How to Feel Grateful for Your Life
By: Barbara Matousek
Follow a road that is a patchwork of holes and tar after a winter of freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing. Wind your way through corn fields dotted with deer and small towns like Redgranite and Wautoma where 4-way stops mark the local Ace hardware or the Stumble Inn or a giant statue of a cow eating ice cream. Arrive way too late to expect either of your children to settle as the three-year-old runs around finding all the usual toys and the baby looks at the living room as if for the first time. Unload the bouncy seat and the potty seat and the suitcase and a box filled with diapers and wipes and bubble mix and a bug-catching net and baby shampoo.
Awake to the sound of rain on the window and Grandma unloading the dishwasher.
“Mommy,” the 3-year-old will yell as you enter the living room, “We’re going on the rides today. We’re going on the rides!”
Try to get some food into your children before you all depart for the amusement park.
“What would you like for breakfast? Pancakes?”
“No. Can I have a popsicle?”
“But I want it.”
In the car on the way to the amusement park tell the three-year-old some of the rides might not be open in the rain. Tell him that even if the rides are closed it will be fun to be with Grandma and we should have a good attitude. At the park, place the baby in the umbrella stroller and wrap her in layers of pink blankets and an old beach towel from Grandma’s closet. Leave her with Grandma and run with the three-year-old towards the circular ladybug ride. Take a hundred pictures of him as he flies a bright blue airplane and bounces a red boat and steers a purple race car. Ride the train that circles the park out along the shore and into the wind. Sit next to him in a blue helicopter that he can send “up very very super high” by pulling the armrest towards you.
When you only eat two bites of pasta at dinner, don’t mention that you’re feeling a little nauseous. And don’t notice that the baby doesn’t really seem interested in the chicken and veggie puree that Grandma is spooning into her mouth.
At bedtime listen to Grandma in the living room singing The Old Rugged Cross to the baby while you and the 3-year-old place treasure chests and swords and peg legs into the pages of his new pirate sticker book in the bedroom. She will say “Do you have a tummy ache?” three times before the baby screams and you run to the living room to see what’s wrong. Your mother will sit in the center of all of you balancing the baby on her leg with one hand and holding a handful of chicken sweet potato baby puke in the other.
“It’s all right, Baby,” she will say. “It’s all right.”
As you get towels and sit on the floor and comfort your concerned three-year-old you will believe her. Two days later when you are still at Grandma’s because you are exhausted and sick and your three-year-old wants to eat popsicles and chase dragonflies and have pirate swordfights, you will be grateful.