It’s a road on my GPS, a small curving line on a map, surrounded by greens and yellows. But to me, the words reads like an escape: Berry Patch Lane, a wondrous place that smells like sweet strawberries and where time slows down like an old Country Time Lemonade commercial. Tire swings. Fireflies.
It’s everything that my neighborhood is not.
My neighborhood is house upon house. It is parents with beer bottles behind their backs as their children trick or treat. It is a dog in a dress, standing on the corner, unattended.
My yard is a crowded swing set and neighborhood girls in neon get-ups and giant sunglasses, whooping and hollering while testing the limits of our little exercise trampoline.
Inside my house is not idyllic or neat. There are no quiet corners. It is constant commotion, constant cheerios on the floor and puddles on the bathroom floor.
Oh, Berry Patch Lane. You little curve of wonder on my GPS. How green are your yards and how spacious and clean are your houses? How many quiet minutes could I have in a day, if only my house was large enough for me to slip away and close a door. If only my backyard was peaceful enough to hang a hammock.
But my life is not in serene neighborhoods or hammocks. My life is here and now.
Here and now, I am the sandwich maker. While working on lunch, I hand my one year old a corner of bread to hold her over as I spread the peanut butter. She takes the small piece in her little fist and then lurches forward in my arms, grabbing after the entire loaf.
She swats at the loaf of Wonderbread until she has it clenched in her fist and I gently pull it away. You have all that your mouth can handle, Baby Goose.
It’s her thing though, always taking what she is given and tucking it into her chest while using her free hand to grasp for whatever is bigger, better, not hers. Goldfish, crackers, cheese, she does not discriminate. Chew one bite, peek around the corner to see where you’re hiding the good stuff.
It’s remarkable how someone so small and innocent (and painfully adorable) can be so innately selfish. Or how someone too young for words can be already so keen to the idea that no matter what you have in hand, there is better to be had.
It’s human nature. It’s my nature. And before I can marvel at her discontent, I have to wonder: how often does God look down with bemused wonder at me, busily eying what might be in his other hand or tucked away behind his back. How often does he need to whisper gently in my ear, all that I have is already yours.
I am already beyond blessed – I have a roof, a full fridge, a yard full of children and a bathroom with running water – more than I need, enough for puddles on the floor.
Driving to a portrait shoot, I turned down Berry Patch Lane.
Turns out, it’s only a road – there isn’t any scratch and sniff strawberry pavement, there are not pies cooling on every (or any) windowsill, in fact there isn’t magic at all. Berry Patch Lane is asphalt and sidewalks with weeds pushing up through the cracks, it is boring greenish-brownish lawns and Home Depot inspired shrubbery dotted with This Home Protected by ADT signs.
A larger house. A newer car. More money in savings. A few quiet hours to myself. Berry Patch Lane. These are my bags of Wonderbread. These are the illusions I reach for when I take my eyes off of all that I have already been given.
And the funny thing is, all the days that I long for an hour of peace and quiet or a weekend of solitude, in the short moments when I am left to my thoughts, I miss the hum and patter of kids around me.
I miss being needed. I miss my crazy, messy, simple little life.
For me, nowhere is better than my neighborhood and nowhere is better than my home. Nowhere is better than where I am supposed to be, at this moment in my life, with these people who call me mom, wife, sister, friend.