I can handle big disasters. I actually keep my cool rather well in crisis situations. But it’s the little things that get me. Some days, the continual accumulation of tiny annoyances builds and builds until at great long last it threatens to do me in.
This past Saturday, Dan took the older boys fishing. Left alone with the other children for the afternoon, I decided that we could get a start on some gardening work that needed to be done. The strawberry patch was most pressing—the plants had arrived a few days before and had been weighing on my conscience ever since. The box was well stamped with warnings: Perishable product! Plant immediately! Do not delay!
But we had nowhere ready to plant them yet. So I put Raphael down for his nap and told Kateri to find me a shovel. She found the shovel, but Raphael must have sensed my impending plans for actually accomplishing something. He whined. He shouted. And ultimately he sobbed. But he would not nap.
Well, fine then. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, anyway. I scooped him from his bed, brought him outside, and plunked him—barefoot—in the sandbox. I charged Juliette with supervising him, picked up the shovel and headed into the field.
As it turned out, however, the grassy spot I had scouted out for the strawberries was actually a rather mossy spot. Thickly mossy. Densely mossy. Though I stabbed at the earth with my shovel, it remained obstinate. At one point, I managed to get the blade of the shovel to break through just a bit, and then I proceeded to jump on it with both feet. This acrobatic performance did little to improve the situation.
For her part, Gabrielle was doing little to improve the situation, either. She parked herself on the ground beside me and moaned about a recent injury. If I held my head to one side and squinted at her knee just so, I could barely make out a tiny almost-pink line where she had suffered a near-mortal blow after falling off her tricycle.
“Need band-aid, Mama,” she whined. “Neeeeeeeeeeeed band-aaaaaaaaaaaaaid.”
It was right about that time that the beautiful springtime sun became vicious. It beat down upon my back and shoulders most mercilessly and I felt a trickle of sweat form between my shoulder blades.
It was right about that time, too, that the black flies made their appearance. Where on earth did they come from? And how could I have not noticed them before? They swarmed and buzzed in my ears. Perniciously, they bit at my neck and weaseled their way into my eyes, my nostrils and down my shirt.
Come to think of it, it was right about that time, too, that Raphael tired of the sandbox and called for me with arms outstretched, from across the field. It was right about then that I knelt down on the ground to examine it and felt the cold wet of recent rains seep through the pant legs of my jeans. It was right about then that I realized I had been attempting to overturn not a small patch of earth, but an enormous, moss-covered chunk of granite. It was right about then that I recalled that the strawberry patch was my husband’s idea in the first place. It was right about then that I remembered I had left a load of clothes in the dryer which were probably sitting, cold and wrinkled, awaiting my attention in the house. It was right about then that I thought of the chicken casserole I had intended to put together during Raphael’s nap and the chicken I had neglected to remove from the freezer that morning.
I will spare you (okay, me) the details of what happened next. Maybe some wildly immature person threw a shovel and shouted out something that she shouldn’t have. Anyway, it’s none of your business if she did. She probably doesn’t usually do that kind of thing and maybe she felt bad about it afterwards and it was probably just all those little annoying things that got her.
A couple of hours later, as the gang of us sat together in the cool of the house enjoying lemonade, band-aids, fresh diapers, and a Signing Time DVD, I noticed Raphael’s droopy eyes and felt the weight of his small head against my chest. Boyish curls covered the back of his head and his hair smelled of sun and sand. His tiny pudge of a hand lay on my neck and his miniature, just-right body rested comfortably in the crook of my arm.
Yes, sir. It’s the little things that get me.