My wife is sleeping.
It has been a long day for her. For me, too.
But this isn’t about me.
She was on her feet thirteen hours today. Yesterday too. And the day before.
She gets up at 5:20 am every weekday morning. Hits snooze. Wakes up twenty minutes later. Bathroom. The dog gets up and stretches, scratches. She takes him out. Picks up his poo in a baggie and ties the baggie and leaves the baggie outside. Then she cuts up veggies for her smoothie, and while the blender grinds the veg to a drinkable pulp she packs her lunch.
Then it’s hair and makeup and getting dressed.
I wake up, get out of bed, waddle on stiff legs into the kitchen and make coffee. Wash a few things — a pan, a sheet tray, the blender’s blades.
I pour her a cup of to-go coffee and microwave my oatmeal.
She comes into the kitchen, takes her coffee, kisses me goodbye. Leaves.
At work, she makes lists, writes one of the two versions of each of the lesson plans she draws up for all the lessons she teaches. Visits the office, talks with colleagues.
Then, because she’s a travelling art teacher and teaches in two different school buildings, the biggest part of her daily at-school prep involves loading all the supplies her students will need to create the project she will teach them to create into the cart’s bins and drawers.
She has a student teacher right now. She has been trying very hard to stay out of this student teacher’s way. Leaves the room and listens to the student teacher instruct, interact, guide, and lead her students through the day’s lesson. She is a good teacher, and she shows it in her willingness to let this young teacher do for herself. Try. Fail. Learn.
The other night I came home after teaching my evening class and found her sitting on the living room floor placing a piece of the puzzle she’d started. We went together to a local toy shop and bought the puzzle. It shows a 1950s Main Street: classic top-down Chevys, pedestrians in high-waisted pants or dresses window-shopping, walking dogs or going arm-in-arm toward where the sidewalk ends and the road begins winding its way toward the snowy peaks in the distance.
We’d bought the puzzle as a date. She got me last Christmas twelve dates, one for each month of this year. So far we’ve taken the puzzle date. Put together about half of the Main Street scene. A couple of nice older ladies rang us up at the shop when we bought the puzzle. The one at the computer register had to call the shop owner, who was at home, I guess, about a glitch in the purchase order she didn’t understand.
Before this story floats away from me, I want to say a few things about my wife that I had in mind when I first started writing half an hour ago.
I can tell you 800,000 specific things she’s done to help others.
Here’s a recent example: she remembered my sister telling of the time she and her boyfriend (now her husband; they recently married) bought a large framed schematic of one of the first bicycles from IKEA.
They planned to hang this framed print on the bare wall over their entertainment stand and television. The packaged frame wouldn’t fit in her car, though. So they had to return it.
My wife hung onto this story my sister told. Filed it away. Because she’s generous, she cares deeply about the people she loves and takes much joy out of surprising loved ones with the perfect gift.
My sister sent us a picture this evening of the three prints my wife had ordered for her and her husband. My wife had found prints of racing bicycles; not only had she ordered the prints and had them shipped to my sister as an impromptu wedding gift, she’d had the seller print both the wedding date and my sister’s and her husband’s initials on one.
A small, simple gesture. But an impactful one.
Every day she’s helping others. Being generous and giving. It pains her sometimes, drains her. In addition to teaching she coaches runners. She runs with her athletes sometimes. Drills with them, strength-trains with them. She deals with the drama most of her runners share, express, unload. She takes it in, lays down the law when needed. Sometimes she falls short, misses an opportunity. When she does, she wonders, could she be better? Is she doing right? Does she belong?
Through all this, it remains clear to her she’s doing a lot of good for the track and cross country programs. Her runners are running smarter. Avoiding injury, gaining speed. They come to her with issues, questions. They trust her, respect her, but they also like her.
It is not easy to be all these things at all times to others. My wife manages. When she comes home she leaves her lunch box and her coffee cup on the floor and counter near the door. We talk. She unwinds. Exercises. Calls her sister, or mother, or her friends. Checks in. If there are bills to pay, schedules to make, stats to record, she does so. Listens to music or to a show in Netflix. Eventually cooks dinner.
Now she is sleeping. Tomorrow she’ll do all these things — be all these things, to all these people — all over again.
Right now, I hope she is dreaming. I hope what she’s dreaming offers her something she can carry back into her waking life. A gem. Something sustaining and revitalizing. She deserves this rest, this still moment. She has earned the calm.
We all, all of us, surely have earned a little calm.
I take mine thinking of her.