When you are just that tired. When all you want is to curl up with a book by the fire and wait for all of the other fires in the world to go out. When day turns into night, which turns into day and the dishes demand to be put away, the laundry washed, the lunches packed, bills paid, appointments made, and it feels like you are the maid. Only instead of getting paid to clean this mess you get dressed and go to work just to find all of this other work still waiting when you get home.

So you warm a bowl of soup, spread peanut butter and honey on bread and sit at the kitchen table reading the mail instead—ads, ads, and, if you are lucky, a magazine. If that doesn’t work, bake chocolate chip cookies. Or skip the mess. Eat chocolate chips straight from the bag with a handful of nuts. Wash them down with a mug of tea—Rooibos or mint, depending what the mood may be. Sweeten the cup.

Call a friend up, even though she probably isn’t free because she’s working too. And you haven’t seen her in so long, you might not recognize her at the store, covered by a mask, carting extra pounds from the long, lonely winter. Which makes you wonder, how long has it been since you had someone over?

Your ten-year-old son turns eleven in three days, and you haven’t invited anyone. Do you throw a party, socially distanced, somewhere outside? The weather looks iffy for sledding, so you might let it slide. But a boy turns eleven only once. And it is his childhood you are building, like a house, and how can you possibly fill all those empty rooms when you are so empty yourself?

The children spill downstairs, ready for school—or not—with missing socks and mismatched clothes. You gather everyone around the stove, pour cereal into bowls, fill thermoses with soup, read a few pages together from a book. Then bow your head. Take a breath.

But all of the work and worry scramble together like eggs in your brain, and prayer won’t come.

So you ask, “Who has a song?”

Children shrug.

Your mind flashes back to when you were the age of your birthday-boy son. Sitting on a hill, the camp leader taught you a song—first in English, then in a language you’d never heard from an island you’d never seen. So you sing, “This is the day. This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

And you remember that this day—this one and holy day—is a gift that will never come again. Custom made, it is offered to you with all of the dishes and laundry too.

Life is a choice.


Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.