Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wilderness Refuge

“It was my university, my theater, my refuge and strength. When I rejoiced, I went there to celebrate; when I was sad, to be consoled. In every weather, I worshipped there.” – Paul Gruchow
One thing was very evident from the moment I became a mother. Kids have a way of screwing up your plans. It didn’t matter that I had four hundred and twenty two things I needed to get done today. It didn’t matter that I my work phone rang twenty one times today (no- I’m not exaggerating). It didn’t matter that I up until this very moment, I didn’t have any peace and quiet.
Towhead woke up with a raging fever. His cheeks were flushed, his ears were red, and he was bawling. It was quite clear that my sweet little boy felt like shit. Nothing makes a mother feel quite as helpless as a sick child. Aside from timely doses of ibuprofen there was nothing much I could do except put aside all plans of getting anything accomplished and hold little Towhead all day long (or at least it felt like it was all day).  
After reaching a fever of 104, I took him for a field trip to the doctor. Going to the doctor at a teaching hospital is not fun. I think it is possible that it is less fun for the mother than the babe. The clumsy resident that we were forced to see before the real doctor would come into the room, tried (for way too long) to fish chunks of earwax out of Towhead’s ears so he could determine whether there was an ear infection.  As Towhead wailed like a banshee, Doc Jr. kept looking up at me and whispering, “Very sorry, still can’t see.” Finally, worrying that he would pierce Towhead’s eardrums with his little earwax digger tool, I told him that we would just wait for the real doctor. “Yes, very sorry. Very sorry,” he said as he slunk from the room.
After Doc Jr. left the room, I paced back and forth. Just when I managed to stop the steady flow of tears running down his cheeks there was a knock at the door. It was Doc, Jr. again, “Um, I’m sorry. I guess I kind of forgot to finish the exam. I still have to get a throat culture and palpate his stomach.”  Needless to say, this didn’t instill any confidence and the day went downhill from there.
You are probably wondering how all this ties into the quote that started this post…it was bedtime. Red had to work late (of course, conveniently had to band some doves on the night I needed him home!). I managed to get Towhead to sleep. Then it was Chatterbox’s turn. She is more challenging. She won’t stop talking and she has a bedtime hug/kiss/butterfly kiss ritual that takes at minimum 10 minutes to complete.
I read her a few stories and turned off her lights and lay down next to her. And then it happened—it was quiet for ten whole seconds and we heard the cicadas.
The long, pulsating drone took me back thirty years, to trips to my grandma’s house. We always went in July-prime cicada time. I slept in a bed next to my brother and listened all night to the chorus outside of the window. At first the sound only brought a trickle of tenuous memories, rusty from disuse. They slowly started to come faster in a strong rush, full of sights, sounds and smells. I remembered the morning smells of fried eggs on the gas stove, the sound of Grandpa listening to a Cub’s game, the sound of Grandma and my mother talking and laughing at the kitchen table, and the smell of the musty old basement where my brother and I dug through boxes of old Mad magazines.  I remembered Grandma’s yellow bedroom, the lacy curtains in the room my brother and I sometimes slept in, the smell of Grandpa’s pipe, and the laughter of my brother watching Bozo the Clown on the old console tv.
My point is that it need not be a towering mountain range, a raging ocean shore pounded with waves, or a million acres of pristine wilderness. Something as simple as a cicada can create a place for my mind to escape. Maybe next time it will be the smell of an old brown oak leaf that will give me a little peace in a hectic day. Something will remind me that the search warrant that I needed to serve today, the phone calls I needed to return, the wildlife area I needed to drive through, and the pile of laundry that needed to be washed don't rank anywhere near my kids on the list of priorities.
My little blonde girl was lying next to me, her hair a tangle on her pillow and her left eye shaded in a birthmark that surrounds her eye and creeps down her cheek. I told her about the cicadas. She smiled when I told her to listen to the cicadas outside her window and think about me, when I was her age, lying on a bed in my Grandma’s house and listening to the cicadas outside the window.


  1. Wow - this is a beautiful piece....and I'm listening to the cicadas too right now..and remembering..thank you !

  2. Very nicely told. I hope towhead is feeling better. I honestly can't imagine being a mother and working your job.

  3. Thanks to both of you...I kind of hurried through that one without any proofreading (oops).

    The hardest part of being a game warden and a mother is the guilt. I set my own hours for work- when it is busy, I work all the time, and when it isn't I can stay home more. The problem is that I feel guilty when I'm home, and I feel guilty when I'm at work. But, I have to say, I think stay at home moms must have it tougher. After two days at home with the kids I find myself ready to get back into my truck!!

    Thanks again.

  4. Ahh, that 'drone' takes me back too...

  5. Visiting your blog for the first time. Enjoyed reading this post. Hope "Towhead" is regaining the liveliness of a two year old. Dang waiting rooms too. You know, you just want to "talk" to a doctor, please!