It all started over a bowl of Japanese onion soup.
It was one of those dreary weather, slow to start school days when later mom knew she should have woken everyone up for daily mass. Instead once she was up early, she dawdled her early morning hours away, and after a late errand, started on schoolwork a little later than she meant.
It was also one of those rare days dad was working nearby with a hankering for seaweed salad for lunch. "Can you take a break for a lunch date?"
"No, already so unproductive. Take Marie with you."
"You don't want a lunch date with me?"
"Of course I do, but have already let my day be a little hijacked and feel I need to spend time with Ryan and Grace in their work, and Kay has a big research paper due tomorrow for sociology and I don't want her to get behind and then panic."
"No more needed to say, tell Marie to be ready by noon."
So Marie went off to lunch with just her dad while no one else noticed their departure.
Ryan worked on a narrative summary of what he enjoyed about Texas history. Anna decided to paint one of the ceramic Christmas trees a mixture of all the colors which turned it to be a solid brown green. Kay and Grace were making meager progress on their writing projects, but around lunch, both hit a stopping point, then both seemed restless, needing a change.
At the same moment, Marie came back from lunch, beaming from her time alone with her dad, bearing gifts for us of seaweed salad, and our favorite sushi rolls.
"Where did you go?!" the siblings clamoured together.
"Dad and I had sushi and I had a salad and soup."
"Did you bring me soup?" Grace asked hopefully as Japanese onion soup is a special favorite of hers.
Some how the answer wasn't communicated properly and Grace, after having her hopes up, was bitterly disappointed to find out soup was not among the take out treasures. Marie had asked her dad to bring some home, but he didn't realize what a treat it was for Grace, and thought they'd enjoy the other items more.
Who knew soup, that watery almost flavorless clear soup, was about to change everything in their quiet home?
"How could you? Why did you get to go? How come I didn't?"
Marie was shocked with Grace's disappointment. There is something mighty powerful behind a preteen's hunger and hurt feelings. Special unearned non celebratory time alone with a parent can also trigger jealousy.
Grace retreated to her room to cool off her hurt feelings and Marie followed. Marie still bubbly from her lunch date, wanted to comfort her sister not fully understanding the disappointment was aimed at her.
"Ma'oooom, when do I get my own room?" A question that can't be answered until another child leaves for college. More hurt feelings.
"Hey, I have an idea," energetically interjected by the previously studious older sister. "I've been thinking about it for a while, why doesn't Grace move in with me, and Anna move in with Marie? I have the largest upstairs bedroom with a bath, and we could move things around to give her room. We could talk, we could bond before I go off to college."
The rest of the kids were in a stunned silence as Kay had delightfully and deliberately enjoyed the privacy of her own room for the past seven years, while her other siblings bunched up. Not sure how it started or was claimed when the family moved into this home. It was the way it was, unquestioned.
"Okay, yes, I'd love to get away from---. Let's start now."
Day completely hijacked.
How did mom not see it? Maybe she forgot how some college students are, how she was so many years ago, when finals came along, instead of studying and making sure all the hard work of the semester wasn't wasted, and should buckle down to study. Instead she'd rearrange her room, clean her car, bake, shop, color sort her clothes, her room, nail polish anything to feel accomplished, instead of study.
"Okay, Kay, take a break from studying and then get back to that paper."
"OK mom. This will be fun!" Such enthusiasm was needed to move the heavy furniture claimed by each respective child. Ryan already decided to go for a run before the weather dropped too cold, so it was up to the girls.
The great furniture rearrangement began. A desk, a chest and a dresser had to be removed from Kay's room; a bed, a chest and another chest had to be switched and traded and negotiated out of Marie and Grace's room. Stuff sorted and thrown away, clothes moved from closets across the upstairs bedrooms, furniture and boxes and sit around stuffs were moved and boxed and trashed and handed down. Chaos reigned before order reappeared.
Dad came up stairs to see how their school day finished up. He found mom sitting in the newly rearranged schoolroom, seemingly a little dejected, while strangely, everyone else was gleefully singing, dancing, obviously excited and hopeful.
"Besides letting my day be fully hijacked, I have a great foreboding feeling."
"Maybe it's the weather." A winter storm was coming in all afternoon with the temperature starting in the morning at 72 and finishing in the evening at 37.
It finally hit mom that Kay suffered from the same condition of final exam avoidance- rearrange furniture instead syndrome. FEARFIS. And wondered if she'd regret the change after finals, unfortunately, she was worrying about the wrong daughter.
