Today they are testing the fire alarms in our building, so I am driving Daughter in the car for her nap. The sunshine lights up the trees in brilliant reds and golds. The road is smooth, turns are effortless. The rear view mirror frames Daughter’s round little face, turned to one side, with her closed eyes and sleepy pout.
I think about the weight of the life that I’m holding in my hands as I drive her around. Her dependence on me feels heavy, but it’s a weight I can handle, one I’m happy to carry. I’m glad to do this for her, and to have this moment of quiet with nothing else to do but watch the smooth lines of the road and glimpse the trees from time to time.
A lazy afternoon on a lazy day. Daughter is lying on the living room floor, happily pawing at a rattle. Son has just finished his afternoon resting time. His snack, peach and blueberries, sits on the table undisturbed. Usually he would inhale this snack in a matter of seconds, but instead he makes a bee-line for Daughter.
“Don’t you want your snack?”, I say.
“I want to cuddle with [Daughter]”, he says.
He lies down next to her. She looks up and tries to grab his face, but he stays there, quietly, out of reach, just watching her. She smiles at him. I watch them and try to imagine them four years from now, when Daughter is Son’s age. I hope they get along more often than not. I hope they dream and scheme together. For now, I’m glad for this rare moment, when they’re both happy at the same time, together.
The mid-afternoon sun is hazy today, which gives the day an orangey glow. The park is on top of a hill. I can see a river and hills beyond. Looking at the view, seeing over the trees, I feel freer, like I have more room to breathe.
Son has the sandbox at the park all to himself. He’s right in the middle of it, excavating and building sandcastles quietly, totally absorbed in the task. Grandma and I are sitting with Daughter on one side of the sandbox. Daughter is content, sucking on her bib, watching Son play.
We start talking about a boy who threw sand in Son’s face. Son asks Grandma for a story about when someone was mean to her.
Grandma tells Son a story from when she was about his age. She had a friend who was sometimes mean and sometimes nice, and one day she walked home from the girl’s house and the girl tried to stop her.
I think of Grandma at Son’s age, and how just a little turn of the dial made her my mother, and another turn, Son’s grandmother. I think how similar we all are, despite our apparent differences, wandering in this wilderness, trying to figure out what it all means.
Son goes back to playing, Grandma cuddles Daughter close, and we sit together some more.
Son is having a meltdown. It’s the end of the week, it’s hot and it’s right before dinner; all a recipe for disaster. Grauntie (Great Aunt) is visiting, it’s time for her to leave and he doesn’t want her to go. We’ve been trying everything to help him through his tears, but his feelings are big and they keep welling up.
Finally, we sit on the couch, me on one side of him and Grauntie on the other. I say, “let’s love you up”, I kiss his sweaty head and Grauntie joins in. I’m not sure if he’ll push us away. It’s hard to tell what he needs sometimes. But, he’s facing me and I can see him relax, see his dark eyes start to sparkle. Then Grauntie tickles him gently with a little stuffed sheep and makes a funny noise. Son starts to laugh. His laughter is bright as sunshine bursting through dark clouds. All of us breathe a sigh of relief. The sheep tickles me and I laugh too.
Today it’s the weight of the blackberry I held before bursting its sweetness on my tongue. It’s the hour I had to myself while Daughter napped and Son was at school. It’s the sweet kiss from Husband after dinner, before kids’ bedtime. And the cool air coming in our screen door after a hot, hot day.
Son is kneeling on his chair by the table. His eyes are focused intently and he’s breathing through his mouth, like he always does when he’s really concentrating. I’m gently holding a carrot on the sides so Son can pull the vegetable peeler down the length of the carrot by himself. Son’s dark brown eyes contrast with the carrot’s bright orange. It’s the first time he’s done this. Right before this moment, I gave him a serious talk about the sharpness and danger of the vegetable peeler. He’s trying hard to do a good job, to be careful. He pulls down gently and a perfect length of peel comes away. We both exhale.
Son has wanted to wield the vegetable peeler for at least half his life. It has remained stubbornly out of his reach until now. The way he holds it, turning it gently in his hands, looking at it from every angle, tells me how satisfying this moment is for him.
I think about growing up and how so much of it is just waiting for our bodies and minds to catch up with our desires. I know for Son, that wait can seem endless sometimes. It’s nice to be here with him when he can finally grasp something that’s been out of reach for so long.
I feel like an accomplished home-maker today. After a week (or maybe, ahem, a little more) of letting the dirt win, I managed to vacuum and clean the stinkiest toilet. I mostly hate cleaning, but I’ve been basking in post-cleaning bliss all day. If life were a movie I would have spent a good thirty seconds twirling, arms outstretched, face to the sky, on my crumb-free floor. They’re such tiny accomplishments: a stinky toilet and a bit of vacuuming, but so incredibly satisfying.