25 Jun 2012, Posted by elizabeth in Blog, 13 Comments.
Every Sunday morning our life falls into a familiar groove. We place Abra, with rice cake in hand, in our rickety jogging stroller and the three of us trundle down the road for a morning run. Because I am a slower runner than Maikael he always pushes the stroller, which helps to even out our pace, but inevitably he surges ahead of me. Even though we aren’t running side by side I still feel their presence, as if we’re connected by an invisible string, which I why, I suppose, it’s a different experience to watch a movie together rather than alone or quietly read the newspaper in the same room as another person: you are sharing an experience, even if there is no talking involved.
Each week we run the same route, an almost-six-mile circuit that Maikael mapped out years ago, long before I started running last September. It circles from our house to the jogging path that runs alongside I-40, then to UNM’s golf course. We stop at the same halfway point for a drink of water and to let Abra run around; when she sees me bringing up the rear she always runs toward me as if I’m the last person in the world she expected to see coming down the path, even though we do this every week. Then we wind our way back toward home, snaking through the neighborhoods that separate our house from the campus just a few miles away.
Because we run the same route, on the same day, at roughly the same time, we pass many of the same people each week: the couple who walks side by side on the narrow path, separating just long enough for me to pass. The man with long, flowing grey hair in the red track suit and matching headband. The baby in the lime green stroller. I guess you could think of them as familiar strangers, and even though I don’t know them their presence is part of the routine.
When we get home I set to work making our Sunday breakfast, which is always the same: four slices of bacon, six scrambled eggs, three tortillas, home fries and fresh salsa. Maikael always tends to the bacon because that is his job. I can bring this meal together fairly quickly from memory, and there is a funny comfort in that.
Sometimes we are busy on Sunday mornings, throwing the routine out of whack, and when that happens it feels as if the needle on the record of our lives has skipped, so much so that I find myself working hard to protect our Sunday morning routine. In our culture we have a tendency to think of routines as boring and staid; we crave novelty and the-next-new-thing. But I am learning that habits become routines and routines become rituals, those touchstones of everyday life that give us something to tether ourselves to when life is uncertain, chaotic, or simply too-busy. Sometimes they are the glue that holds a life together.
Having a young child in the house, I find myself more attuned than ever to the routines that circumscribe our life. The rituals are changing as quickly as Abra is, but they form and become solidified so quickly. I keep finding myself coming back to the imagery of records lately (I saw Moonrise Kingdom over the weekend and was completely enamored with the child-sized record player – the kind we all used to have in our bedrooms – that the heroine carried around throughout the film). I’d be lying if I said that many of these rituals don’t sometimes feel like a broken record, a tired, scratching loop that plays over and over and over again. Is it really time for a snack again? Didn’t I just give you a bath? Do we really have to sing this song (or read this book) for the thousandth time? But there are others that are so critical to our very existence that I’d feel unmoored without them. The friends we see every week without fail. Our Wednesday afternoon outing to the frozen yogurt shop (one cup, two spoons). The mint plant we water each morning on the patio. The dinners we eat outside. These are the rituals that lend the music to the background of my life, the sure, steady rhythm I can count on, the grooves I fit so easily into as I circle around and around.
Every night, just before bed, I tuck in Abra’s three favorite stuffed animals beneath a little quilt in her crib: Oso, a bear we brought back from Italy; Doggie, a raggedy hand-puppet; and Baby, a plush doll. I wrap a purple blanket around Abra’s shoulders like she’s a prizefighter. “Kiss the bird?” she asks. The bluebird piggy bank “flies” over to her cheek, chirping all the way. “Kiss the other bird?” she asks, and taking my cue I retrieve the carved wood bird that rests on her bookshelf. “Jump bird!” she demands, and I make it dance down the rails of the crib before going in for a kiss. “Poky,” she say, commenting on the bird’s beak, which is whittled to a sharp point, as if she’s never felt it before. No matter how many times we go through this it never gets old. Who knows how long this ritual will last before it’s replaced by something else, the only inevitable part of the equation. Who knows how long we’ll eat our bacon and eggs like clockwork before the tide of something new begins pulling at us and eroding what was once a foregone conclusion. But for now the record keeps on spinning.
What daily, weekly, and yearly rituals provide the scaffolding of your life?
On another note, I am off to visit my Tribe this week, followed by a family vacation on the Oregon Coast. Tune in after July 6!
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