I wish I were more casual about tomatoes, more like, “Oh, tomatoes? Yeah, sometimes they all ripen, sometimes not, no biggie.” And then I’d skip off to do something fun and frivolous, something lost on people who stake their well-being on several hundred red fruits ripening. Instead, I’m pacing the garden, seeing each crimson orb as a future indispensable player on the field of roasted tomato sauce. I’d ripen them with the hot blaze of my attention if I could.
Last month, our friend Maja and her three kids led us through the spruce trees on a mushroom-picking foray, followed by a fungal feast at their house. Rose, age 7, said to me afterwards, in whispery reverent tones, “Maja is so nice. She’s so willing.”
Being willing is one of the highest compliments Rose can bestow upon you. It means you say yes a lot, don’t have a lot of stuffy rules for the sake of cleanliness and order, and you live a full, celebratory life now, instead of say, roping off the tomatoes for some future dream of roasted sauce.
A few weeks ago, I promised Rose we could swim from the bridge behind the high school to Paradise Island (the length of a very long city block), having no idea how skin-tinglingly cold the water would be, being, well, formerly snow.
I waded in tentatively, middle-aged mother-style, legs going numb in sections, hoping Rose would abandon the adventure. But no, Rose was screeching and splashing in her bikini like some vision of her future spring-break-in-Mexico self. “You’re doing great, Mama, keep coming!” she shouted. And I became willing. I became so willing that I dove in. I screeched and splashed with her. I floated on my back, dodged rocks and slid through leafy forests of aquatic plants.
Rose has a lot of wants. They start at approximately 6:30 a.m. and don’t let up until I’m kissing her goodnight and she reminds me to come back and check on her in 15 minutes. Fifteen, she calls from her top bunk as I’m walking out to my own version of freedom. Fifteen, I confirm. What I’m saying is there is a lot of opportunity to become willing.
I’m trying to seize willingness when I can. Sometimes being willing means saying yes to a tickle session with Rose when I’d rather impersonate a very sedentary person on the couch. Or saying yes to taking Col, age 9, to the Animas Air Park to troll around the tiny private planes even though this pit of mother-fear burbles up at my son’s dream of being behind the controls of a plane.
The times I can overcome my own boring inertia become its own reward. Rose’s gappy-toothed howls from a tickle session reverberate in my body, inevitably loosening some of the stress lodged in my bones. The prize for taking Col to check out the airplanes is seeing his eyes shine when he spies his favorite: the Cherokee Arrow.
We recently had the opportunity to foster a Mama cat and her nine kittens. It sounded vaguely fun and educational, though before Dan left on his last hunting trip he kissed me and whispered, “I really don’t want to come home to find 10 cats in our house.”
Boundaries are equally important, the other pillar of “willing,” supporting a balanced life. I’m thinking of issuing Rose a punch pass for tickle sessions, 20/month, just so we’re all clear on what I’m willing to give.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.