I never saw it coming. Not as a girl growing up on the Kansas plains. Not as a bride relocating to the North. Not as the young mother of a string of boys spaced like an octogenarian’s teeth.
Big life changes, I’ve learned, often come unannounced. You live your life one day, one laundry load at a time, and a door opens. One thing leads to another, and suddenly you find yourself on the phone with a Mr. James Kroemer, then-publisher of The Goshen News. Who asks the question that terrifies you the most, “Can you sustain it?” Now, five years later, we both know the answer.
It was on Nov. 5, 2007, that the first column appeared on page three, Monday edition. To this day, I find it surreal, seeing words scratched longhand in a girlish notebook at the coffee shop appearing in newsprint. There, they open a window into the life of one ordinary mother and her ordinary family.
What a trip it’s been, and how wonderful you’ve been to share it with me. When we first began, our sons were nearly 18, 14, 9 and 17 months. Now, they’re nearly 23, 19, 14 and 6. They were in high school, middle school, elementary school and diapers. One was driving and working, and collectively the four of them worked to drive their mom to the brink. Or so it seemed on certain days when the coffee ran low.
One of the greatest joys of writing has been hearing from readers. Men and women, young and old, married and single, you’ve let me know that you’re reading. “We laugh and we cry, but mostly we laugh.” That’s what you’ve said.
Me, too. Me first, in fact, for countless times I’ve found myself doing those very things as the ballpoint pen moved across the page.
Perhaps there’s consolation in knowing you’re not alone. In hearing from a girl who doesn’t have it all together.
In reading the stories of one family who isn’t always Sunday sharp. Who doesn’t always get it right. Who often gets it wrong, but who loves each other and trusts the Lord in spite of everything. Perhaps knowing that you’re normal is a gift.
If there’s anything we are, we six, it’s normal. Here, kids fight, dirty dishes pile up, teens take driver’s ed and parents pray. Then I write about it, and you on your couches, you nod your heads, “Yes, that’s how it is,” and you feel understood. Me, too.
When a small Picasso used white walls as his canvas and I was forever washing down limbs decorated in green marker. When that infernal butterfly stamp keep appearing, again on the walls, you understood.
When I told how floors trembled when the natives got restless. How they’d run the Indy 500 right around the dining room table. How they’d wallow and pound and their dad, sometimes he was the worst, you understood that, too.
Then came potty training, and I spilled it out. How I was afraid it wouldn’t happen. Afraid he’d get to college. Scared he’d join the work force, all without learning this skill. And then it happened.
“Houston, we have a tinkle!” I shouted in that week’s column. And you — bless you — you cheered, too. Thank you for that.