend’s house in the middle of the night to tell me she was having an asthma attack and couldn’t breathe and forgot her inhaler and needed me and “Mom Mom Mom Mom HELLO MOM i need u!!!!!!” I got her message 6 hours later.

Last week, which was the time-before-this-one that I turned off my phone, my sister-in-law texted to tell me that my little nephew was being transported in an ambulance to the hospital because he forgot – again, stupid allergies – that breathing is important, and could I please come right now right now right now to watch her other kids so she could be with her boy? I got her message 2 hours later.

Yesterday morning when I turned off my phone, my dad texted to tell me that they didn’t make it to Seattle for the ball game because Greg had a sudden hankering for some narcotic assistance with passing a kidney stone, and hanging out in the hospital lobby in Portland is almost as good as a fun guys’ trip, anyway. I got his message an hour and a half later.

Although I hear we’re too tied as a culture to our phones, I’ve decided to never turn mine off again. I shall follow Greg’s fine example forthwith and begin escorting mine everywhere. I plan to name him Sting and tell him all of my very best secrets and kiss him every night before I go to bed. And if the Rapture happens and I’m not paying attention to the trumpets in the sky because I’m staring at Sting, I’ll just have to hope that Jesus has an awesome, unlimited texting plan so he can get through to me and all the other phone-starers. It appears as though I’m not very good at being present for my family without a deeper, more personal relationship with my phone, and since Being Present is a whole lot what Love looks like, I want very much to be there when they need me.

Greg arrived home around 2:00 yesterday afternoon, stoned on narcotics and pain and working really hard to Give Birth, Man-Style. I was a great help to him, teaching him Lamaze and enforcing the Do Not Email or Facebook or Text On Narcotics rule which is something teetotalers, like Greg, don’t learn earlier in life. I helped, though, most of all by polishing off our two-pound bag of pretzel M&M’s all by myself so he wouldn’t have to get out of bed do it.

By 10:00 pm, Greg passed out with his bedside light on. All of that Not Texting really wore him out, and maybe the relentless waves of pain did, too.

Cai and Cael fell asleep on our floor, a tangled mess of preschooler limbs and pillows and stuffed bears and stained blankets, and Cael stutter-snored throughout the night – not rhythmic and soothing, the way babies breathe with their vocal cords, but full of stops and starts and ricochets and interruptions.

Abby came home from the beach and she brought her best friend with her; I told them to be extremely quiet because Dad was still very sick, so they slammed cupboard doors and turned up the television volume and giggled like crackhead hyenas.

Ian stumbled into our room around midnight, a frenetic zombie intent on sleep walking his way to mass destruction or, at the very least, a good snack. He startled the dog and me and set us both to barking at him which made us feel content and fulfilled.

I tried to prepare myself for a sleepless night, which is always as useless as preparing for grief. It’ll either lay you flat or it won’t, and nothing you do to prepare will make any difference at all.

In the end, we all slept fine, lulled somehow by the cacophony of this chaotic life.

I woke up yesterday morning to silence, and it was very, very good. But it turns out silence isn’t the only thing that soothes the soul.