Sara Schultz: Smelling the Flowers

I’m dying with happiness. Two babies at once. It will put you over the edge. It will make you feel like a bad mother. It will make you wish you didn’t have kids, or at least just a singleton.

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Snuggling my babies, one on each shoulder, I hum softly to them, no song in particular. I wonder how long I’ll be able to hold both of them.

They’re almost twenty-five pounds each. Their baby soft hair brushes along my chin. I think, this is something. This is what motherhood is. I close my eyes and feel the sensations.

Outside the window, the sky’s changing to layers of sherbet.

I hum some more, remembering the time I had to sit inside for recess in first grade. Back when I thought humming was for my own personal pleasure, that no one else could hear it. The kid next to me kept complaining, “Mrs. Odland, Sara’s humming.”

“No, I’m not,” I said.” Humming along happily in my own little mind.

“She’s doing it again.” He said.

“That’s it, you’re both staying inside for recess.” The teacher said.

I didn’t mind. I think that was the only real time I got in trouble in elementary school.

I’m going to tell my kids humming isn’t for their own personal pleasure, it’s for everyone’s.

Laughing at the memory, I think how far away that was, in rural Minnesota.

My babies snuggle me. They reach back and both give me a kiss on the cheek on each side. I’m dying with happiness. Two babies at once. It will put you over the edge. It will make you feel like a bad mother. It will make you wish you didn’t have kids, or at least just a singleton. But there are moments like this, when you know it is something beyond belief, that you never would have imagined.

 

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When Trump was elected, I sat around nauseous and glazed over, looking at Keith and Lauren, thinking I should’ve never had kids.

What had I done to them to introduce them to this world? What kind of place is this?

I spent weeks and months, dipping below the surface of depression anytime I read the news. But my days with the kids were filled with laughter and rain, walks and poopy diapers. We moved forward.

Now they’re sleeping upstairs. I’m at our yellow fifties kitchen table in the old house that we moved into a few months ago, having outgrown the last. Jazz music wafts from the old silver Sony stereo I bought twelve years ago with my Discover cashback bonus, back when I used to make events out of things.

This afternoon,the sky is glowing, a bright gray, cloudless and sunless.

I think, when the kids get up, we’ll all go for pizza on Alberta. They like to ride in the car. We don’t drive a lot, because I don’t like driving places and making life into a big production.

I hear screams from the upstairs, and make my way to them. “Mama’s coming.” I sing. “Keei-th! Laur-en! Mama’s coming.”

They stand up, puffy faced, with red lines pressed into their cheeks.

“Hello,” I say. “Did you have a good nap?”

“Nao.” Lauren sings. Her favorite word is no. I’m ok with that. She is stubborn and opinionated, just how I’d like my daughter to be.

I pick up Lauren, she curls into my shoulder and move over to Keith’s crib. He’s bobbing back and forth, dancing in his crib. He’s happy to see me. I scoop him up.

“Let’s go downstairs.” I say. Carefully taking one step at a time. Remembering how I fell down the stairs carrying my niece, Hazel, when she was two and I was five months pregnant. And how our nanny, Winter, slipped with Lauren in her arms on these stairs. Every time I walk down the stairs, I think of these things.

We get to the bottom and I shut the half door. The prior owners lived in the house for thirty years, raising their whole family here. The lady had told my realtor that she’d always wanted twins and had been pregnant with a set, but miscarried them. She was happy we were moving in and thrilled we had twins. When they moved out, she left us some of her grandchildren’s toys.

We turn the corner to the living room. Keith reaches back. He wants to shut the door.

“Thank you.” I say. “You’re a good boy. Such a good helper.”

He smiles.

“Do you wanna read a book?” I ask. “Go pick out a book and we can all read.”

They jump down and waddle over to their pile of books. I sit in the orange chair. They return  and each hand me a book and start crawling onto my lap. The three of us snuggle into the old seventies rocking chair, and I start to read. They lean back, relaxed. We do this for a while, usually about four to eight books, before they move onto something else. I don’t mind.

