Thursday, July 17, 2008

Live Like You Are Dying - - Kerry

I can almost see the sweetness in their eyes as Max and Jillian direct the hose, which is cranked up to full volume, through the screen door. I can almost see this as humorous, almost, maybe more in the memory of it than the actual event.

"Mom said not to do that," Jillian casually remarked as she adjusted the perpetual wedgie from her swimming suit. At least she had one on today; normally she prefers nudity in the backyard and has been known to channel an alter-ego named Janessa, who swings her blanket over her head in the air and dances to her own tune.

Our summer in no way resembles anything I have seen in t.v. commercials, where the kids, house and mommy are always clean, happy and satisfied.

I ran downstairs and surveyed the damage. This incident came on the heels of another incident with the semi-functional icee machine, in which the disaster-duo took juice, mud and ice and jammed it into the machine with a potato masher, then caught the sludge as it came out and flung it on each other. Thus the rush to the hose.

The only reason I am somewhat calm in the midst of all this mid-summer madness is because my husband announced that he's going rafting with a gift certificate that says "Not for wussies."

I declined attending the wussie-free event because a)I am one and b) I have a contractual obligation I made with myself, twenty-three years ago, when I fell off the back of a raft that was descending Boxcar Rapids on the Deschutes river outside Maupin, Oregon. I shot down the back of the rapid behind the raft and could not breathe or speak for what felt like two minutes as my lungs started to tingle and I felt the pressure of the river pulling me down into it's depths. My head began to feel light and my heart throbbed in my chest.

The contract read something like this in my head: "If I ever get out of this alive I will never, ever do this again."

Though I was rocketing down the rapids, time stood still. About the fifteenth time I repeated this in my head I got sick of hearing myself and decided to fight. In slow motion I aimed my arms for what I thought was up and kicked like I have never kicked before. I shot out of the water in what was later described by those on shore as a look of total joy and anger all at the same time.

I was standing on a rock in the middle of the water screaming at the top of my lungs,
"Someone get me out of here right now." (I've omitted the swear words for family friendly forum).

Now, as an aside to all of this craziness, this was not the first time I have come close dying. The first time was on a backpacking trip when I was twelve and we were stranded on the top of Jefferson Glacier when it was snowing and I made a similar contract with myself and God (it was a church backpack trip) if I could just find the trail off the glacier in time. But that's another blog.
What those two contracts taught me was this: live, laugh and love as much as possible, and don't sweat the small stuff because I'm not going to get out of this alive anyway. And maybe it also made me believe Winston Churchill's famous phrase,"Never, ever, ever give up." It worked for me.

And so I go forth, past the icee machine, which I have thrown away, past the load of towels I used to mop up the hose debacle, straight to the cool of the library. I'm working on a query for Portland Magazine, my perpetual pitch for the Willamette Writer's conference, and an article about a new Dundee winery. I strap the little perpetrators into their car seats, which has always been my favorite mode of restraint for them, and resist the urge to leave them there for the rest of the hot afternoon. I don't want to show up in a mug shot in some commercial about bad mommies.

As James Taylor so aptly sung," The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."

And I plan on doing just that.

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