After weeks of waffling--my waffling--Great Scott and I decided to keep the girls home from summer school this year. This summer, I decreed, was the summer they would learn to better pick up after themselves, to learn to wash dishes and to do so after every meal (we don't have a dishwasher of the non-human variety). This summer they could help in the garden and spend lazy afternoons at one of the two creeks on either side of the house, dabbling their toes in the water and catching tadpoles. This summer they would learn to ride their bicycles and run "wild in the backyard". The first week was wonderful. Both girls did dishes religiously and executed the related chores (wiping the table, countertops, stovetop and sweeping the floor) with commendable precision. Then they went to their grandmother's for a weekend. During that time, things fell apart. Not because the girls weren't ready to resume their jobs upon their return, but because I, Mommy, didn't have the dishes done up when they got home. I am a worm! I am a wretched, mewling, pitious pustule of parenthood! I writhe upon the crumby kitchen floor.
What I'd been doing was playing Dungeon Siege, a game my vice-encouraging brother-in-law, Brad, gleefully sent home with me after we had dinner with him and his significant other, Lauren (my pseudo-sister-in-law, as I fondly think of her), Friday evening. This game differs from the last game to which he attempted to addict me (Dungeon Keeper II) in that the game operator is in the position to be a hero rather than the evil overlord of one's own underworld kingdom. A step down, in Brad's opinion, most likely, but a vast relief to me. For one thing, Great Scott worries a great deal less about my immortal soul now that I don't have to summon up an icky-looking demon to conquor the sunlit upper worlds. For another, I am most sadly not cut out for evil dominion. Alas, I have no knack for the stylistics of evil dungeon keeping! My first attempt to possess one of my dungeon creatures and force it to do my nefarious bidding ended up with me being eaten by one of my own wizards. (Perhaps I should have experimented on something other than a chicken.)
So what are our children doing while they wait for me to catch up on the dishes? The discovery of a cottonmouth snake frequenting the southern creek has put unescorted excursions to its banks on hold, but the girls have been playing outside this morning, planning a picnic for lunch, and the older one is now reading J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan aloud to the younger amid the shifting sunlight and shadows beneath the big tree of paradise in the front yard. The inflections of her voice rise and fall, accompanied by birdsong and the distant drone of the neighbors' haying equipment. This, I'm reminding myself, is why I'm here, puttering barefoot through the house instead of walking the halls of academia in heels. This is why my blogging has been sporadic of late, why I have neglected returning phone calls and emails, why, at least for a few hours, I'm setting aside even the new game addiction (sorry, Brad!). There's a kingdom right here, rich in gold light and bright eyes, a kingdom of the mundane that I far too often undervalue and overlook.
Sometimes I wonder, looking out the window at the trees of paradise in the yard, if man was barred from only the physical location of Eden, or if our exile is actually enforced by our own inability to accept the possible Eden we've been given in our everyday lives, striving as we do to create one of our own conception and choosing.