Monday, April 6, 2009


An epiphany is a moment of sudden realization, an "ah-ha" moment. When I have an epiphany, all the pieces fall into place and the world makes a little bit more sense.

I realized this morning that, contrary to yesterday's post, it is not really Joel that is inflexible. It's me. I've created this elaborate set of rituals and schedules, partly to keep myself afloat with the whole two kids business. So, when things are even slightly off--as is the case when we travel---I get as tightly wound as a trampoline coil. Yes, Joel does sleep better at home. But, he's fine. Delighted, even. I'm the one that gets uptight.

I remember reading an essay from Sarah Vowell. She talked about how her gunsmith father traveled to her apartment in Manhattan for Thanksgiving. She saw him fidget with his hands throughout the weekend, and she could not figure out what her father was doing. She realized, just hours before he left, that he was unconsciously "working" in his shop. His fingers were spelling out what he was unable to do with words: he was uncomfortable, out of his element, out of sorts, even through he loved his daughter.

My dad does the same thing. Our house is crowded, full of bizarre habits and rituals all involving the children and their needs. He does his best, and I know he loves us dearly. But, oh, does he light up when he gets a call on his cell phone from his friend, Dan. Dan is the site coordinator for the Habitat for Humanity branch in Dad's hometown. My dad has taken on Habitat as his "retirement job." In addition to working in the office one day a week, my dad is a regular at the building site, and he pours a lot of sweat and heart into each house.

So, when Dan calls, wanting advice or feedback about this or that, my dad visibly relaxes. He's talking with his people about his stuff, and it feels good. He feels like he's in his element.

The hammer doesn't rest far from the toolbox. When I'm home, with my fellow mothers and writers, I feel like myself. I'm the most confident Nancy there is. When I'm away, I'm making my imaginary guns or building my imaginary houses. There's no doubt that I love the people I'm with---and there's no doubt that they love me, too. Yet, there's a piece of the puzzle missing, and I'm only truly complete and comfortable when I'm home.

This will probably change when the boys and I are older, but for now, it is what it is. Perhaps the epiphany of this weekend is that I better understand my father. Like certain types of plants, we bloom best in our own environments, rooted in our own soil.

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