From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

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Laughter is by definition healthy.

Doris Lessing

I desperately wanted to be a mother. My dream was not fulfilled for five long years.

So, after the miracle birth of our baby—a handsome lad with curly hair like his dad’s—we set about with gusto, spoiling our probable only-child. Two-and-a-half years later, a baby brother arrived, and first-son begged Grandma (who had come to rescue us all) to “take that b-b-baby home on the b-b-bus with you.”

Exactly two years later, twin sisters arrived, and first-son relinquished all thoughts of ever reigning supreme again. Adding insult to injury, another brother timed his arrival two years after that, the last of our brood.

Well, yes, I had wanted to be a mom, but I hadn’t counted on a six-year sentence of nonstop suckling and daily laundry loads of cloth diapers. (No disposables available to us ’60s moms.)

Just when it seemed that I had lost my identity, I suddenly found the oldest four enrolled full days at a nearby elementary school and the lonesome-youngest requiring his mom’s full attention. All day long. Now I ask, how many times could I be expected to read The Pokey Little Puppy with enthusiasm?

In a desperate move to rescue some small part of my sanity, I whisked lonesome-youngest off to preschool, half-days. Though we hugged and I faked a tear, I felt a sense of relief and sudden freedom. I drove my 5,400-pound Buick station wagon home with all the windows down, pretending it was a convertible sports car and that I had long locks flowing in the breeze. In reality, the locks had been shorn years earlier in favor of a short, easy do.

But when I entered our big, empty house, my best laid plans melted away. What would I do with four free hours every day? Music! That would pep me up. Sinatra? Too mellow. John Denver? Too folksy. Classical? Not in the mood. Ah, yes, Neil Diamond, just right for the moment.

As the rhythms pounded out and the volume grew, I found myself dancing with gay abandon. Seized by a sudden, uncontrollable urge, I removed pieces of clothing and tossed them around—in perfect beat to the music.

Knowing my husband’s and neighbors’ schedules—and not expecting visitors that day—I even liberated my undies. I turned up the volume and pranced through the house singing, “I’m free, I’m really free!”

I danced in the living room. I danced in the kitchen. I danced in the family room, the upstairs hall, the master bedroom and—with a naughty chuckle—I danced in all of their rooms.

My over-forty body bounded back down the stairs to the still-pounding music and I arrived at the bottom—just as the doorbell rang. Snapped back to reality, I froze in front of the door, not daring to move since there was clear glass flanking its sides. In my panic, I wondered if the unexpected caller had caught a glimpse of my shameless dance.

I dared not move, even though the blaring music was a dead giveaway that someone was home. I held fast through two more rings of the bell, clinging to the cold wood and hyperventilating. The record finally ended, all was quiet outside, and I heard an engine start.

Shyly peeking around the door through the side window, I glimpsed the UPS truck edging from the curb. I blushed (full-body), swept up my scattered clothes and dressed. Then I turned off the stereo and sat down at the kitchen table to plan dinner.

The next day, I opened the door to a handsome, young, brown-uniformed man—his “second attempt” to deliver. As I signed for the package and he wished me a nice day, I thought I saw an amused glint in his eye. Red-faced, I accepted the parcel and closed the door, feeling in my soul that the two of us shared an unspoken secret.

It was a short liberation after all.

Carita S. Barlow

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