It is Sunday. Peter is away for the night. It has been a hard day. Marilee has a fever and an ear infection. William misses his dad and has erupted into tears more than once. Penny has been unable to control her impulses–she can't get a door to close so she slams it again and again and again and again and (even more than that) until I finally yell loud enough for her to stop. And then she somehow manages to lock Marilee in the bathroom, and Marilee's hands aren't strong enough to open the door. I am kneeling with a paper clip trying to push the lock through. I call a neighbor for help. Somehow, phone cradled against my shoulder, Penny saying "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Marilee emerges, triumphant. But I still feel defeated.
We started the day with singing. We couldn't go to church due to Marilee's fever, but we sang "Be Thou My Vision" and "Shelter" and "He Knows My Name" and we prayed and read about Jesus as the light of the world. And as I strummed the guitar, Marilee found a maraca and William a recorder and they made a joyful noise. Penny stayed by my side, attentive to every word, raising her hands as if she were leading a group of people in unabashed worship.
But our joyful noise in the morning is waning by the end of the day. I have them in their pajamas early. I have only yelled once, which counts as a victory, but I am close to more. I am close to regretting this day. But, for a time, laughter intervenes–through Marilee's smile, through William's admission that his tears are a bit ridiculous, through Penny's suggestion that I tell a funny story and they cuddle around me and hear about the time their dad forgot to take his glasses off when he was washing his face and so got water all over his glasses (which somehow sounds a lot funnier with a 2, 5, and 7-year old as your audience). We put Marilee to bed, and then Penny and William and I turn to our chapter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
We have read this story before, last fall in fact, but the memory is blurry for them, so blurry in fact to seem almost absent. William had just turned four then. We had just moved and we were living in temporary housing. Every day was a battle, and one I felt I lost more often than not.
But today, William remembered. In the story, Edmund has betrayed his brother and sisters and all that is good and right and true by approaching the castle of the White Witch. As he goes towards her, and away from Aslan, the good King, William interrupts, "Mom! Edmund has it so confused. He thinks the witch is good and Aslan is bad when really Aslan is good and the witch is bad!"
I keep reading, and Edmund enters the witch's courtyard. He sees a stone lion. At first he is frightened, as if the lion could pounce upon him, but eventually he realizes it is stone, and he hopes that it is Aslan. He even convinces himself that it is Aslan. William interrupts again, "No Mom! I remember! I remember! Later, Aslan comes, and he has a spark that lights up all the creatures. They all go from stone to color and then they fight with him against the witch!"
His eyes look like acorns, glowing brown, like a warm invitation. His whole face is aglow with the wonder of this foreknowledge. This knowledge that it will work out. That Aslan will triumph. That the witch will lose her power and the stone creatures will come to life. His face is aglow with hope.
He falls asleep quickly. I head downstairs to wash dishes and pack lunches and feed the cat. I lock the doors and turn out the lights. I am eager to get to bed, to read my book and take my Tylenol PM to try to keep myself from popping to attention every hour on the hour. But even so, it will be a restless sleep, I suspect, without Peter beside me. And the morning will come earlier than I want and the week will stretch out like a road over a hill with no end in sight. Marilee will need her medicine and William will teeter on the edge of tears and Penny will push me past what feels like my capacity for patience.
And the question is, will I believe that there are sparks and color? Laughter and grace? Goodness and glory? Will I believe that Aslan triumphs? And that I am fighting with him? Fighting against the chaos and the sadness and the fear that all this ordinary hard stuff is all there is? Fighting to claim the victory for joy and peace and beauty in our home and in our world?