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A Quiet House

Again, a post from a while back, but it felt right to post it this week…

There is an old Yiddish folktale that goes something like this:

A man goes to the rabbi and complains about the fact that his house is so loud that he can never think.  His wife is always bitching about something and the kids are always whining.  The rabbi tells him that to solve this problem, he should bring his cow inside the house.

The man brings the cow inside the house and now he has the cow mooing, his wife bitching, and his kids whining.  The rabbi again listens to his problem and states that the solution is to bring his horse inside, his dog inside, his cat inside, and his neighbour inside–one at a time, of course.

By the end of the tale, the man is going insane because he can’t think with the cow mooing and the horse neighing and the dog barking and the cat meowing and the neighbour ranting so he returns to the rabbi one last time and screams, “I need a solution!”

The rabbi tells him to let all of the animals and extra people out of the house.  Finally, it is just the man and his wife and his children and he remarks about how peaceful his house feels after all.


At the beginning of summer, my biggest worry was kindergarten.  The end of school was hard and I spent the first days at home weepy and overwhelmed.  At Disney, we went to see Finding Nemo the musical, and it was as if the story had been tailored solely to neurotic parents of incoming kindergarteners:

You mean so much to me
I don’t know what I would do
In this big blue world
If something should happen to you

Josh raised his eyebrows pointedly at me when Crush and Marlin muse about letting kids grow up.

But what if they’re not ready?
I mean how do ya know?

Well ya never really know
But if they’re ever gonna grow
Then ya gotta let ’em go
Ya know?
Just go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

I have a lot of trouble with the concept of letting them go; with going with the flow.

The next day, we got an email from my parents that they had an offer on the house and thus began this crazy, emotionally-turbulent summer of selling and packing up the house, of completing the book edit and extra work that came my way, of frantically working on a new proposal, of teaching the kids how to swim (Nemo!), of my friend giving birth to her first child, of the 1000 other small things that come up in a day, and finally, witnessing the accident.

As each thing left my plate and I was left with only my original fears about kindergarten, they no longer seemed as loud or as frantic as those fears felt earlier in the summer.

My mother asked me if it would have been easier if she had waited five more years to sell the house, and the answer is obviously no–it would have simply been the same difficult process of letting go, just in a different year.  Having more time with a house is not the same thing as having more time with a person.

But there is a part of me that thinks it was like the lesson taught by the rabbi in the old Yiddish folktale.  The one Marlin had to finally learn by the end of Finding Nemo.  The one that motorcyclist learned during the accident.  We can only control our world so much, and as we fight against factors, trying to maintain what we want so badly, we miss what’s right there in front of us–something we could have appreciated if we had just gone with the flow, as Crush would say.

Back in graduate school, I dated a man who had been in the Israeli army.  He told me that when they met at the central bus station to return to base at the end of leave, they used to throw their bags on the floor and rest for the last five minutes before they boarded the bus.  Yam b’zman, they called it–Sea of Time–over how much relaxing they could get done in the five minutes.  They didn’t waste a second of it.

I’m trying to enjoy this last Sea of Time before school begins.  I know it’s not an ending, just a small milestone I need to pass along the road.  There will be time after they’re in school to mourn the quietness of the house.  Right now, as they swim away the last days of summer, I’m trying to go with the flow.


1 Kristin { 08.25.10 at 8:20 am }

You express everyday concepts so beautifully. Enjoy the last few days of summer.

2 a { 08.25.10 at 8:56 am }

You know, if you’re not going with the flow, you’re fighting the current. That’s exhausting.

I hope you enjoy the last few days of summer – but the house will only be quiet for a few hours a day when they go to school. And I have no doubt that when they’re home, they’ll be twice as loud to make up for it.

3 jill { 08.25.10 at 9:29 am }

I love that folktale! and I will try to remember it when things seem too “loud”.

4 Kir { 08.25.10 at 10:46 am }

You know how to paint us a picture we don’t even envision with your words. As I get older, I don’t do well with Change either, I can’t seem to let go and just go with the flow, but I am trying, because I find that when I am hanging on too tight, my hands hurt and so does my head with the pressure I am putting on myself..to just let go, means I can live in this moment and enjoy it.

Nope it’s not easy for me either, it just looks nice on paper.
You’ll get there, they will get there, your kiddos are like you,,,strong, brave, amazing inside and out…and kindergarten will be their oyster…but when it’s hard, (and it will be) you’ll remember that, how AMAZING all of you.


