A logical statement, if the syntax is a bit strange. It certainly seems unlikely that anyone would ever have a life circumstance in which there is always, categorically, a dinosaur on the floor. At some point, whether you know it or not as it’s happening, surely you will scoop your last dinosaur off the floor and slip it into a plastic tub to be forgotten. But…what if you didn’t?
Let’s back up for a minute.
As a mother of three, currently aged 9, 5 and 2, Someday there won't always be a dinosaur on the floor has become a mantra of sorts. Because there is always, without fail, a foot-stabbing, mother-loving hard plastic dinosaur on the floor. No matter how carefully I have cleaned or how aggressively I have threatened others to do so, there is always at least one dinosaur just chilling on the floor somewhere. Sometimes it’s tucked away under a couch or bookshelf, sometimes it’s underneath a discarded jacket. Other days, a cheeky dinosaur tumbles out of a shoe or falls from a packed kitchen cupboard when the door is opened. It might be a mid-sized, scaly stegosaurus, or it could be a smooth, extra-cheap T Rex. It doesn’t matter. This motherhood deal, it never stops, does it? One way or another, there is always a dinosaur on the floor.
So I tell myself, someday there won’t be.
Someday there won’t always be a dinosaur on the floor. I will have long, delicious evenings spread before me to read, or binge watch Law & Order or rearrange the furniture just because I feel like it.
Someday there won’t always be a dinosaur on the floor. My husband and I will have actual date nights and sleep in the same kid-free bed and talk about real people things and not only what the kids said today that was funny or infuriating.
Yet, like any story, there are two sides.
Oh, mamas. We already know the well-meaning advice. We know that on those raw days when our kids twist our nerves into ragged ropes, when they melt down in public, when they test everything we say, when they make each minute a fight – we know to imagine we are old and alone and longing for just one more day with their thudding feet and clumsy words. We know to tell ourselves this – miraculously! – is that day. So that we can love them more freely again.
Someday there won't always be a dinosaur on the floor…because I will no longer have this life, these kids.
Sometimes the meditation works. Often it only works for a little while. These kids, they wield incredible power. But the truth remains, whether I can feel it or not, someday there won’t be a magical, blue-eyed boy living in my home, a ball of wonder untouched yet by technology or hormones or stress or hate. I’ll no longer come home to this delightful gust of human who sprints, scrawny and naked, toward the door every single day, shouting, “Mommy’s here!” Leaping into my too-full arms (some day I won’t have too-full arms). Someday, I will only remember this boy, his floppy hair, his sticky cheek. His plastic dinosaurs.
Today the boy tells me, “I love you all the way down to the ants.”
“I love you all the way up to the birds,” I answer. We giggle, proud of our poetry.
Which is how I end up here, hours later, stooped on my living room floor in a moment of weary desperation, asking my husband, “Can we always have a dinosaur on the floor? Even when we’re old? Can that be a thing that we do?”
“What? Just hide one somewhere?” he asks, slightly confused but, after 11 years of marriage, accustomed to my occasional bouts of melancholy. “Like…a time capsule?”
“Yeah…or not hide it,” I say, turning in my hands the purplish-red triceratops I found under the nest of tables. “Maybe we can just leave one kicking around. Always.”
Even as I say it, I’m thinking how nuts I sound. But my husband? He gets it. In the soft seconds between my question and our decision to return the dinosaur to its shadowy space, my truth hovers between us. The dinosaur on the floor isn't just a carpe diem or a momento mori. Yes, my English degree taught me many terms for how to best try to catch the life that passes though my open hands like running water. The most apt term, perhaps, is in medias res. In the middle of it. In literature, of course, in medias res means beginning a story in the midst of the narrative, without preamble. Jump in, let your reader figure it out. In life – our life, this dinosaur, these kids, this dusty moment on the floorboards – it means we are in a place where there is no beginning or end in sight.