Yesterday the clear, sunny days ended, and the rains came back. Not to be deterred, the kids and I went for a short walk anyway. We’re native to the Northwest, and a little drizzle isn’t going to keep us inside. There were two major draws: first, I needed a spool of thread from the quilt shop, and second, the construction is currently exactly one block from our house.
In any case, we can only do so much inside time at a stretch. Nathan had already decided that he was done playing with… well, everything, and Ryan, while I was on the phone with our insurance company, had scooted himself away from his toys, toppled over, and gotten his head stuck between the leg of Dave’s desk and the neighboring table.
It was after the quilt shop, after watching the construction, after getting home and stripping off wet clothes, that I headed for the kitchen to make lunch and noticed something.
My engagement ring was gone.
The wedding ring was still there, but its partner had disappeared. Quickly I searched my pockets, my jacket, the path inside the house I had taken after getting home… but without any real expectation of finding it. Nathan had been holding onto exactly that finger as we walked home. I even remembered noticing the pressure of his small hand around the rings. In the chilly air, the rings are always a little loose — it must have slid off somewhere.
I grabbed Ryan and did a quick walk back the way we’d come, scanning the ground. Nothing. It could be in our lawn. It could have fallen when we were watching the construction; the noise would have masked any tell-tale sound of precious metal hitting concrete. I’d asked Nathan to let go of my hand when we reached the mailbox. Surely I would have noticed a loose ring then? I tried to remember at what point in the walk Nathan had asked to switch to my left hand. Before the quilt store? I wasn’t sure.
Well, we needed food in any case. Nathan is a trooper, but much less so when he’s hungry. I made us peanut butter sandwiches. While we ate I tried to remind myself that it was “just things,” as my mom’s mother had so memorably and generously assured my dad after he wrecked her brand new car in Great Britain. At least I hadn’t gotten home and realized that I’d lost one of the kids. Boy, would that be embarrassing.
As we finished up our lunch, Nathan announced — I swear I am not making this up — that he wanted to take a nap.
“You want a nap?” I said, certain that I’d misunderstood.
“See-seep,” he said, and headed determinedly toward his room.
Now, let me put this choice into context for you.
On the one hand, I wanted to look for my engagement ring, a symbol of my relationship with Dave, an object with many happy memories associated, from picking it out together to mating it with the wedding band on the day of our marriage. Sure, I still had the wedding band — arguably the more important of the two — and sure, it was “just things”… But it was a thing that I would really like to keep. And I knew that the sooner I got back out there looking, the more likely I was to find it. The longer I waited, the more likely that someone would pick it up, or a car would run over it and spin it off the road, and it would be gone forever.
On the other hand, my toddler was offering to take a nap. At one time this would not have been such a big deal, but about three weeks ago he stopped napping, and the adjustment has been a difficult one. Prior to that, I’d had about a month where Ryan and Nathan’s naps were likely to overlap, at least by a little. This meant that almost every day, I’d get between fifteen minutes and an hour (an hour and half, on one lovely day) of time to myself — time to work on the computer, or in the sewing room, or even (if it had been that kind of day) to sit down with a book and maybe a snack that I didn’t have to share with anyone. And so I wrote, and sewed, and my desk was kept fairly clear, and I finished library books before the due date. It was one of those Golden Ages of Motherhood that I fool myself into believing will last forever.
Nathan hadn’t been happy with naps during that time, but a combination of books and songs and drawing at nap time, coupled with (increasingly) time-outs if he came out of his room, had generally gotten him down. And then he hit on a new technique, a trump card in his anti-nap campaign: not sleeping. Cheerfully, loudly, vigorously not sleeping.
It might seem that whether he was asleep or not would hardly matter, as long as he was confined to quarters, as it were. But unfortunately Nathan has the attention span of a two-year-old. I tried to explain the concept of “quiet time”: that I didn’t mind if he was awake as long as he played quietly in his room. (Well, I do a little, because he’s a lot more frantic without a nap, but I’d be willing to take it.) No dice. Sometimes out of mischievousness, most often simply because he’d just forgotten, he would come out of his room every five minutes or so, and be increasingly reluctant to go back.
It was then that I discovered that, while time to focus on the computer without interruption was wonderful, and time to play in my sewing room without small hands there even more so, what I really loved about that Golden Age was being off-duty. Shared naptime was the only time of the day that I could sit for a while and, with the exception of the small process in the back of my mind listening for sounds of waking, not think about kids. I didn’t have to hurry with what I was doing, or figure out which of my tasks was most amenable to being done with a baby in my arms, or try to sneak in a moment of reading or sewing before anyone figured out where I was. Now, I realize that there are far worse ways to live, and I’m not trying to bellyache here — just pointing out that I’d been used to getting a break most days. A few days after Nathan stopped taking naps, I began to sink into a real depression, and it took me a while to figure out that it was because I wasn’t getting my break.
So when Nathan climbed into bed of his own volition, looked up at me from the pillow, and said “Good-night,” I had a moment of agonizing indecision. What was being dangled before me was better than Godiva chocolate, better than a gift certificate to eQuilter, better than… to be honest, I’m having trouble thinking of comparisons. But my indecision was quickly resolved, and I made the only reasonable choice.
“Good-night, sweetie,” I said, and left the room to get Ryan to sleep as quickly as humanly possible.
As it turned out, Nathan was not actually ready to sleep. After ten quiet minutes in his room, and just as I was laying Ryan down, he came out with all the energy that a frantic two-year-old can muster.
Oh well. Time for plan B.
“Ok, let’s go back outside,” I said. “We can go for another walk.”
“No,” said Nathan.
Now, I can count on one hand the number of times that Nathan has not wanted to go outside when offered. Hmmm. Maybe I had lost of the kids, and come back with a Doppelganger.
But if I wasn’t getting my sewing time, there was no way I was abandoning the ring too. I showed him the remaining ring, carefully explained the situation, then coaxed, wrestled, and sternly reprimanded him into his clothes, put Ryan back in the Moby wrap (which woke him up), and out we went.
Let’s see, I got the mail just before coming in… So we would have come across the lawn something like this…
“Wi-wing!” Nathan said.
“Are you saying it’s raining?” I asked him absently, and looked up from the lawn just in time to see him remove his right hand from his jacket pocket with something golden.
Ah, what an exquisite moment of relief.
Ever since then I’ve been making allusions to The Hobbit. “What have I got in my pocket?” I ask him. And “It mussst give us three guessessss!”
He has no idea what I’m talking about.