 

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I have my four days in a row with them every week, then I work three days straight. The weeks shoot by like a car on the autobahn.

Last week, I had a patient in my chair who was about seventy-three. He took care of his grandsons all the time. He said the younger one liked everyone, didn’t see color, and was his own different bird. The grandpa had picked him up from school and noticed his best friend was a really big kid. The grandpa wondered why they were friends and asked him. “He likes everyone, grandpa, that’s why.” The grandpa shook his head and smiled telling me the story.

I said, “That gives me hope. These are some of the kids that can run the world when they grow up.” Maybe my kids will be ok.

One of my friends said her kids were so distressed since the election, asking a lot of questions that she couldn’t explain. I think how unfair that is. I’m thankful mine are too little to know anything has changed. I’ll keep them in a bubble for a while. One day they will learn about the world but for now, their world is our home, and our little life.

 

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Keith is looking out the window, he slipped and started crying, loud and deep and piercing. His face is contorted and red.

Lauren is next to him looking out the window. She reaches her arms out, on on either side of him. She’s trying to hug him and make him feel better. He can’t see her, he’s too distressed. But I see her, and I see him, and I think I made something good.

I can’t imagine a different life. I’ve heard these sentiments from other parents when I didn’t have kids. I brushed them off, knowing that I didn’t need kids to feel fulfilled. That I had a great life without them, feeling that my single life was somehow downplayed to them.

I remember my younger sister Molly, wanting so badly for me to have kids. I didn’t understand it. The closest thing to a kid I had was my sisters, who I’d helped raise. Or my other single sister Carrie’s Chihuahua. A fur baby, she said was just like having a kid. I didn’t really think so.

The fridge is humming. A man walks by in his raincoat led by his dog.

I think, “A dog is not like a kid.” Not that I don’t love both, but one isn’t a substitute for the other.

 

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I mention offhandedly, “Maybe we should go for a walk?”

Keith gets the coat closet open, picks out two jackets and deposits them at my feet. They find my coat and try to drag it over to me. They get a pair of matching shoes for me, and park themselves at the front or back door. My helpers. They love to walk.

Last night Keith, Lauren and I were out for our little evening walk. I try to take them out on foot once a day, the three of us hand in hand, navigating the sidewalk.

We make a mild scene on the sidewalk, two toddlers, dressed in coats and hats they picked out, holding on and moving at a snail’s pace.

One day, I had a white convertible stop a half a house in front of us.

“Oh, you’re okay.” I say. “We’re not crossing the street.”

“But when you have two, you never know if one’s going to get loose. I just wanted to be safe.” The man said to me.

“Thank you,” I say, thinking how people are amazing.

Yesterday we had made it half a block and just turned the corner. Keith and Lauren had a good grip on me, each asserting their twenty five pounds to pull in the direction they wished. I was the middle of the tug of war. A man in his sixties stopped and rolled down his window, “Oh that’s a metaphor for the rest of life!” Laughing as he said it.

“Yep.” I said. Smiling.

“They’re adorable. They aren’t twins are they?” He asks.

“Yep.” I say. “Boy-girl. They don’t look a lot alike.”

“Well they are sure cute.” Shaking his head and laughing.

“Thank you.” I say, happy to bring someone else happiness.

Sometimes when I feel like I’m just dragging along something like this happens, and I feel like I have a purpose, more than just trailing my short people around trying to keep them from getting out into the street.

The three of us meander along. Inspecting the crumbling sidewalk, looking for birds, pointing at airplanes, and smelling flowers until it’s time to go home.

 

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Sara Schultz is a writer, optometrist, and mama of toddler twins. Her writing has also appeared in The Sun. She loves trees, bicycles and art. She has lived all over the United States and overseas and finally found a home in Portland, Oregon.

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