5 Soosee { 08.25.10 at 10:53 am }

Gosh I love to read your writing. But, it sucks it’s about something so deep and true. I’m more of a go-with-the-flow-kind-of-girl, but know that there is plenty and especially recently with the boys growing up so quick, that I want to control and fight into a mold that I see in my head. A is right, up there. Fighting the current is more exhausting. Doesn’t mean we don’t try though.. Hope these last few days are easier and “flowy” as can be. xo

6 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.25.10 at 11:42 am }

Oh, this is juicy and delicious and a thing I need to learn over and over again:

“something we could have appreciated if we had just gone with the flow”

Flow flow flow.

Abiding with you during this transition. All is well. Let it be. These are some of the mantras I use during the times I want to fight the flow.

7 HereWeGoAJen { 08.25.10 at 12:42 pm }

Ah, Mel. I can’t believe your little ones are big enough for school.

8 Mrs. Gamgee { 08.25.10 at 12:52 pm }

As change looms before us, it always seems so big and scary, and yet, when we look at it after the fact, we wonder what we were so stressed about. Praying that this transition will go as easily as possible for all of you… and that in a month’s time you will be able to look back on your anxiety about it and smile (maybe just a little?).

9 Kathleen { 08.25.10 at 2:08 pm }

i feel like there’s a huge theme right now in the blogsphere about letting go. i love when througout different struggles, a common theme arises. thanks for the post!

10 Vee { 08.25.10 at 5:06 pm }

Lovely post. I hope the start of school is easy on you all.
Enjoy your last days of Summer because your Summer will soon be mine 🙂

11 coffeegrl { 08.25.10 at 6:13 pm }

I am currently struggling with my oldest daughter’s transition to daycare & preschool. For the last 2 weeks, she’s been at daycare for 2 days/week. She’s 2.5 years old and this feels pretty major. Learning to separate from me for more than a couple of hours at a time, learning to nap in an unfamiliar place, learning to share and take turns all the time….So much is new to her and to me. It’s great when I see how excited she is at the end of the day and see how much fun she’s been having. It’s hard when she cries at drop off and asks to spend the day with me instead. In the end I’m truly convinced that this is the best thing for all of us, but it’s not easy. I too, am trying to see it as just another milestone and growth experience for all of us -the first of many.

I was reminded of this when I read the NYT article about parents having a hard time separating from their college bound kids: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/education/23college.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage
My sister used to be an academic adviser at a university. She described a situation in which at least one set of parents were so keen to be a part of their college kid’s registration that they tried to see into the gym (where registration was happening and parents weren’t allowed). The husband allowed his wife to stand on his shoulders in order for her to see in gym window that was significantly above ground. She fell off his shoulders and it sounds like she was lucky enough not to be seriously injured. This is the opposite of grace. P lease let me learn how to let go with grace!

12 Melissa G. { 08.25.10 at 7:09 pm }

I will be the first to admit that I get caught up in the swift changes life presents. Though I’m low drama, I’m a bit of a control freak which inevitably creates the ‘Perfect Storm’ of internalized stress. And more often than not, it is impratical and fruitless.

Through this IF journey, while squirming eyebrow deep in the waiting game, I’ve learned to appreciate even the stressful things in life. And because of being introduced to all of you, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of perspective to all the twists and turns that life can bring.

Thank you for sharing this. It’s one more lesson to fall back on as life moves along.

13 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 08.26.10 at 8:32 am }

What a summer you’ve had (hey, me, too!), what a time of incredible change and growth for you and your family. As scary as change is, it’s also so incredibly wonderful to see the newness of things as they unfold in the changing. I’m glad I get to ride along with you through these new times. Best of luck to ChickieNob and Wovlog as they begin their scholastic career! Big, exciting first step!

14 Kathy { 08.26.10 at 9:50 am }

What a beutiful and bittersweet post Mel. I love the idea of soaking up “seas of time.” 🙂

15 niobe { 08.26.10 at 10:14 am }

Gorgeous post.

I have no problem letting go. What I have trouble with is the holding on.

16 Lily { 08.26.10 at 5:56 pm }

Really a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it- and all that you do for the infertility community. It never ceases to amaze me!

17 Jodifur { 08.26.10 at 9:52 pm }

I just went to kindergarten orientation and wow, this post sums exactly how I feel.

18 Battynurse { 08.28.10 at 6:22 pm }

Hope those first days of school go well for everyone. Hugs to you.

19 Barb { 08.29.10 at 10:59 pm }


20 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 08.31.10 at 1:14 am }

I found myself thinking about your Yam B’zman story yesterday when I had a few minutes to breathe.

Hope the transition has been smooth for all of you.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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