Save it for Later

It’s as if I’m buckled into the passenger seat next to him. I can see the rain coming from every direction, crashing into the road and windshield. I gasp with him as the wheels beneath us seem suddenly weightless. I can hear the screeching tires, smell the burning brakes, watch the red lights blur and swirl into white. I feel the panic in my chest as we spin across a four-lane freeway during rush hour in Orange County.

But I wasn’t there. Crouched on the top stair, head leaning on the banister, I listened in as my father told the treacherous tale in our white and blue tiled kitchen. His Ford Ranger finished it’s sporadic spiral across the 5 South and promptly stalled facing four lanes of oncoming traffic. I wasn’t there, but I was there, every single morning when my father left for work.

When I heard the garage door open, I felt the panic, saw the rain, and ran like hell to make sure I got one more glimpse of my dad, because what if it was my last? He never left without saying goodbye. We’d blow each other a kiss and he’d grab mine out of the air, squeeze it tight, and stuff it in his shirt pocket, saving a little piece of love for later.

Today my own kids are a constant mystery. Why are you scared to pick out socks at two in the afternoon by yourself? Why do you need me to watch you go to the bathroom when you’ve been potty trained for two point five years? I know why. Because life doesn’t make sense. It’s messy and it’s scary, even more so when you’re only three feet tall.

I spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed by the longterm effects of my parenting missteps. I worry about my angry words, my lack of patience, and those days when I just want to be left alone. But when I think back on my own childhood, I don’t remember the angry words so much. I remember being constantly and genuinely cherished by my parents. My dad probably had no idea how much I needed all that saved up love back then but I hope he knows today what a gift it continues to be.

Be Impressive

I felt a trickle of salty anxiety slip down my shoulder blades as Logan eased our home into a ten-minute parking space. I’d either get this done or I wouldn’t, no point in drawing it out, so I leaped from the truck repeating the directions in my head the whole way.  Alone in an electronics store in Argentina, I managed to explain my urgent need for a new hard drive for a 12-year-old Dell, entirely in Spanish.

Our First Home

Our First Home

My husband raised his eyebrows in question, I nodded casually and held up our technological lifeline as if I did this sort of thing all the time.  “That was impressive,” he said. Every day on the PanAm was filled with monumental victories just like this (Exhibit A).

Our victories look a little different today and it’s sometimes hard to recognize them. We almost never need a GPS. Our vehicle no longer doubles as our living room. And our party cups are now filled with imaginary tea which makes our toddlers nearly as giddy as the mezcal we once poured.

Nine loads of heaping laundry and two dozen rounds of nose-to-the-wall do not feel impressive.  It’s hard to believe their little minds are absorbing any of the things we want them to in these sometimes torturous daily routines. Along with the circadian trials, there is the constant, mandatory concession that we are imperfect. Every angry moment, every too busy to stop what we’re doing minute, every frustrated flash, these parental blunders will haunt their tender hearts as well.

Typically on RanchNotes, this is where I’d wrap it all up with a tidy little moral or at least an attempt at a humorous bright side. Here’s the truth, this stage of life is hard. We flattered ourselves thinking the PanAm was any kind of battle to be conquered. The challenges ahead of us are incomprehensible and the rewards even further beyond those unknowns. All we can do is grab onto those golden souls who lift us up, who see the laundry, the struggle, and the moments we’re not proud of but make us feel impressive anyway. Hang on tight to these people and learn from them. Do your own lifting at every possible turn, be who you needed when you struggled, and know, to be impressed, is the most impressive of all.

Prairie Susan Pribbeno

At 7:45AM on Wednesday, July 5th, the forms had been signed, the IV applied, and in less than one hour our second daughter was scheduled to arrive. While I sat wrapped in warm blankets, Logan read aloud from the journal of Mary Stenger, recounting tales of her own mother, Logan’s great-great-grandmother, Susan McCoy.

Harold was born in December. Had him at home (sod house) with a midwife. Afterbirth didn’t come and Grandpa rode a horse to Elsie (27 miles) to get a doctor…Susan was holding Harold and saw a rattlesnake in the rafters.

128 years later in the comfort of a sterilized delivery room in a newly renovated hospital with the assistance of two doctors, one anesthesiologist, and two nurses, Prairie Susan Pribbeno was born. Despite these conveniences, I was worried. We had learned I was pregnant just six months after radiation treatment for thyroid cancer. I agonized silently for nine months over the medications I was required to take and the effects my damaged body had on her growing one.

At 8:22AM, the only thing I could say was, “Is she ok?” Although we never really talked about it, Logan knew what I meant. We had both held fear close to our hearts so he just said, simply, “Yes, she’s strong.” 7.1 pounds and 20 inches of strength and beauty, to be specific.

She may not have been born in a sod house with rattlesnakes in the rafters but, so far, I believe she has more than lived up to the gritty determination of her namesake.