Luke is asleep on his grandfather’s chest. (Grandpa is zonked out, too.) My mother-in-law sits on the sofa and holds Ben, who is starting to fuss.
I stand in the kitchen, leaning over Jack and Jane, who stand on chairs at the counter. Jane is using a fork to lightly beat two eggs in a dish.
Jack reads the next ingredient from the cornbread recipe. “Two-thirds cup buttermilk.” He opens the refrigerator and gets the buttermilk.
While he pours it, I make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, which the kids have already measured into the bowl. “Okay, Jane, pour the eggs in.” I point at the center of the bowl. She dumps in the eggs. Jack pours in the milk.
Lest you think this is a picture of domestic bliss, allow me to place it in context:
The sink is piled with dishes. The tomatoes on the stove have sloshed over the side of the pan and are even now being encrusted onto the heating elements. The dining room table is covered with mail, crayons, scissors, and little scraps of paper. An overflowing basket of clothes sits in the living room waiting to be folded. My mother-in-law is holding a hungry baby who gets fussier by the second. And my anxiety level is slowly ratcheting up.
There is not enough of me.
I say, “Just a second, Ben,” as I wash a dish while the kids stir the milk and eggs into the dry ingredients.
“Just a second, Ben,” as I pour the cornbread batter into a baking dish
“Almost there, Ben,” as I wipe down the counter.
“Just have to drink this, Ben,” as I down a glass of water – why am I so thirsty?
“Just one more thing, Ben,” as I pour cooked tomatoes into the crock pot with the beans that have been cooking all day.
“Just a sec, dude. I know you’re hungry,” as I look at the baked-on tomato goo on the stovetop and I really have to clean it now because otherwise I won’t get to it and it will still be there next week and then it will really be a pain to try to clean up.
He’s wailing now. I look at him, see his little face bunched up in anger, his little mouth open wide as he screams. But I have to go to the bathroom. That boy could nurse for 30 minutes, and my bladder won’t last that long. I say, “Honey, this time I mean it. I just have to do one more thing.”
The bathroom floor desperately needs mopping. The laundry basket by the changing table is overflowing. The cats have tracked dirt onto the sink. Washcloths in various stages of drying hang from the shower curtain rod, lay over the bathtub rim, hang on the heat register. Flecks of pink mold color the grout in the bath surround.
Ben wails. Maybe I could at least pick up the washcloths? Ben’s wail continues. He doesn’t even pause for breath. He’s that mad.
I resist the urge to do one more thing. Instead, I wash my hands and leave the mess and the bathroom.
“Okay, dude,” I say to Ben. I scoop him into my arms and take him to the bedroom and feed him.
The instant silence makes me wonder: why do I feel compelled to do one more thing, instead of doing the one needful thing?