There seems to be a trade-off with everything these days, or so my life has gone.
If I spend a day with my family, I lose a day working around the house. If I spend a day working in the yard, I lose a day with my family as well as time I could have spent straightening up inside my hosue. And so it goes: a bike ride with Dad means no work in the community garden with Kalista; a night spent writing is one of seclusion from my friends.
Not all of these predicaments are necessarily bad. I’m constantly thinking how great it is to have my parents’ camp at the edge of Lake Greenwood, their back yard and the shelter coming off my garage that’s complete with a coffee pot, outdoor fireplace and radio to offer myself on weekends.
I occasionally try to get it all in. Rarely do I succeed. Take this weekend, for instance.
After working around the house hours later than anticipated on Saturday, I arrived at Mom and Dad’s camp at 6:15 p.m. We had dinner, time for the children to swim and a chance for the adults to chat around the campfire. I left early Sunday, citing the need to weed “the heckoutta” the back yard after a week of rain.
I didn’t think much about it being the last opportunity to see my niece Allyson before she went home to Pennsylvania. I didn’t consider that it fell smack-dab in the middle of a two-week period practically without my daughter, who had been spending most of her time at my mom and dad’s to see her cousin.
Now Kalista is gone. Allyson is gone. Dad is gone, Mom is home sick and I am wallowing in self-imposed loneliness. Suddenly, that pretty yard I sacrificed Sunday at the lake for isn’t that big of a deal. No one’s around to see it.
In the darkness, I walked around the front of my house tonight to see the pumpkin growing in the front hedges. When it’s daytime, one can see its mighty stem coming through the red mulch chips that cost more than the other mulch at Lowe’s. It has branched around the shrubs and shot Spider Man-like vines into them; it’s not supposed to be there, but it’s the product of a seed swept off the porch following last year’s Halloween pumpkin carving with Kalista, which I’ve never had the heart to remove.
I realize we’ll likely be the only people in Greenwood with pumpkins in July.
This plant, as inconvenient as it’s grown, is symbolic of the trade-offs I’ve regularly found myself faced with since becoming a parent. I’m sacrificing an otherwise perfect set of well-groomed hedges by allowing it to grow. But those hedges look beautiful wrapped with strangling vines to those who know the story of the day Kalista drew a mosaic on the front of a pumpkin and expected her father to be able to carve it. Yes, I was lucky enough to have lived the story behind those vines.
Although this weekend was a bad trade on my part, I’ve not always come away with a raw deal. I generally put family and Kalista first and, generally, am pleased with the choice. I write now, for example, but not for a newspaper, which has crushed my lifelong desire to change the world – or at least part of it – through journalism. My work now is used strictly to make money for someone else – not inspire, expose and fulfill, as I‘d prefer.
But I get to put my daughter to bed every night. Fine. That’s a fair trade; a very fair trade indeed.
Regularly, I miss bike rides for soccer games, a relaxing evening for dance class, money for (I really don’t know what I’d spend it on, but I’d surely think of something) for summer field trips and a tidy house for a night watching Kalista perform on her bedroom stage. These are decisions I reach without hesitation – instinctual choices I’m proud of upon reflection.
Still, I could give myself a (figurative) kick in the butt for missing Sunday at the lake …