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Tales from the Motherhood: Loving hands sift through living memories

I’ll never lend my voice to those clamoring for year-round school. For so many reasons. Among them is the fact that summer is a great time for learning. You know, about all of that “other” stuff we hope they’ll learn: how to rest, how to find and feel joy, and how to help.

Sure, they can get small doses of these lessons throughout a year chock-full of school and other activities, but it’s just not the same. When you have time to really absorb a lesson, the learning includes a shift in perspective, I think, which can yield perhaps the greatest lessons of all. Such has been the case for my kids, and me, this summer.

For example, last month, we got to help Grandma downsize a bit during our visit back east. Noah and Holly are at that glorious age where they can really be counted on to pitch in, and with real muscle and common sense, too. So, among other jobs she’d not looked forward to, they helped her to clean out her garage. That expression “many hands make light work” couldn’t be truer than when you’re helping someone to move on from a beloved home of more than three decades. When Holly swept out the last of the dust it occurred to me that it’s not just the “stuff” that gets sorted, culled or moved (and there wasn’t that much “stuff,” to be honest, as Mom isn’t much of a packrat). Other “stuff”gets sifted, too, memories, among them. Many hands sure do help, at times like these. And you get to make new memories in the process. Good stuff.

Holly pitched in, again, as she and I helped one of my best friend’s sisters prepare her home for an estate sale (my friend died, a while back), happening this weekend. This job was right up Holly’s alley, as she’s a garage-sale machine, this kid (having helped with ours), so I knew she’d be a huge help. She kept me on task, in fact, if I’m honest, as I spent most of my time wading through 20 years of my friend’s various teaching materials and sorting her many books (my friend was a reading specialist, children’s author and critique buddy of mine).

I nearly fell into a rabbit hole or two, whenever I stumbled over my friend’s notes on her picture books in progress, but Holly kept me on task with her special brand of good humor and at least one near-wrestling match. Good times.

She and Noah got a good dose of perspective at home, this summer, as well.

During some work in our bathroom (our leaky-tub saga finally ended!) we lived without our only shower for a week and a half, so we had to trek back and forth to the gym for showers (may as well work out while you’re there, so we did that, too) while our chronically-leaky tub and tile were demolished and replaced. Having to go an extra mile to get a shower is hardly comparable to life on the streets, but the inconvenience taught us all a good lesson. We still had someplace to go, but what if we didn’t, we wondered? So many don’t. 

As for the work itself, Noah and his buddy Charlie began the process by demolishing the old tile. Hammers, gloves and safety glasses onboard, they made an awesome dent in the job, which Todd finished, which saved us from paying someone else to do that part of the job. Nice work, boys! (That was a workout, in and of itself. I bailed pretty quickly, after a few swings of the hammer, as my swing just didn’t do the trick.)

And then we painted the fence. Finally. Part of it was rebuilt last fall following a car accident that resulted in a van crashing into it, so we had to paint the whole thing.

“Why do I have to do this?” One of my offspring groaned, the day we began.

“It’s what you do, when you have the luxury of having a home. You take care of it. If you’re able, you pitch in,” I said. “Be glad you’re able.”

Todd did a lion’s share of the work, but by the third day, when I toiled over the front gate – after scraping every last bit of loose paint and wiped it down and painted most of the surfaces – when the sun was high in the sky and the humid, 90-degree-plus heat threatened to wipe me out, I impulsively took a little break and collapsed in a giddy, sweaty heap on my front lawn while everyone else was out back, painting the gate to our driveway.

Feeling guilty – and more than a little worried that my neighbors would think I’d had a heart attack and call 911 – I stretched out with my paintbrush, still loaded with paint, and did what I could. It’s not pretty, but it’s done.

Next week? Who knows, but I think I’m putting my feet up. But first, a bath in my new tub.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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