On Father’s Day

I can hear the birds outside chirping away while the leaves of our maple tree dance with the wind. A gentle breeze touches my face as it enters the dining room through the open window. The air is warm.

The sun has been playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. But when it comes out from hiding, the paved street brightens up, and shadows appear. The street has been quiet for awhile as if everybody is taking an afternoon nap. 

Across the table is our 11 month old baby eating her “everything” bagel spread with thick butter. The frozen butter that has been sitting on the counter is now smooth and soft, just the way I like it.

Our 2 year old toddler who just finished her bagel decides to climb down her chair and move to the living room. In there, she starts singing a happy song she invented that only she can understand. And then impulsively, she starts running around. In the kitchen I heard her slip, and cry. The silence is broken. But not for long. She came to me crying. As soon as I put her on my lap, the hysteria stopped, as if the warmth of my embrace has the power to take her pain away.

The baby is now done eating and happily talking to me in giggles and babbles while she licks and sucks all her fingers. Our furry dog is sleeping quietly under the dining table. The underside of her face resting on my right foot. When I move my feet from time to time, she licks the toes of my bare feet.

The man of the house is taking a nap downstairs. I tried lying down beside him but my mind was filled with a list of things I’d like to do before his friend from Germany arrives tomorrow to stay with us for the week. I need to finish cleaning up the guest room. It had become my craft display room ever since I started to make more handmade craft items to sell. I need to wash the sheets. I need to clean the floors in the dining room, the kitchen, and the bathrooms. I need to finish doing laundry. The carpet needs to be vacuumed. The toys I’ve been tripping on need to go in their bins. And my crafts that had been taking permanent residence in our dining area need to be put away. The list goes on and on.

I was going through my mental checklist when I felt the urge to sit down and write. I tried to ignore it several times. But the gentle nudge in the beginning became more of a nagging thought. After a while, I could not resist the desire to put my thoughts into tangible words. My fingers made a gentle, rhythmic tapping sound with my laptop keyboard, and soon my thoughts started to take form in front of my eyes.

My life is filled with laughing babies, stinky diapers, greasy hands, and sticky chairs. Their giggles, joyous laughter, and crazy antics make up for the numerous times they threw tantrums when I was least prepared to handle them.

My wonderful crazy adventure to motherhood started when I married my best friend. A guy who grew up on a family farm in Manitoba. Homeschooled all the way through high school. Dressed awkwardly before he met me. Stubborn. Strong. Smart. Wild. An engineer through and through.

Before I met him, my heart had been broken. He didn’t offer me anything to fix it. Instead he lent me his ears. He listened to my EVERY story. And in the process my heart healed enough to trust again… to love again.

I have always felt like a misfit. Belonging no where. Not to anyone… or a group of people. I have lived a life of a maverick. A name my dad would have given me if I was a boy. Matthew Maverick was what he had in mind. But to his surprise, he ended up with another daughter. He was pretty sure I would be a boy so he scrambled for a girl’s name when the nurse asked him what name to put on the record. Perhaps maybe that is why there’s only one Zhileen (pronounced as Zi-lean) in the entire universe. It was a name my dad invented out of desperation.

But there’s something about my husband that made me feel that even an oddball like me with no one else to share my name with can find belongingness outside my nuclear family. Wikipedia describes belongingness as a human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an ‘inherent’ desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.

I was just never good at fitting in. I am awful at small talk. I hate idle gossip. I don’t follow the lives of the movie stars or the politicians for that matter. I have enough drama on my own without adding theirs to mine. I don’t care what’s in fashion. I set my own. I wear or make what I think looks pretty using colours that I like.

Looling back, I remember what it felt like when my husband first held me in his arms. It was beyond the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, or fireworks in the 4th of July. In him I found a place where I think I belong. In his embrace I felt peace, like being in the eye of the storm. His nearness offered me calmness in the middle of the strong tropical cyclones. The drifter in me found herself an anchor. Something steady. Something flawed but also perfect at the same time. The perfect imperfect.

Together we faced so many trials. People. Circumstances. Cultural differences. Our own pride and selfishness. And yet, here we are. Still here. Still holding hands. Still believing in the dreams we forged before wedding bells, and sleepless nights from crying babies.

They said that any man can be a father. But it takes someone special to be a dad. To us, he IS special! He is our superman! The man of steel whose superpower other than his physical strength is his commitment to me and the kids.

Our superman is now up from his nap, feeling recharged for the rest of the day. He took care of two of the items in my to do list.

The toddler who was just giggling, and singing, and running is now sleeping soundly in her room. A 6 o’clock early bedtime for sleeping late last night as she wants to stay up with mommy crafting her daddy’s special Father’s day card.

I have abandoned the dining chair in exchange of our comfortable couch in the living room. I feel a gentle breeze on the back of my head every now and then from the open windows behind me. The clock ticking has been constantly reminding me that I still have lots to do with only very little time left before the day ends. But I’m glad I took the time to sit down, and write. It helped me to slow down and see this day with a better pair of eyes. Interestingly, our baby has been sleeping in my arms so I have been typing with one hand, while my other arm is feeling numb from the weight of her head pressed against mine. The song Only Hope by Switchfoot is playing in the background. My carpet is now clean and all the toys were mostly put away without me putting my feet off the coffee table.

The clouds lost the game of hide and seek to the sun. The evening smells sweet with the sun gradually setting down. The macaroni and cheese that my husband requested for Father’s Day lunch made its way back to the table for supper. It’s his day so I caved in.

Tonight he received his second Father’s Day gift enclosed in a paper bag tied with a raffia ribbon. The packaging is simple and unassuming just like him.



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