Big Picture, Small Picture

Photo: I’m calling this one “Tyranny is the Color Purple.” Marker and colored pencil on white paper.

I’m feeling really liberated today. The plumber and the electrician went through the house and confirmed that the house needs $50k worth of work… and we only have about $30,000 to play with. We’re throwing the fish back, and you know what? I’m ok with it. I agree with Leah: someone up there knows that this is a money pit. I’m happy that we aren’t going to sink into it.

So as my husband went off to deal with the house this morning, I had two toddlers to deal with. Two toddlers who are slowly but surely easing into the routine of the townhouse. I have learned that if I can split their time between the middle level (with the kitchen) and the basement level (with the laundry room) then I can still feel productive and they won’t get too stir crazy. What I’ve also learned is that if I settle in for a little Price is Right while folding laundry, despite all of the room and all of the toys that make up our basement level, the boys will inevitably congregate right next to me. For Ursa Minor, it’s really on top of me.

Ursa Minor is in a clingy mood, and as much as I love to cuddle him, I’m really trying to get him to just go freaking play. Ursa Major and his incessant tyranny certainly doesn’t help–who wouldn’t want to cuddle up to mom when big brother is constantly pushing, shoving and body slamming in a constant show of force!? Unfortunately, whenever I pick up Ursa Minor, he doesn’t actually want to sit in my lap. He wants to stand, on my lap, on my stomach, on my chest, on my shoulders. The boy won’t stay still. When I get fed up and put him down, he screams as if the sky is falling. His other favorite thing to do is to step on my feet when I’m cooking in the kitchen and get between me and the counter or the stove making it hard to reach things! God bless his adorable sweet little heart.

Ursa Minor is very much like his father: Small picture and detail oriented kind of person. Cannot focus on more than one thing at once, perfectly happy with a portable “normal.” For Ursa Minor, this move has been trivial: Mommy is her? She gives me kisses? She changes my diaper? She gives me food? I’m all set. It doesn’t take much to make him happy… or unhappy, really.

Ursa Major is still adjusting but getting better. Each morning, he wakes up and asks to see the train. Our old apartment had the perfect view of the commuter rail tracks and was a 5 minute walk away from the T station, so we were able to see the “purple train” and the “orange train” whenever we wanted. The Husband and I knew that Ursa Major would miss it when we left, but we could never have known how much. The tears he shed this morning after I explained to him that we don’t live near the orange train anymore and that we probably wouldn’t see the purple train today were heart breaking: Not those hot, furious tantrum tears that I can totally ignore but the flowing, pouting, sincerely sad tears that break a mother’s heart. I told him that we would have the car soon, that we’d go on many, many adventures soon, and that he’s make all sorts of friends at preschool. That starting next week, all sorts of special surprises were in store for him.

This placated him, for now. But I know that we’ll be having a similar conversation tomorrow. On Friday, at least, I’ll have the car, so I’ll be able to take them to the park and make them happy.

After breakfast and Word World, I took the boys downstairs so I could get some laundry done. I broke out the art supplies: colored pencils, markers, crayons and a sketch pad. I’m working with Ursa Major on proper marker etiquette: “One at a time please, sir.” “Put the cap on the back of the marker please, sir.” “Yes, you can put the cap on by yourself, sir.” “We don’t start a new color until we put the old color away, sir.” “if you want a new color and you can’t reach it, what do you say, little sir?” The nagging is working, though, because by the end he started to just do it without my direction. He created a lovely little masterpiece, which I can’t wait to take down to Maryland and present to my uncles. They have many of his masterpieces prominently displayed on their refrigerator.

Satisfied, he wanted something else.

“Mama, I can have a purple train? I would like a purple train, Mama… can you help? Help, Mama? I want a purple train, Mama!”

I really, really hate getting the same command 20 times.

“Little sir, why don’t you draw the purple train? Wouldn’t you like to draw your own train?”

“No, Mama, no, I can’t, Mama.” He puts up his hands in this weird shrug kind of thing… Totally straight out of an episode of Seinfeld or maybe Friends, “Mama, you make me a purple train? I want a purple train!”

“Why don’t we draw a train together? It’s just some rectangles and some circles together… would you like to draw with Mommy?”

No, Mama, no thank you. Mama, I want a purple train, and, can you draw it, please?”

Clearly I know that I couldn’t expect my 2 1/2 year old son to draw a train. I just thought that maybe he would want to try to draw his own train. You know, just take a crack at it? But that wasn’t what he was after. He had a vision and he knew how to bring that vision into the world. Me.

So I took a black marker and made the outline of a train, complete with the windows and the T logo and the tracks… it wasn’t, you know, perfect, but it was a train.

I presented it to my son: “Here, look, Mommy made a train for you to color.”

He looked at it and then looked at me as if I were an insubordinate employee. “I want a purple train, Mama. You make another train, Mama?”

“Well, you can color it purple if you want to! Look, here is where you can color it purple!” I pointed at the bar when he could totally color it purple.

Here comes the hot tears. The tantrum tears. That pout. The slamming of himself onto the couch.

Ursa Major had a vision. This wasn’t about play or learning or a game. This was about remembering the purple train and being able to see it.

And so I colored. Purple in the purple spots, pretty metallic silver in the silver spots.

Ursa Major is all-boy like his father, but he’s very big-picture like I am. Every once in a while, he’ll stop and say “Mama, we’re in the neeeeeeew house,” and I’ll say “Yup, we’re in the neeeewww house.” Then I’ll ask, “do you like the new house?” and he’ll nod sweetly and say “Yes, Mama, I like the new house!” but I don’t think that has been true. The new house represents a lot of new. A lot of new that neither of us have really liked. This isn’t home. This hasn’t been home. Home for Ursa Major meant seeing going outside every day, seeing his friends, greeting the people who work in his community, and most importantly, seeing the trains whenever he felt like it. So when Ursa Major was asking for trains today, he was asking for a little piece of home.


This was the best I could do for him. I’m not an artist, but I can put rectangles and circles together in a cohesive fashion…I think.

My focus has been very narrow lately. Get to this place to get to the next place. My angst has been about my discomfort and isolation, and not about the larger and very important reason why we are here. My son starts school in less than a month. My son starts school in less than a month. We moved here so that we could provide for him the best education we could afford in the best community that we could afford to live in. My discomfort is nothing and necessary for the mission. Big picture focus. We’re doing the right thing.

Now that the house has finally and officially fallen through, I can make this place a home. I can fill it with pictures and unpack my bedroom and leave for the beach knowing that when we return, we’ll be walking into our home, the home that we need for our boys. The big picture is about me raising these two boys. All other things are peripheral.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. So sorry about the house! BUT, it sounds like you know it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe you should rent the movie money pit tonight, and watch with your husband and laugh your butts off (I love that movie!) and then you will feel much better. 🙂

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thanks for the support. It’s been a roller coaster… The Husband and I were just sitting here wringing out hands over this decision… but the plumbing is too much of a problem Bad pipes are a ticking time bomb. It’s really too bad… we both really love that place, but the price is just a little too steep for us.

      I’ll look for Money Pit this weekend. 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.