Saturday, August 27, 2011

to the dutch-german matron who saved my life, if i had your address i would write you a thank you note which my dad would end up having to mail for me

August seems to know that its time has come. It has felt like early fall all week here in Virginia, and when Porter and I went outside to feel the wind and see the pre-hurricane (Irene) rainfall for ourselves, it was pleasantly chilly. But I am sad to see summer go this year. Its end marks the beginning of Phase 2, the Elementary School Years, in this household, and I am not sure I am ready yet. Emotionally.

Yesterday when I went to the store because we were all out of milk, and also I felt a bit of social pressure to somehow get ready for the hurricane, I saw people in my neighborhood unloading cases of food and supplies. We have a gas stove, a gas grill outside and plenty of canned goods, including Will's formula and supplies. I am just not that worried. The kids are always making off with our flashlights so I had a passing whim in the store to pick up another, or maybe just batteries, but after a brief and futile look-out down the aisles I let it go. We can make it through an evening and figure something out, if it even comes to that. I have such trouble pinning down all the little things in life, but I realize that all those little things add up, and on those little things turn so many of the big, obvious ones that sometimes I wonder how I even ended up where I am, having done any of the things I have managed to get done.

I was at the pool recently and suddenly remembered an event from last summer that I had intended to record because it meant so much to me at the time, but of course last summer was so awful and overwhelming at the time, though now I associate it mostly with losing my reality in endless episodes of Veronica Mars, baking multiple peach cobblers and spending as much times as I could devote to nursing Porter that it has taken on a warm and comforting haze that my nostalgia-itis (probably foruntately) glazes over everything once it gets a few miles behind me. It is funny how I am now okay with admitting how hard last summer was, when at the time I was pretty ashamed that I couldn't manage my life barely at all. Yesterday, my dad was carrying groceries into my house over my objections that his leg, which has been really troubling him lately, should not take such strain. "I am not the kind of person who can sit by and watch others work," was his reply, and I really admire people like that and want to be that person myself, and that remark is the best way I can think at this moment (and I only have this moment0 to explain how embarrassing it was to me to be the farthest from that person I could possibly have been last summer.

So last summer I took the kids to a pool in Fairfax so I could do a monthly visit with some women from my church. I was slightly worried about Will's continence in the pool because, though he had been solidly potty-trained some months previous, he was just in bad shape health-wise and I never knew what might happen. You might think that I would have put a swim diaper on him, and I would have if I had one, but of course I didn't and obviously I couldn't ask to borrow one since that would inconvenience someone almost as much as it would inconvenience a whole bunch of people if he pooped in the pool. Which he did. Still, if I could change one thing about that day it would not be the diaper situation (for that would have meant I would not have met St. German Lady), but the fact that I stupidly admitted that it was my kid who caused the damage, rather than just identify some anonymous poop in the water.

Somehow I get Will into the ladies' bathroom to wash up, but I have a 2 month old who is screaming and squirming and I have nowhere to put him. I am struggling to get Will's disgusting and soiled suit off of him and the poop is spilling out the side and I wish I just had someone to hold the baby, when this Woman comes over to me. She is everything you imagine when you think of a 60 year young, strong, tall German matron. I think she was even topless. I had caught her mid-some act of practicality and purpose, but when she saw something else needed to be done she wasted no time on the extraneous. She took Will's suit off, picked up--bare-handed-- the poop that had fallen onto the floor and disposed of it, then washed Will out (again, with her bare hand and soap from a dispenser). Then she took his suit and washed it out in the sink with soap until it dripped with fresh-and-cleanness. She did it all in about 3 minutes. She was wonderful and I wanted to cry with gratitude. I wish she was a character in my life, but I just got her for those few minutes and then she was gone.

We went back to the pool where I pretended that Will's swim diaper had simply leaked rather than admit it had not existed. The rest of the day was unremarkable, and all I could think about was that wonderful lady. I am bogged down in my own life, with my own issues and my kids' various needs, but I am going to find a way to be that lady. Except for the bare-handed poop disposal, part. I mean, getting a paper towel wouldn't have been too extraneous to the effort. Though, I admit, she would have lost points for style.

St. German Matron, wherever you are, our paths crossed so briefly, but I will never forget you.


Ie Li said...

I love that woman. I know what you mean about wanting to be that woman. Maybe she could be that woman because she was once just like us, with lots of little ones, flustered, and stressed at times. Having kids helps us understand the needs of others.

P.S. I feel like I am almost back to normal, fourteen months after Mi Na's birth.

Eliza said...

I love her too and also want to be her. I often think that "someday" when these years are behind me I am going to be SO helpful to young moms. Something that occurred to me was that I could probably (definitely) try harder to be that woman even now. Not be hard on myself when I'm not; but when I sense an emergency and have an extra hand, just step in.

I was thinking about this particularly this morning because I was remembering a woman in our ward who offered to babysit for free for anyone in the RS who wanted to go to the temple, as long as they put their kids to bed first. (love the stipulations of both temple and kids in bed. Makes it so much easier.) And I realized that I could still offer to do that more often than I do. Again not being hard on myself when I don't offer help, just take the chances as they come.

I'm sorry I didn't help you more last summer and I'm sorry it was so hard. I guess we're all always going through our own "things." Ie Li's right--the Frau probably was that way because she had once been where you were.

alexandra said...

Ie Li and Eliza, I don't mean to go on so much about how hard last summer was. There are worse parental hardships than I had for sure, and there was really nothing anyone could do. Will was really sick, and I had a newborn. Unless someone had a magic wand, it just had to get better on its own. And it did and everything is great now. But you guys were both really wonderful friends to me, and that was all I really needed from others.

Lyndsay said...

This made me teary to even think about because I've been there--where you really just can't express how grateful you are for the mercy of strangers. I've experienced it over and over while traveling or just out and about. I too hope that it's something I remember later on when I'm in a better position to help moms of young kids.

brooke said...

Amazing story. I love how women help women. Thanks for sharing this...I relate to you on so many levels!