There are those days. Those days start at midnight when your 7 year old wakes you up because she has explosively vomited a four egg-and-cheese omelette down the side of her bed and the putrid mess has leached so far past the sheets that it has permeated the very springs of the mattress itself.
You clean her and the bed up as best you can one-handed because you’re holding your sleeping infant in the other arm. You can’t set him down because he’s cutting a tooth. He’s spent all day either gnawing your nipple raw or screaming and pulling at your shirt in an effort to get back on the boob and you’ll be goddamned if you’ll risk waking him up now, not even for omelette puke.
Your daughter stays home from school the next morning and watches tv. Well, not really tv because you cancelled cable years ago, but you let her watch nature documentaries from National Geographic that you stream though Netflix. She looks up at you and says, “I’m hungry.”
No doubt, kid. You left your dinner between the sheets and the boxsping 12 hours ago.
“What sounds good to you?”
No. No, I suppose not.
Toast would be good. Dry toast. But you don’t have any bread in the house because you haven’t made any and you don’t just buy bread on a regular basis like normal people. You have a few jars of yogurt left but let’s face it, yogurt is awfully close to eggs when you are judging what foods you’d prefer not to deal with, should your kid reintroduce them to the world a half-hour after eating.
The kid is hungry now, so you can’t really wait the 3 hours it would take to make a loaf of bread. You could buy a loaf – people do that – but your daughter is in no position to walk to the store, and if you put the infant in the car seat it will be the longest, loudest, most painful 7 minute drive of your life. On three hours of interrupted sleep you aren’t sure you wouldn’t drive into a telephone pole, possibly on purpose. The infant is still leeched to your breast and in an effort to keep him calm you are holding him in such away that your lower back has gone into regular spasms.
You take a deep breath and tell your daughter you will see what you can come up with.
You bend down to check the lower shelf of the freezer for inspiration and hear something crack ominously. You are now old enough that bending to 90-degrees is an act of cacophonic heroism.
The crack hurts. You mutter a word one shouldn’t say in front of children. Possibly a few of them. Your daughter – who, when engaged in any activity of her own choosing will not hear you if you yell her name from four feet away – hears your choice vocabulary and, from two rooms over, admonishes: “MOM!!! You swore!”
“Fuck right I did!” you yell back before you can stop yourself.
Damnit, that was the wrong thing to say. But the sleep, you see, the sleep. It’s hard without the sleep.
And now you feel guilty because you know you shouldn’t have sworn, and you know the shooting pain that is spreading from the crack in your knee all the way up to your neck isn’t the result of looking for food for your daughter. No, if you are really honest with yourself, you were poking in the freezer looking for a stash of caffeinated coffee and possibly – just possibly – dark chocolate.
Your stomach feels warm. It’s nice. You think how, even though the infant won’t stop screaming and nursing, when he sleeps like this, cradled in your arms, against your chest and stomach, he is the most incredible, wonderful little creature.
And then you realize the warm is also wet. He has managed to pee sideways, around his diaper, and all down your shirt. You look down at this little bundle and, for the first time in days, he is smiling.
There is no caffeinated coffee in the house. There is no cereal in the house because you haven’t made granola. There is no bread in the house because you didn’t start a batch last night. There is nothing that can be microwaved into edibility in the house. And this is because, most days, this is how you like to live: homemade, frugal, consciously, garden-centered.
But right now, at this exact moment, you would give anything to have paper plates and paper towels and Pop-Tarts and microwave dinners and those ludicrous pre-hard-boiled-and-peeled eggs that cost a dollar each on hand.
You’d write someone a $1000 check to go to Costco – no, let’s go really crazy and send them to Wal-Mart, that great corporate evil – and just buy you stuff. Stuff you could mindlessly enjoy without thought to what underpaid worker made it, or with what petroleum derivative it was made. Stuff you could use once and throw away and forget about. Stuff you don’t need and don’t have room for, but that holds the promise of solution. Stuff you can’t afford and barely want, but that advertises the ability to makes your life just a tiny, tiny bit easier.
All you want is a branded Starbucks cup in your hand and 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep and the knowledge that it’s okay to do anything you have to do to get by.
Because to hell with frugality and your urban homesteader cred. To hell with your carbon footprint and your culinary standards. To hell with health and environmental sustainability. To hell with global warming and peak oil and the evils of monocrop deserts of corn. To hell with all of it.
But somewhere, deep in your heart, deeper even than the sleep deprivation, you know that you’ve had all that stuff and it never really helped anyway. It was hope, packaged in appealing bottles and boxes and sold disguised as cleaning products and wrinkle creams and convenience food and home organizers. But it was always only hope in a bottle.
And so you just carry on and do what you do.
You make your daughter a strawberry smoothie with berries you froze last summer. It soothes her throat. You get your son a new cloth diaper and get him adjusted into the baby carrier. You begin to make chicken broth with a frozen carcass you uncovered while pawing around for coffee. Everyone can have chicken soup for lunch. By then you might even get a loaf of bread together. You call your husband. You tell him to pick up some real coffee on the way home. Something fair trade and shade grown and caffeinated for godsakes.
It’ll be okay. You’ll get through this, even if you never get into a clean shirt today. You look out the window and see the beauty and potential of the garden. The garden is hope that manifests. Everything is better in a garden.
The cats are using the tender seedlings you just set out as their litter box.2