I’ve been stuck in the routine of Alltag. It’s not a bad thing, per se. No matter who you are, you have the things you need to do every day and even very important people have their daily routines.
Today was Saturday. The kids didn’t have Finnish school, so after breakfast (Gamma was very pleased that today was a pancake day), we cleaned their rooms. Then we went to Beta’s caroling even with other homeschoolers. Then home to lunch. Then quiet time. Then we hung out and did as little as possible. My husband worked on the basement, I went to do some weekly cleaning and feeding of the ducks and chickens, who were very happy to see us. I sent the kids outside to play in the snow and get some fresh air. Omega took her nap. I leafed through a cookbook. Watched a movie. Warmed up dinner. Remember I needed to laundry and got that started. Cuddled and played with Omega. We ate. Then we cleaned up the downstairs, I hung out the laundry, then bedtime routines for the kids.
It’s so much like every other day, but in tiny ways it’s different. The choir caroling, for example. That was unique to this Saturday. It’s also December 1, so the kids broke out their Advent Calendars and opened the first door. Or, if you’re Gamma, opened several doors (none of which were labeled 1) until the Calendar was taken into protective custody. He threw a fit over that.
I’m frequently reminded of the short story “Old Woman” in the collection “Old Home Town” by Rose Wilder Lane, where the titular old woman complains about how sick and tired she is of knowing that every Saturday night, her husband is going to take a bath and she’ll have to dump out the bathwater and longed for just one thing to be different. If he just wouldn’t take a bath on Saturday for once, or maybe the bathwater wouldn’t need dumping out. If only anything would change.
She had longed to travel the world and her husband had promised they would have they got married, but a secret heart condition had led him to cancel his plans and they settled into normal domesticity instead.
Everyday life can sometimes feel like a drag — this is why we go on vacations. But there’s comfort in it, too. I know exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow morning (Omega will wake me up, we’ll go downstairs, I’ll start making breakfast while the rest of the family slowly make their way downstairs). I’ve lately tried to cultivate an awareness of how quickly everday life can change. I recently read The Wave, a memoir of the 2004 tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala, where the author lost her husband and two sons. One minute there, one minute gone, you couldn’t imagine a more sudden and traumatic break from every day life. How would I cope if that were to happen? How does one cope if that happens? Would I be able to cope? I don’t know; I don’t want to know. I’d much rather take for granted that each morning, I’ll be there and so will everyone else in my family. No dramatic twists and turns for me, thank you very much.
I’ve often thought it’s amazing how determined humans are at maintaining normalcy even in blatantly absurd circumstances. People attempt to drive through flooded roads (and drown) because they have to get to work, staying home would be unimaginable! They’re expected at work! Or how determined some at the World Trade Center to keep on working until it became obvious that something was very, very wrong.
But what is even more striking is how hard it is to establish a new normal after the old one is completely destroyed. How are the people of Paradise, CA going to return to normal? They won’t; they’ll end up with something else they’ll begin to call normal. That’s what Sonali eventually ended up with.. a new normal, and not necessarily a pleasant one, either. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that gave a better sense of what it feels like to be haunted, the memories of loved ones so close to being present, like they’re just at the edge of your vision and if you fail to focus enough, you’ll be able to see them as if they were never gone.
It’s reassuring to know that no matter what happens, every day life is strong enough to reassert itself eventually. As they say, life must go on. And it usually does, at least for those of us who are still alive.