It is that time of the year again – that time when we shepherd every last tax document into a file, ushering in stragglers with a swift swat on the rump and sighing impatiently at the latecomers.
It’s the time of year that we thank the universe that we have jobs, that we actually have W2’s to chase after. The time of the year when I realize [[moan]] that inevitable disparity between my husband’s income and my own. And that time of the year when I gasp at the tiny number before me. A paltry sum that is hardly in keeping with the amount of blood, sweat, tears, guts, and effort I put on the line every week for my students. That sum doesn’t speak of the stacks of papers, the late-night lesson planning, the occasional good, long cry on the way to work listening to Wendy Wham on KUNC. It doesn’t tell of the fist pumps enjoyed on the long hike up to the upper parking lot. The fist pumps that only the prairie dogs get to see when I’ve had a particularly “rocked that motha fucka” kind of day.
But you know what else that paltry sum doesn’t show? The things that don’t have price tags or W2’s. A tall, hot French press steaming on our cracked farm table. Long golden ears trailing across my slippers as I pause to consider a topic sentence or comment on an “insufficient conclusion.” That number doesn’t whisper about the mornings when I get to sleep in that extra hour in the warmth of my tall dark and handsome’s arms. It doesn’t explain the joy of smelling the shampoo and hearing the shower crackle on while I am still in my pajamas, pondering just the right discussion questions for a tenuous literature lesson. That number doesn’t capture the morning sun hitting on the backyard Adirondacks, as we laugh at rambunctious mutts or reminisce about a wild 30th birthday that happened to be sailor-themed. The number doesn’t capture the smell of homemade pot pie roasting in a crock pot. It doesn’t come close to the residue of countless glasses of wine shared in good company (Jim and Jane aka Mom and Dad) before a toasty fireplace just a mile down the road. That number can’t explain long meandering walks in the park and the rare glimpse of a bald eagle peering down at us from the trees. And what about the snow palace I was so delighted to build on that snowy day? The hours spent patiently molding snow bricks – so patient, in fact, that my hand became cramped and sore.
And that sum most definitely doesn’t express all of the dreaming that occurs on the back steps while gazing up at the moon. Dreaming of creeping vines on a pergola, of an outdoor fireplace surrounded by friends, of lively dinner parties on a summer patio, of a wood-fired pizza oven… It’s all baked in “someday,” and can most certainly not be quantified by a number. Or accounted for in tax documents.
But if you feel it, if you see it, if you dream it, then you know. It all counts. Every last bit.