Poor Emilia is having trouble sleeping these days. We know she is teething — one of her lower teeth just arrived this morning — which is very painful, and we know that babies on the cusp of developmental leaps can experience unquiet slumbers as well, and Millie has been up on her feet a lot lately preparing to cruise, and generally getting her hands on items at levels that not so long ago represented distant planes. Today we have whisked potted plants and lamps and important papers off of table tops that she only began reaching this morning. It could also be that she is being revisited by the gastric discomforts that plagued her first weeks.
In any case, she wakes up a lot, and in particular she wakes up unhappy several times between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m, when I am accustomed to getting the kind of sleep that is most restorative to me. I can be up at 1 o’clock and 2 and even 3 without serious fallout the next day, but for the past two months or more we have been wakened at 4:45, 5:30, 6:10, the kinds of times you associate with train schedules in romantic adventures.
Again, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve said this, our trials are small ones, and joyful on the whole. I know some of you have it a lot worse. And we signed up for this, we totally did, and I wouldn’t trade it — the payoff is not even a distant future one, it’s right now, when Emilia sees me come in the door and smiles with her entire head and lifts her arms because she wants me to pick her up.
Nevertheless, we are tired. Parenting a baby is physically demanding, and it quite knocks the poop out of you when you’re closer to 50 than 40. And I’m not even necessarily talking about GOOD parenting, I’m just talking about the basic business of keeping the offspring alive, like any rock troll would do.
Angela was teaching tonight, and so after I rough-housed with the girls on the living room floor (modulated to a gentler version when Millie piles on, which she does with gusto) and after Millie’s routine — feeding, diaper change(/slap fest), more feeding, books (optional, depending on how tired she is) — and after Mara’s routine — cleaning up toys, herding into jammies (this will never happen without a degree of wrangling), teethbrushing (she still likes to sit on my leg as I kneel and have me do them, because it is an intimate tradition), potty break, fetching nighttime lovies from around the house, filling water sippy, books, and sometimes a story — and after going to soothe Millie several times with a shooshing sound we do that settles her down, I began clearing dinner plates and doing the dishes.
I saw my Day mug.
The Day mug is a mug that my Aunt Jean gave me one year long ago, when I was in my thirties. It was made by my cousin Sue, or rather a woman named Sue who was once married to my cousin John. I didn’t know her well at all, and I don’t know that I’ve seen her since my aunt gave me the mug, because she and my cousin went separate ways shortly afterwards, and thereafter she did not accompany John and their kids to the family reunions. I would not know her in a crowd today, and I would feel odd calling her my cousin, though “by the chart” she still is.
The mug is an off-white color, larger at the bottom than at the top, a little like a garden watering can, and has a simple design of two narrow blue stripes with a broad yellow one between them. I don’t know when I started thinking of it this way, but during my loneliest days before I met Angela, when I was struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer and my life seemed to be consistently visited by unfavorable winds, it occured to me that it is not for nothing that the sun rises and sets each day, that every morning we get another chance to work out our salvation, to do our best, to make things right if that’s what’s up for us, or to fling ourselves into the adventure if that’s our thing. And this simple design — a broad yellow swath of cheery day enclosed and sealed by two blue bands of absolving night — reminded me of that truth. I started referring to it as my Day mug, because it looks like a single day and reminds me that I have everything I need — enough energy, enough love certainly — to get through one day, which is all I ever have to do.
I saw my Day mug on the counter tonight and it did what it was supposed to do. It lightened my load. I wasn’t even drinking out of it. Thanks Day mug. Thanks Aunt Jean. Thanks Sue, wherever you are. You have no idea what the clay you spun with your hands has become.