And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day."
from "The Land of Counterpane" - R.L. Stevenson
It's an absolutely beautiful Indian summer day here on the coast of Maine but Blueberry and Buttercup are sneezing, sniffling and coughing, poor babies. Buttercup officially has caught her first cold. There is something so heartrending about the sight of glassy eyes trying to smile up at you from the depths of the pillow-strewn couch, of seeing little bodies trapped inside while a freshening sea breeze and sunny expanse of lawn urges them to come out and play. The empty swings dangle idly, the sandbox's discarded toys are haphazardly still. There is no one to pluck the petals off the late September black-eyed Susan's and so they seem to stand at attention, waiting. There is no one to gather the mounds of grass left by the lawn mower to make nests or fairy houses.
Stevenson's poem is written from his experience with being repeatedly sick, perhaps with tuberculosis, as a child. His discovery of the "land of counterpane," reminds me of how inventive children are, how optimistic in the face of adversity. Children accept where they are. It is what it is. My observation of my own children leads me to believe that because they live so "in the moment," they have an uncanny ability to make that moment everything. And usually beautiful.
"I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane."
(my grandmother's "mind-age")
For now, I will rock my babies extra, tuck them in more gently, throw thoughts of sleeping schedules out the window, let them into my bed if needs be, make noodle soup, sing a lot, sit with them in sunny patches, take warm baths with them, make chocolate honey biscuits, dole out honey by the spoonful (well, to Blueberry), break out my rusty guitar and violin skills, play with paper dolls, make lots of silly faces when administering medicines, and try to enjoy how much they need me. I won't worry how fiercely the sun shines or how the beach, woods, and river beckon. For now we'll stay in the pleasant land of counterpane.