I can’t remember my routine or rituals before I had children. Back then, everything was my own: my time, my breakfast, the good morning kiss with my husband. Maybe there was the ritual of showering in peace or toast with butter, the routine of catching MUNI at a certain time to get to work by 8:30 a.m. After work, there was room for drinks with coworkers, a movie, dinner out. At the end of the day there was the comfy couch and Josh, a book, sex, sleep. Life was an easy flowing river.
Now, life’s a constant class 4 rapid and I’m often the one steering the raft. Routines are necessary for survival: wake before the kids, brush teeth, pack three school lunches, hurry along the lolly gagging 4th grader, offer soothing words to the freaking out 7th grader, feed and dress a whirligig three-year-old, drive a carpool. Then there’s some mix of grocery shopping, errand running and work, maybe exercise, before I have to pick up one to three kids. The afternoon into early evening routine is all about homework, cooking and a chaotic family dinner that includes cajoling, admonishing and lots of talking over one another. Three kids worth of bath and bedtime follow. By the time it’s done, so am I.
The routines are exhausting, but the rituals save me.
My favorite ritual is the morning coffee. The most important thing to know about the coffee is that my husband makes it for me. He sets the water to boil while I scurry around the kitchen in my pajamas hunting and gathering. As I’m slathering bagels with cream cheese, he pieces together the small manual air press that brews a single cup at a time. I slice apples as he patiently presses the water through the coffee and the filter. I put the finishing touches on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as he expertly adds the perfect balance of sugar and milk. Exactly how I like it. In my favorite white porcelain cup, the one decorated with the silver and gold crowns.
He hands it to me with a sweet, knowing smile and I smile back, our eyes locked for just a moment. This is the way Josh says “good morning” and “I love you” and “I’ve got you covered.” All I have to do in return is smile and say thank you and know I’m loved. It’s a ritual that has nothing to do with the kids, that exists on a plane above and away from them. They are too young to want or need coffee (although I see my 12-year-old eyeing my cup). It’s a generous gesture without strings attached and I am grateful.
I take my cup with me up and down the stairs in search of matching socks and left behind homework. I set it next to me when the house has gone quiet and I can finally, sometimes, settle down to write. It can take a while, but I finish my coffee every morning, even if it’s gone cold. I swallow the dark, sugary swill at the bottom like it’s some kind of magical liquid, one that will bring on my superpowers, jump start a project or give me the courage to finish a piece of writing. It’s a powerful thing, this elixir of love, reminding me that there is still a “we two” in the middle of “us all.”
This post is part of the Reverb 14 December daily writing challenge, a series of reflective writing prompts designed to help let go of 2014 and move into 2015 with intention. Today’s prompt is: What tiny rituals signal that your day is starting; help you ease into a creative project; give you closure from an intensive task; or mark other significant milestones in your day?