Good Humor

My dad had this phrase when I was a kid — a high-entropy day — a confluence of crazy, falling-apartness. All those years we sugared, March was high-entropy: we endured ice storms, broken machinery, illness, unexpected expenses.

In snowy and muddy Vermont March days, I always fooled myself into believing June was nothing but sweetness.

June, yesterday, green and gorgeous, and around us: chaos — all the factors of work and extended family, wound through with the golden chicken who got into the neighbors’ garden. At the end of the day, I stood in our upstairs glassed-in porch, threading through a work problem on the phone, watching birds dart around our house. Little tiny birds I didn’t know dove into an enormous, flowering mock orange tree.

When I came downstairs, where my girls were at the dinner table, they showed me a three-line text from their MIA parent, the one who hasn’t so much as given his girls a piece of bread in years — travels with father — and I laughed. Here’s the epitome of family life, maybe of human life: a baffling and incredibly painful mystery. What the heck does any of this mean?

I write this not so much because it’s my story, but because I see this reflected over and over in the families around me: that the harder years of parenting through adolescence, through parental desires met and unmet, bring to the forefront those tensions between what’s best for the one, and what’s best for the family.

My girls and I kept eating and talking. I fed our cat a bit of bacon from my fingers. The windows were all open, and the scent of the roses drifted in. We kept talking about the day’s chaos, and then we kept laughing and laughing. It’s the only antidote I know — laughter — to the hardness of family life, to just the plain-out strangeness of what might seem so simple.

Then we went out to talk to the chickens, too.

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