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.
I’ve loved this song for twenty years, but never owned it. I tried to buy the album when it came out, but I bought the wrong one, and since I’d already spent the money, I never let myself buy the one I wanted. I was really into playing the starving artist back then. Today the memory of the song filtered into my consciousness, with a twinge of regret. Then it occurred to me I could just buy it now. A dollar twenty-nine later, the song was finally mine. When I listen to it, I’m twenty, driving with the windows down, walking barefoot in green grass, staying up late to talk about Art and the rest of my life around a fire. It’s good to remember the way I dove into life then, how much I marvelled at and relished it. Listening now, I feel some of that old passion. I think I’ll keep listening.
Walking with Daughter from our living room to the stairs and back again. Cool air wafts in through the open door and windows. A beam of light from Husband in the office rests on the floor. The dishwasher quietly whirs the dishes clean for tomorrow. The counters are wiped clean.
Even though I’m still walking, part of me rests in the solitude of the moment. The endless “to-do” lists that cycle through my mind stop for a moment. I breathe in the satisfaction of a (kind of) clean kitchen, a day in which everyone was fed and cared for, and exhale relief.
Daughter and I are walking outside. The sun has set and evening is slowly turning to night. I’m trying to get her to sleep, though her curious eyes peeking over the straps of the carrier tell me this is probably a lost cause. Still, the air is cool and it’s nice to be out after a hot day inside.
Daughter is watching the world the way I watch a favourite movie, she barely blinks, not wanting to miss a moment. For my part, though I notice the soft pink and blue of the sky, the hopping robins and dive-bombing dragonflies, I am looking into other people’s houses, with almost the same intensity as Daughter. Since it’s hot, some people keep their blinds open and I can see bits and pieces of their lives; flashes of art on walls, bags dropped by doorways. I can even see some people, an older lady watching TV, a little girl laughing with her father. I don’t know what I love about this so much. I’m partly looking for decorating ideas. I’m horrible at home decor and I want to see what other people have done with their places. But I also love getting a glimpse of a private moment in someone else’s world. There’s such poetry, somehow, in the flickering television, the abandoned toys, the shoes by the door. I think of all my neighbours eating, breathing, hoping and dreaming and silently wish them all a good night’s sleep.