It's not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on. Marilyn MonroeWhen my girls were little 'nothing' was that ubiquitous answer that covered just about anything. "What do you want to do today?"
"How do you feel about chicken for dinner?"
"How do you feel about spinach with ice cream and gravy?"
At least then I'd get more than just a cursory, Nothing. Once they'd realized they'd been tricked, I'd get a, "Oh Yuck!" along with rolled eyes and a head shake.
It seemed to me that 'nothing' was imprinted in their DNA. Especially when it came to school.
What did you learn in math today? Nothing.
Social studies? Nothing.
What do you have for homework tonight?
You mean you spent 6 and a half hours at school, learned nothing and have nothing for homework?
Um. Yeah. Well... I did learn that Mrs. Endicott gets really upset when you don't have your homework done. (This was said with a sweet little smile at the end of the sentence and a sudden downcast look with the eyes.)
You didn't have your homework done? I thought you did it last night when you were doing nothing.
I didn't say I didn't have my homework done. I said Mrs. Endicott gets really upset if you don't.
How did you find this out?
Oh. Well. Um. You see. I didn't have my homework done.
That's the challenge about nothing. There's nothing you can do about it except hope and pray, one day they'll learn there's more to learning than nothing.
And maybe, that day has come.
My eldest daughter came home last night. She and her boyfriend drove a truck east, up and over the Coastal Range, across the verdant valleys of the Interior, along glistening lakes and luscious orchards. Up and over the Rockies away from the salt sea air of the coast back to the arid planes here on the leeward side of the slopes.
Okay. So they're supposed to be arid but this summer we're learning there is nothing guaranteed about the weather. This year is proving to be an anomaly.
They drove eastward and as they drove they came closer and closer back to that place where Alexis, my eldest daughter, is going back to that place where she spent her childhood learning 'nothing.'
Needless to say, I'm excited to see what the next year brings as she completes her BFA before, as she announced last night, moving back to the coast because that is truly someplace she wants to live.
So she has learned something.
When she first moved from Calgary to Vancouver she wasn't sure she'd like it. "I'm lonely," she cried into the phone.
What can you do to change that? I asked helpfully, with an upbeat note in my voice.
"Nothing!" she wailed in response. "Why do you always want me to do something when I'm feeling so awful?"
Calmly I replied. "Well, there's always something you can do to change your state, to lift your mood. It's important to not get mired in self-pity."
"I'm not feeling sorry for myself," she replied. "Can't you just hear me? I'm just trying to tell you I miss you and I'm homesick."
"I hear you honey. I miss you too. Now, what can you do to get engaged in the city life?"
"I told you. Nothing. I don't have any friends here. I don't know anyone."
"Well, what about..."
And the circle continued.
And now she's back.
And, to be sure, she's learned a lot in her year away.
"As I cleaned my apartment on Friday", she said after I'd commented that I was counting on her and her sister to be more 'constructive' in how they dealt with their shoes and jackets, books and bags when they came in the front door. "I swore I would never let things get so messy again. I noticed how nice and clean the house looked when we walked in. I really appreciated how welcoming it felt."
I've learned something too -- never let a gift horse leave a bitter taste of disbelief in your mouth -- my daughter's consciousness raised awareness of the necessity to not clutter up deserved affirmative action. "That's wonderful honey. I really appreciate your awareness of the importance of working together to keep the house tidy."
She smiled at me sweetly, oh so sweetly, and replied. "I didn't say I'd help keep it tidy. I just said I really appreciated it being that way."
Oh. "So what's one thing you can do everyday to help keep it tidy?"
She smiled. Again oh so sweetly, and mischievously, replied. "Nothing."
My youngest daughter returns today from Europe where she's been at University and then travelling. Suddenly the house will be filled with their lilting voices, warm and loving presence, and, did I mention... their clutter.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
For the next year, I'll juggle and shift, moan and groan about clutter and shoes left at the front door. Plates that don't make the dishwasher and half consumed glasses of juice left on the coffee table in the family room downstairs. And through my moans and groans I'll always remember the things I've learned about having my daughters at home -- time is not finite. Now is not forever. They will once again spread their wings and fly away in the not too distant future.
And the one thing I have learned I can do to create harmony in our home while they rest here for these next few months is to be gracious and caring, loving and kind and to put the dishes in the dishwasher without letting that particular gift horse rot in my mouth like food stuck to the plate.
I gotta appreciate the small things -- they did at least manage to get the dishes to the kitchen counter!
And hopefully, as the year progresses they'll learn something in school that will ensure that when they spread their wings, they'll fly freely into the limitless possibilities of life where nothing is impossible when you dare to dream beyond the limits of your comfort zone.