I started out with a trip to the Vietnamese fabric store for a screamin’ deal on fleece. Good. I took all four kids. BAD.
The shop was like something you would see in a travel magazine. A half hour away, it lay smack in the middle of one of those areas where you reach over to lock your car doors, between a liquor store and a liquor store. Inside, bright rolls of fabric 5 feet long hung ceiling to floor in tight maze like rows, and two giant tables stood in the middle stacked with huge, tumbling bolts. A little man with only basic English whipped the fabric about measuring with a yard stick that flashed back and forth as the huge bolt flipped over and over. He cut a straight line without a guide.
It would have been so cool if I had not been wrangling cats at the time. I tried to keep the kids all with me, but the tight aisles made them crush together and fight. The catacombs of the rest of the store were too tempting for them, and they kept running off. Then I would hear fighting in some unknown region of the store while I was trying to order my fabric. I finally sent the boys outside to keep the winos company.
I called Guy on the way to the van. “Do you know how to say “torture” in Vietnamese?” I asked, exasperated. “Four kids at the fabric store.”
Fabric, check. The rest should be easy. I borrowed a variety of cutters and scissors from people who actually buy good ones, and I began what became a two day process of cutting the tabs that would be tied together. Guy made most of the headway while I was gone to a practice. Bless him.
The night before the blankets were due, we had ONE finished. The kids had been so swamped with projects and homework they had not yet helped. I informed everyone that the only people going to Disneyland would be those who helped. It was drudgery at first, as the kids fought over where they would work, what blanket they would tie, and complained that it was hard and they were messing up. Once we found our groove, though, they became excited and the overwhelm of the huge pile of fabric turned into excitement as one by one the completed blankets were folded and stacked. The kid's chatter became a series of sweet conversations and jokes. I began to really marvel at the moments that were being tied into the edges of the fleece.
I sent the girls off to bed, let the boys stay up, and we watched a movie together as we worked. We were done by one in the morning, about 4 hours ahead of my imagined time-table. The next day I drove the hour-and-a-half-turned-two-hours-when-you-get-lost trip to a little mountain town called Nevada City, and left the blankets at the designated drop off site.
On the way home, there was a strange feeling in my heart. A heaviness. We had done a good thing, but I knew that we were getting compensated for it. It certainly had not been a lesson in selfless service for my children. I called the woman in charge of the project to let her know the blankets were at the drop off, and told her of my misgivings. She expressed to me how important the blankets would be to the children that received them at the battered women’s shelter, and how grateful her organization was. I felt better knowing I could tell the kids about other children like them that their blankets would be helping.
I thought about the sense of a lost learning opportunity that I had over the whole thing, and I realized my kids have been taught to do a lot of service. They mow the lawns of widows, pick up trash where ever they see it, and extend help to neighbors and friends with yard work, pet care and baby tending at church activities. They always point out the homeless folks in town so that we can stop and give them food and change, and they hold the door open for strangers. Perhaps they understand service better than I give them credit for.
After a few hours at the Zoo a few days ago I had expressed to Guy how sapped of energy I was, and that I didn’t think I would last too long at Disneyland. I was thinking about skipping the trip so that everyone else could have fun. Inside, I was incredibly bummed.
Last night at dinner, Guy began to talk to the kids about Disneyland. He explained that mama wasn’t going to be allowed on any rides because of the baby, and that I get tired so easily that I wouldn’t be able to have much fun. I thought he was going to tell them I might not be coming, but instead he suggested that we wait to use our tickets until after the baby was a few months old, when mama could have fun too.
I held my breath anticipating the moans and tears of disappointment that were about to hit, already feeling a little worried to hear that, in their child minds, Disneyland was more important to them than I was.
“Sure.” One of the kids said, easily. They each quickly agreed that it would be more fun with mama there, and that waiting was a good idea. They even seemed excited.
I mentioned my suggestion that I just stay home.
“I wouldn’t let that happen.” Adam said with a fierce, protective boldness and a smile that said he was enjoying a moment of defiance without risk of wrath. My hero.
When I signed up for this project, I had been enticed by the reward. As it progressed, I felt the reward had become a burden. But a sweeter reward came than I could have anticipated as I experienced my children’s selflessness. I will enjoy being at Disneyland with my family knowing they waited for me.