“The Peter Rabbit movie you returned was two months overdue,” the librarian announces.
“When we finally got the movie, it no longer worked,” she says, “so you will need to pay for a new one. In the future, please do not keep movies so long. We had a list of people waiting for Peter Rabbit and your failure to return it meant that they all had to be put on hold.”
Feeling ashamed, I pull out my checkbook.
“It will be $17.99,” she finishes, not unkindly.
I know I should apologize and offer some explanation, but I am silent.
How can I explain that I am dancing on the edge of a cliff, one little push away from losing my tenuous grasp on reality?
My child, my firstborn, the son of my heart is sick, and nobody knows how to heal him. I don’t know if God is paying attention. Some people gape in helpless sympathy, others slant a judging eye, and a few sit by kindly. I keep my head up and persist while my insides are screaming. I hold my son together with nothing but love, and even that is barely enough.
He is sick, and the littlest one in the family is sad, not because he is sick but because she is afraid of losing me. She thinks I–her second mama–might disappear. During the day she checks on me to make sure I am still here folding clothes or stirring the soup. Frightened that bedtime will steal me away, she fights the sleep monster with all her heart. “Hold me, mama,” she says, over and over. “Hold me. Hold me.”
My three children sandwiched between these two beg me to read stories and play games with them, but I don’t have time. I serve the laundry pile and dirty bathroom and hungry tummies and sick children, but I don’t have time for stories, except when guilt overwhelms me and I stop the endless cycle of work to read. I feel their bodies tight against mine, and wonder if I will ever be the mama they need.
If children were not enough worry, I have my job, relationships, questions, ideas, and so much more pressing on my body, soul, and spirit. I have so much to do, so much to think about, so much to feel, so many people to help. I lie awake at night, too exhausted to sleep. I lie awake and pray with groanings too deep for words.
Are there really people whose worst trial is that Peter Rabbit was unavailable when they wanted to borrow it?
I am sorry for keeping the movie so long, and think I ought to explain to the librarian, but I am unable to speak. $17.99. I write out a check for twenty dollars, and hope the few extra dollars will appease.