Four out of five of my children are nearly grown, and looking back, there are so many things I wish I had done differently. I wish I had taken them to church. Some talk of spirit, or at least, some sitting side by side in silence, in community, listening.
I should have cooked brunch every Sunday morning like my father did, to gather any family nearby, over eggs. I should have bought a sailboat and dragged my family on it any sunny weekend day, so they would be trapped with one another for a few hours, sitting side by side, sharing ice tea from a thermos and squinting, as the sail luffed in the lack of wind. I don’t know what we talked about during all those long sails with my father, but we talked together, and we sat together, not talking, the boat gently rocking us to peaceful.
I should have made them come to garden with me, to dig, to confront the blind worm, the sun setting fire to our backs. I should have made them prune the roses, first for the satisfaction of the clipper snip, but also for the consideration that is required. Snip here? Or here? To confront the swelling possibility that is bud.
I wish I had made them take long walks down dusty roads where they would have to kick stones or sing to have anything to do at all. Or walks in the holy forest, snapping sticks and crunching leaves, the canopy asway overhead. The scent of decay; the bleat of the bullfrog. We lie down in the mossy spot, arms and legs flung wide, the curved table of the world holding us up from underneath.
I wish we had banished television and installed a piano and sang silly songs. Played more charades and horseshoes and hide and seek. I wish we had a big fireplace and a basket of blankets, and every night built ourselves a blaze and lay around and ate popcorn and read, dogs splayed nearby, twitching in their sleep.
I wish we had had a porch swing and a tree fort and so many peonies you didn’t think twice about cutting an armload. I wish we’d had an orchard and kept bees and pulled the combs from the hives, dripping. I wish we had split our own wood, and stacked it up against the winter, and canned our peaches, and cracked them open in February, just to the scent of something the sun had warmed. I wish we had kept chickens, so I could have sent them out each morning to find eggs in straw nests and bring back smooth warm ovals in the palms of their hands. I wish we had prayed. Thank you for this beauty, Lord. Please help us find our way.
This sheltering time has given us some extra chances, though. Yesterday afternoon, my youngest and I baked a cake, and filled the house with the scent. We creamed butter and confectioners sugar, and dumped a whole box of raspberries in, to make a lumpy, pink glaze. We smoothed it over the yellow discs, covered them with sprinkles, put candles on top, sang and made wishes and blew them out, even though it wasn’t anybody’s birthday.
We cut wide slices, and ate them on a school night, pleased with our good work.