“I swear they’re out there”
Why do we do what we do? Why do we don our jewelry, paint our eyes, curl our hair, and straighten our hair? Why do we press our shirts, crease our pants, dimple our ties, shine our shoes, and prop hats on our heads?
This morning, I almost didn’t see 3B before leaving for work. I had gotten up too late, tired from staying up to watch the recorded News Hour election coverage after dinner, bath time, and catching up with Mama, who wisely went to bed early, after catching up with young master Potter.
And so I wolfed breakfast. I sipped scalding coffee. Turned off all the lights to protect Mama and 3B’s waking eyes. I dragged a brush across my teeth and a soapy rag over my tired bones. I leashed up Barky. We cut through morning traffic to get to dog school. I weaved my way back across town to home. I sprinted up the hill to the bus stop, where I stood panting in the slicing cold, feeling my heartbeat pounding in my neck and head. And here I am now, on the bus, wedged against the wall with my book and bag, hemmed in by a woman studying cardiology in a large white binder.
In the midst of these ablutions and chores, between leashing up the dog and weaving through traffic, 3B woke up. Often I won’t see him even if he wakes before I leave because he’s busy with his bottle and slowly opening his eyes to the light of day. Honestly, it’s sometimes a choice of mine, because the five minutes I spend with him in the morning might cause me to miss my bus, have to take the Metro, get to work late, and then I would come home late and mostly miss seeing him in the evening as well.
But this morning, after he called for me, as he usually does when Mama gets him from his crib, he then said, “Dada. Hiiiiiiiiiii.” That’s his way of saying that he really wants to say “hi” to me, so Mama brought him out to the front door, where I was slipping Barky’s new collar over his head.
As I watched Mama holding 3B, who was pressing the back of his hand into one eye and squinting his other one against the pale light of morning, she told me what he’d said. 3B then looked straight at me, held out his arms toward me and said, “Dada. Hug.”
I held 3B’s warmth against me and felt his entire body go limp after he lay his arms across my shoulders and around my neck. He turned his head to the side and laid it on the front of my shoulder as I rubbed his back through his fuzzy footie pajamas and told him that I love him. We stood like that for what seemed like an hour, and it was the best minute of my entire day.
Then 3B pushed back, pointed at the front door and said, “Work.”
“Yes, I have to go to work.”
And then pointed at the lightswitch, “On. On.” ending that tender moment.
I told him that Mama would let him play with the light switch and handed him off to her, then walked out with Barky heeling along as he’s quite happy to do after two weeks at school.
As I made my morning rounds, I wondered again why we do all of these things, perform all of these tiny tasks that amount to little when viewed in isolation from one another. I thought of the long conversation I had over and after brunch this weekend with the Peace Corps CD for Tanzania, who came over with his wife, an long time friend of Mama’s.
He and I both work at organizations that do work we’re proud of, work that helps others, work that helps large numbers of people–beyond those who are directly employed and served by our organizations; and yet, both of us were asking, “Why do we work? Why do we work so hard?” We both have come to the conclusion that while doing good work is an important bonus, the bottom line is the bottom line–we work to get paid, because it’s money that allows us to do what it is that we truly want to do, like visit cows, ride on tractors, throw stones in streams, and run through pastures.
All of this made this morning’s poem in the Writer’s Almanac resonate that much more with me.
“I close my eyes like a good little boy at night in bed,
as I was told to do by my mother when she lived,
and before bed I brush my teeth and slip on my pajamas,
as I was told, and look forward to tomorrow.”
So, how about it, faithful six readers–how do you spend your days? Why do you do it? And, if you knew you were going to live forever, what would you do every day?