October 29 is a door. It’s an anniversary of sorts for me. The date, in many ways, my adult life began. When October 29 arrives, I am both filled up with melancholy and made grateful by the hard thing I did 24 years ago. Isn’t that strange—that one of my life’s hardest things is also joyful, because it changed everything and helped other people and helped me through innumerable other hard things.
It is a door because it is the start of this season, the fast downward spiral of the year: Halloween, then Nathan’s birthday, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Jake’s birthday. The last of the warm days, the last of the autumn colors, the start of coldness. Perhaps even snow, if we are lucky.
This season that also makes me feel both happy and sad, because if it arrives it is here but it is also ending.
Everything is ending, right now, and if October 29 was an end of something hard and sad and joyful, it is also a reminder to hold on even though no one can hold on, to time or moments, even with pictures, even with words.
So I am thinking about the value of individual days.
Sunday was not my favorite day. Kendell and I argued—hard. About the dumbest thing, the hamburger I put in the fridge three weeks ago and then forgot about. We argued because beef is expensive and because I am not always what he wants me to be and because I resist it. Resist trying to change my essential self. We fought because the slimy green mess of sour meat was only a spark for all the sadness married people toss at each other, and because marriage is hard. We think it is only about making a life together, but it is also about keeping the life that we have within us alive, the life that’s separate from the one we live as somebody’s spouse.
So even though we made up and got over it, I woke up on Monday a little bit battered. Heartsore. And I prayed for a good day.
And then we had a good day.
Kendell had the day off and we just hung out together. When the kids got home, we worked in the yard. Kaleb, whose perpetual yard job, as the youngest, is picking up the apples (yes! still!) said, “mom, I can’t believe how much you like picking up apples. It’s good but strange.”
I asked him to explain so he said, “whenever I’m picking up the apples you always come and help.” So then I explained that I love being outside with my kids, working in the yard. Mostly the kids play in between the work, but that’s OK because in the end we get it done together. I told him about how, when the Bigs were little, in the warm months we’d do yard work together all the time, and how happy it made me, and how it still makes me happy even though kids complain.
Then Kendell and I went with Jake to get something fixed on his car and new keys made since he lost the spare. The woman at the key-making machine was joking about me letting Jake drive in the first place and I had one of those moments when you look at your kid and you see him as a person. Not just your son but the totality, for just a tiny second, of everything he is, and you realize (again) just how real and alive and here with me right now he is. (A moment intensely tied to October 29, every time it happens.)
Both of the new keys worked just fine.
Instead of the beef stroganoff and curried green beans I had planned, we decided to go to dinner. We ate pizza and pasta and we all laughed together and it could’ve only been better if Haley were there. We told old stories and new stories. We were together.
And that’s just life. Bad days and good days. Battered heart, heart brimming with the sheer, simple goodness of right now. Hard things that continue to ache and bring happiness all at once.
October 29. The door is opening. I’m stepping through to grab everything, the joy and excitement and stress and beauty and coldness and warmth. The smell of the heater the first time we turn it on, the last of the pumpkin-spice candles, the first whiff of pine. Whatever is hard or good, I am ready to have it now.