Karl and I had just sat down to take a brief reprieve from rigorous yard work. Lucy and Peter were across the street riding their bikes and we had just a few moments to ourselves before returning to the demands of landscaping and parenting. For our snack I had brought out full water bottles, ripe apples, and decadent dark chocolate for each of us. I started by savoring the chocolate first. Then, moved on to eating the apple. Mid-bite, with my feet reclining on the patio furniture, we heard Lucy scream that Peter had fallen. Naturally, Karl and I hopped to our feet and ran across the street to find him limping, crying and bloodied from a tough tumble he had just taken. Karl swept him up to carry him home and begin the doctoring and Lucy and I grabbed their bikes and helmets and trailed them not far behind. After leaning the bikes against the wall of the house, I rushed in to find Peter and Karl in the bathroom inspecting the damage. Peter’s lip was already cut and swollen and through his tears it was difficult to see what the damage was. Karl sat on the ledge of the bathtub and put Peter on his lap to calm and soothe him while I dipped a Q-tip in Vaseline to see if I could lift up his lip and see if his braces had cut all the way through. Surprisingly, they had not. However, he did have two splits in his top gums and would have a bee sting-like swollen lip for a few days.
Once my nursing was complete, I carried Peter out to the couch and got him tucked in with a blanket, a cartoon and an otter pop to numb the pain. That’s when I found Lucy curled up on the chair in the corner hugging her knees to her chest. Her tender heart can hardly tolerate anyone’s suffering, much less her baby brother’s. I worry about her as she will inevitably be exposed to the realities of this world where suffering is the norm. I asked her what was wrong and picking her up to sit on my lap, she explained how helpless she felt and that she just wished there was something she could have done, or could do next time. She explored the idea of always having an emergency kit with her wherever she went, including a wet rag. Those moments after she called for us and when we arrived were wrought with a powerlessness she wasn’t ready to encounter again soon. After she had been heard and understood, with a little extra squeeze and snuggle, I also tucked her in to her chair with a snack and her .mp3 player.
Karl had left the kids in my hands and rushed out to the backyard to finish cleaning up before the sun went down. I started dinner and was heading out to help him when I thought I’d save myself a trip and use the restroom before I headed out back. When I walked into the bathroom where the madness had been a half hour earlier, I saw it. There amongst the bloodied rag and Q-tips and toothbrush and toothpaste and other paraphernalia found in most bathrooms was an apple that had been half eaten. I looked and cocked my head to the right at the same time and wondered where it came from. Then, it dawned on me. I never set the apple down when I ran from the backyard to check on Peter. I carried it with me in one hand while I pushed the bike back to the house with the other. I didn’t set it down until I picked up the Q-tip and dipped it in the Vaseline.
The sight of a half-eaten apple on the counter in the bathroom struck me as so odd. Many thoughts and questions flooded through my mind. Why didn’t I set the apple down when I ran? Why did I hold on to the apple as long as I did? Was I being absent minded, or simply flooded with survival hormones that made my actions nearly uncontrollable? Or was there a fierce commitment to finishing the apple that I had started?
I imagine the apple is representative of many things in my life. I work hard as a wife, a mother, a woman, a therapist, an amateur landscaper. Then, when I attempt to settle for just a moment, to give myself what it is that I need, I’m often interrupted by ______________________ (fill in the blank). Yet, it is at that moment of interruption that I still must declare that I have a choice: to let go of what I need, carry it with me, or perhaps chuck it over the fence and grab another one later.
Finding that apple in the bathroom was representative of the choice I made in a moment. Something deep inside me chose to hold on to that apple. I chose to be as unwaveringly committed to my own pleasure, delight, rest, and sustenance, as I did the care, treatment and provision for another.
I choose me. I choose you. I choose both.