Photo Credit Linda Swantek
When I was younger–perhaps 13 or 14–I vividly remember walking out to our mailbox, giddy with life. I was happy, skating was good, my friends were good, my grades were good, my parents were good. The sun was warm on my shoulders, my heart was light. Life was good that day. The memory coats my heart like thick honey, not so much for the steps I took toward the mailbox, but rather the comfort I found in finding–the sweet spot. My worries were nil, my small, young life was in a place where I was comforted by what was around me, not anxious or worried or sad.
For years after that, I used that moment as a litmus test–a measuring stick of sorts–how happy am I now compared to the day I walked to the mailbox? I would check in, was I that happy again? Most days never measured up; always something to mar the peace. I remember laughing to myself — hoping I hadn’t had the best day of my life as a young teen! I looked forward, expecting my life to give me many more days that hit the sweet spot. Surely, marrying the love of my life, giving birth to my children–all of those days would fall comfortably into my memory, filling out that feeling of peace and contentment just as I did all those years ago.
Funny how a young mind works, and how sometimes we continue to do what we always have for no other reason than … well it’s what we always did. I continued in search of the sweet spot of my youth without taking much time to redefine what that feeling would look like as a young woman, a young wife, a young mother. There were days I found that sweet spot — my wedding day, days the boys were born and there were smaller moments playing catch in the yard, romping in a rain storm running through puddles and sliding on our bellies through mud, skiing around a corner seeing Christmas lights and smelling a roaring fire … so many sweet, perfect moments.
This week as school began, I was melancholy. I was sad. It was the last first day of school where my boys will all be under my roof. In the past two weeks, one has started his senior year, one turned 16 and began to drive and one started middle school. Much to think about, much to process. Much to do.
There is no sweet spot here.
Aiden, always one for marking special occasions–the last time he will brush his teeth while he is 11 being one of my favorites–posed the question “What are we going to do on our very last day of summer?” We decided to go to Stoney Creek — a bass creek about 8 miles north of our house. Coop invited his girlfriend who was home from college and the four of them headed out to the swimming hold at the river first and Eric and I met them at Stoney Creek a short while later.
We walked up the creek, splashing and hunting crayfish. We stood still and watched bass dart by. We climbed the rocks and enjoyed the warm water. The boys swam and hunted water bugs, caught minnows. The memory of the mailbox came floating into my mind. I found myself, knee deep in warm creek water, my toes wiggling in the sand and the boys all around me, plus Lo. A sweet spot.
Driving home Eric and I were sitting in the front seat of the gator. I didn’t want to talk about the stuff that could take my sweet spot away, I didn’t want to acknowledge that amongst the honey soaked memory of the creek there was the absolute knowledge that life is changing. Changing in a way that scares me, makes me sad, changes who I am and what I am worth. But as my mind does, it spoke without permission. I quietly said, “I don’t wanna do this. I just don’t.” Eric smiled at me, reached his arm around my neck and kissed my head. “You did a good job, momma.” My sweet spot grew sweeter, and knowledge that this change is good — it’s essential (I mean, they really can’t live with me forever even if I think I’d like them to!). That my sweet spot will change — just as it did from the journey to the mailbox along this journey through motherhood. That instead of looking for the big picture to be perfect, if I continue to find moments that are my version of perfect, I will find sweet spots everywhere I look–even though my world is changing.
My brother Matty texted me the morning of school (as did his sweet wife) and reminded me that the only thing that doesn’t change is change. Someday down my dirt road it will be a gator ride with my grand kids to Stoney Creek. We will walk in the warm water, or maybe it will be cool after a rain–and we will catch cray fish and climb rocks and watch bass dart past and catch minnows and I will feel the sun on my shoulders and I will hear E say, “You did good, momma.” and I will think, I found a sweet spot.