Marie and Anna were dancing around their newly arranged room, clean, with lots of new floor space with the missing bed. Gleeful.
Mom wasn't buying it."Why?" Dad asked,"they are so excited."
"Wait until bedtime."
Grace and Kay had big dreams of what their room would be how they would respect each other's space. Big girls now, they will handle it.
Mom, a serial rearranged herself, couldn't explain her worry.
"By the way, what's for dinner?"
The other part of the hijacked day come abruptly to mom. The crock pot roast she started downstairs earlier some how was neglected and no where near ready for consumption. "Let's make frozen pizza, instead." Perfect.
Mom and dad helped the final rearrangements. She sadly knew the end of a phase of motherhood she cherished was coming, probably not tonight, but Anna would soon be a big girl sleeping with Marie and the baby years were over. Part of mom's mood, or just one more thought on a day spun out of her control?
Kay had meanwhile resumed the paper at moms urging least she loose all the progress she made all semester with a single missed paper. Back upstairs, Anna's things were moved in with Marie.
Marie and Anna picked out bedtime books to be read, teeth were brushed, prayers were prayed. It was officially bedtime. Anna was a little too hyper and distracted to listen. She started having doubts on whether she really wanted to sleep upstairs. "No, I sleep down with mom."
Marie, bold, brave, optimistic Marie, said, "That's okay, I'll stay here, alone, in my own room." Her voice wavered. It didn't have the same ring to it at 10 pm as it did in the afternoon. "Mom can you sleep with me?"
Not a fan of the tiny twin bed with side rails, but with a deep affection for this sweet girl, mom consents; "I'll read and try to get Anna to fall asleep with you and see how it goes." How it went was with each book, the only one getting sleepy was the reader of the bedtime books. Anna gave up and went down stairs, convinced mom would be right behind.
Marie had a tear on her proud cheek.
"Aw Marie, what's wrong!"
"I miss Grace"
"She's just down the hall."
"I know, but I used to talk to her and she'd keep me up late with her reading light. She was always there. I miss her."
Mom's heart was wretched, totally disappointed to see earlier foreboding justified.
Just then, Grace came in. "Wow, all this over a tiny fit."
Mom was confused, "What do you mean?"
Grace explained, "Well I was just disappointed about the soup and then next thing I know, I'm not sleeping in the room that's been my room for seven years. Now, I don't feel right about being in Kay's room. She's down finishing her paper and I feel like I'm trespassing by hanging out in her room."
"She's tried to make you welcome, even cleaning out drawers in the bathroom and shelves in the cabinets."
"Do you want to move back in here?"
"No, it's too late." Now her voice was wavering.
Sadness hung in the air.
These two were at a fork in the road, Grace's led to growing up. Marie's, left her still a little girl, for today.
Someone always hurts, mostly it's been mom watching these girls grow and flex their independence. Now it was each other. An eight year old does not understand why her twelve year old sister doesn't want to play dolls like she did six months ago. Painful, awful growing pains.
Mom reads Molly Molly Mandy stories to Marie; one about gardening and the one when Mr. Rudge gets married. Grace stayed to listen to one of her childhood favorites, sitting on the chest where her bed had sat these past seven years. Quiet, thoughtful.
Marie now breathing deeply asks mom to stay. No problems as mom's eyes are closing and can tell she's already falling asleep. But Grace still needed to talk. So Mom shifted to wake herself up. "Do you want to sleep in your old room tonight?"
"No, it's not the same." True, it was a very different room than it had been at lunchtime.
They talked about this being a hard time of life, this growing up business. But also a very exciting time in her life. She was standing on a bridge between childhood and young adulthood. Mom encouraged her to "stay on the childhood side as long as you can: no one is pushing. You have plenty of years to be an adult," same conversation she had with each of the other siblings before her. Grace lingered.
Mom was so glad she still has two "little" girls: glad to snuggle Anna for a little while longer when she needed her mom, glad to read Marie to sleep, hoping she won't be facing those years too soon.
Chaos over, now a quiet, snug, peaceful house. The outside cold tucks them in tighter. A mom awake, praying for the hearts of her girls. She lies awake listening to the deep breathing of contented sleepers in the house, while the only other sounds are from the dog barking in his sleep. She prays morning brings new hope, a gleam back to their eyes and peace and love in their hearts.
Non Fiction Disclaimer for insomnia induce writing;
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.