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Mudroom

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I thought I needed a mudroom
For the backpacks and shoes and jackets and umbrellas
So I wouldn’t have to step over cleats and ballet shoes and water bottles
On entry to my own house
But now I realize stepping over the clutter reminds me
That you are here.

I thought I needed a playroom
In the years when the house was filled
With miniature kitchens
And art tables
And wooden train tracks
And dolls and super heroes
But it turns out my memories of the don’t-touch-the-floor obstacle courses make me smile more Than cleaning it up exhausted me.

I thought I needed another bedroom
So the boys wouldn’t have to share the too-small bunk bed
Until I heard the bedtime question the night before school started
Is middle school scary
And the reassuring answer from the bottom bunk.

I thought I needed a second story
To get you out of my space
So I could watch the news from the kitchen
And have peace and solitude in the evenings
But then I heard the adolescent voices
Playing their video games
And the teenage gossip from my daughter’s room
And realized this is how I stay in their world.

I thought I needed another bathroom
For the morning scramble
But now I hear you laughing and wrestling
And spraying each other with water bottles
And fighting over how long the shower is
And who goes first
And I am reminded of my own childhood.

I thought I needed to upgrade my minivan
Until it fit the extra baseball players
En route to an across-town game
And I got to know your new friend
Who said the brown bananas I brought were delicious
While you laughed about them in the front seat.

I thought I needed a second dining area
For holidays and birthdays and high school graduations
But it turns out that my people and our people
Are content on card tables on the driveway
Or in the living room
And that what matters is not the tables themselves
But the conversation around the tables
And the presence that says, “I am here.”

I thought I should give you fancy vacations
To Europe or Africa or Hawaii
But it turns out
That the beautiful town we visit in Colorado
Where Papa taught you to fish
Is the space where you find peace for your restless spirit
And that the Galveston beach
Where your aunt taught you to race clams
Resets your soul’s rhythm to be in sync
With the ocean’s crashing waves.

I thought I needed to give you
The highest level guitar class
And the more intense sports team
And the harder and harder classes
And the glowing report cards
And the specialized high school to show the world you could sing like an angel
But I see now all that matters is that you three are good people
The best that humans can be.

I thought maybe I should be thinner or taller
And maybe not so socially awkward
And more fashionable
And less shy
And more stylish
And more extroverted
And maybe not eat so much junk food
But now I know that none of that matters
To the people who call me mom
And that the only thing that matters
Through the nagging and instruction and not-wanted guidance
Is that I am here.

I thought I needed all of these things
But after 23 years of creating family
And 19 years of parenting
I have learned the beautiful truth
That the only thing I really need
Is us.

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