i kicked her out and moved right in. there was really so much more space than if i had just tried to squeeze in with everyone else already living there. besides, she didn’t need to be living in there with so many kids. she sounded desperate for space. or a break. or both. feeding your kids broth with no bread--is that the same as giving your kids cereal with no milk? please tell me no, because i’ve done that. but i wouldn’t dare give broth without bread.
the whipping part, well, i threaten that a lot but rarely follow through. someday my kids will sit around their own thanksgiving tables, talking about how mom was so full of hot air, always threatening, never following through. i say that about my own mother. i used to say it critically. now i say it gratefully.
don’t worry. i helped her find a new home. even lined up a sitter so she could go out, see a movie, take a knitting class. whatever she wanted. it was worth it to me, so i could sneak away, too. sail away, actually. in the shoe.
at the time, it seemed like a great idea. things aren’t always so great around here. the husband is still looking for work. bills are due. pressure is building. work for me is slowing down, as it always does around the holidays.
and the kids. they fight. and yell. and ask for expensive things we can’t afford. not for christmas. i have been carrying around lots of pride at the fact that my kids’ christmas lists are very short. well, aside from that laptop gilly bean wants. because “mom, i’m almost nine.” can you imagine asking for that when you were nine? i would have gotten less than broth, and definitely no bread.
when i start to feel like the me i want to be--the smooth, shiny, lovely, patient me--is fading, and the me that is ugly, rough, impatient me is growing, well, that’s when i hijacked the shoe.
i sailed, in and out of days, and weeks, and months, into a year. a shoe really makes a great sailboat. when i got to where the wild things are, i thought, now, i really will fit in here. here, the beasts listen to me. not like my little beasts at home. or my husband. here, i don’t have to do laundry, or cook meals, or edit books for hours on end. i can run around half dressed and make s’mores and eat them all because in this magical place there’s no weight watchers app to keep track of every damn thing i eat.
but then something happened. i’m not really sure what it was. well, yes i do. i missed those smells--those dirt smells that come home on my kids every day. the sound of the word “mom.” the way my husband looks at me, and just knows what i’m thinking and how i’m feeling, and loves me anyway. those squeals, and nit-picking, and dragging feet at breakfast every morning, and leaving messes everywhere, they seemed comforting.
so i left the wild things and sailed back, in and out of a year, and months, and weeks, and days, till i arrived safely back on shore, where a nice bowl of broth and a loaf of cuban bread was waiting for me, nicely toasted. and i ate the whole thing, because i get extra points each week on weight watchers to do this sort of thing.
the old woman got her shoe back. she had missed it--the dirt smell, the crowdedness, the messiness. and we promised each other to count our blessings, to be better people.
*There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.