Don’t Forget to Feed Your Soul

13237612_10208770037384229_6420776503945183241_nMy husband took the boys to his softball game last week, and, for the first time in months, I had an entire evening to myself. I shuffled around the house for a bit, picking up toys and cracker crumbs and discarded pieces of clothing. I contemplated pouring a glass of wine or cracking open the novel I’d just renewed from the library for the third time. I considered giving myself a facial or doing something with the jagged stumps I call fingernails. I had so many things I could do, but none of them seemed right. As I walked to the front door to check the mail, I noticed delicate rays of light streaming through the blinds in our front room. The pale waves danced across the smooth black wood of my piano, giving it a heavenly glow.

My piano. 

Oh, how I love my piano. As a child, I cursed my mother for the lessons, the hours of practice, the recitals that had my introverted self shaking like a leaf. But as I grew older, it became more like a friend than a chore. It was something to pound on when I was angry, something to make me feel when my soul fell numb, something to pour my heart into when everything else in my life felt as if it were crashing down around me. In college, I found myself wandering through the halls of my dorm at midnight, blinking back tears from a breakup/bad grade/fight with a friend, until I landed at the ancient Steinway in the lobby and played until the night clerk told me it was time to go. To this day, I’m still amazed at how a few minutes of Mozart can cleanse my soul and provide strength for another day.

I have a beautiful piano now, a Kawai baby grand that sits in our front room collecting dust and deflecting the sticky fingers of my children. In between parenting and writing, it gets played once a month at best, and I’m lucky to get in a full song before I need to stop and break up a Lego-induced fight. I miss my hours in front of the piano, and if it could talk, it would probably say it misses me.

I could feel the day’s tension in my shoulders as I sat down and opened up my go-to book, Schirmer’s Thirty-Two Sonatinas and Rondos For the Piano. For a good hour I played Clementi and Kuhlau, Hadyn and Hofmann, finishing with the Mozart Sonata I performed in an eighth grade solo and ensemble competition. My fingers were cramping, but my shoulders were tense no more. A calm had possessed my body, a forgotten peace that almost brought me to tears. I pulled my achilles heel from the bench, Beethoven’s nineteen page Sonate Pathetique. I played it for my Senior Recital when I was seventeen; I love it more than anything, but it’s hard. My hands were shaking by page five, my arms heavy by the second movement, but I played on. It was far from perfect, but perfection was not the goal. Daylight was waning as I played my last note, but I no longer needed the light. I was finished, my soul fed and cleansed, as if I’d spent the last two hours laughing and having cocktails with a beloved old friend.

The door flung open as I closed the piano’s lid, and my fresh-faced children rushed in to disturb the peace with their boisterous chatter. They took a seat at the kitchen table and proceeded to stuff fistfuls of popcorn into their mouths.

“Did you have fun while we were gone?” my oldest asked in between chews.

“I did,” I replied.

“What did you do?” my youngest chimed in.

“I played the piano.” I stretched my aching fingers and stole a piece of popcorn.

My oldest’s mouth opened with awe. “The whole time?”

I smiled as serenity floated through my veins. “Yes. The whole time.”

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You Get What You Get

IMG_7874“Are you mad you don’t have a girl?”

The question caught me off guard, like the car in your blind spot when you’re changing lanes, the one that lays on the horn and gives you the finger and sends your heart into a series of herky-jerky palpitations that make you wonder if you should dial 911.

I had just finished telling the story of Avery’s stillbirth to a near stranger, a story I’ve told hundreds of times, a story that typically elicits awkward nods and sad smiles and “I’m so sorrys,” not brutally honest questions with the potential for politically incorrect answers.

Am I mad that I don’t have a girl?

A saying danced through my head, words stolen from my son’s kindergarten teacher, words I tell my kids multiple times throughout the day. “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” It’s true, too. Whether you’re talking about a Happy Meal toy or second place in the spelling bee or horrible diseases or even death – there are so many things that are out of our hands, things we humans wish we could control but are ultimately powerless against.

Am I mad that I don’t have a girl?

I’m sad that seven years ago my daughter died. I’m frustrated that I did everything right but nobody saw it coming. I’m irritated that I had to have three full-term pregnancies to have two children. I’m heartbroken that I have to try to explain to my boys how the sister they never met died, and how that little girl changed so much about our lives. But am I mad that I don’t have a girl?

I think of the parents that only have girls, up to their ears in glitter and bows, twirling through a world of dance recitals and nail polish, and wonder how they see me. I wonder if they feel a little left out of my world, the world of fart noises and monster trucks, the world of bug collections and pretty-eyed mama’s boys whispering, “I love you so much, Mommy,” right before their lids become heavy with sleep.

I’m sure there are a lot of things I’m missing out on in the Land of Pink. I’ll never shop for bras or prom dresses or wedding dresses. I’ll never know that special mother – daughter bond that people always post sappy memes of on Facebook. But am I mad I don’t have a girl?

“No,” I finally answered. “I’m not mad.”

And it’s the truth.

I’ll always have that tiny pang in my heart – perhaps mine is a little bigger than most because once upon a time I had a girl and then all of a sudden I didn’t. But I’m not mad. I adore my boys; I adore my life. It would be useless to be mad about something so out of my control. To hold onto anger like that would only cloud the spectacular road ahead and keep me from truly enjoying the ride.

Even if that ride is in a monster truck riddled with fart noises.