Friday, February 25, 2011

I Can Still Carry Him Up the Stairs

Last night, I cooked. I so enjoy cooking but I don't do it often, and often I wish I could sequester myself in a private kitchen where no one could find me whilst I cooked. Sigh.

Anyway, last night the evening air hung cold and damp. The kids and I co-existed in this warm, kitchen cocoon. Heavenly scents hung heavy in our space. I made lemon chicken, and it sizzled in the big stainless pan. I got to the part where I juice the lemons (the kids adore this part) and Abby yelled,

"Mommy, can I help you squeeze the lemons?!?!"


"Mommy, can I pwease have a wemon I can cut?"

"Sure, H, sure. Go wash your hands."

So, Abby squeezed lemons and Henry cut his lemon half in preparation for eating. He used a table knife. Suddenly he yelled,

"I cut mysewlf!"

Boy howdy did he. With a table knife, he sliced right into his sweet, plump finger. Blood drip, drip, dripping. Henry is fairly stoic, but this cut freaked him out. So I mothered, cleaned, washed, bandaged, wiped tears. Rebandaged.

Then we ate, the kids and I. Abby frantically shoveled in her favorite meal before leaving for a school event. Henry, wearing his favorite silly monster pajamas (which are beginning to seem ill-fated), wasn't hungry. His finger "huwrt". He retired to the couch and covered up in the family-favorite fleece sherpa blanket. I finished furiously cleaning the kitchen and Abby left.

The house was silent.


No answer.

I found Henry, half-way to sleep under the sherpa blanket, already drooling. His blond hair already bed-heady, his cheeks flush with pending, interrupted sleep. It was only 6:30 pm. He wakened slightly, enough to ask me if I remembered the time we had caterpillars that turned into butterflies, which we released into nature. Then he mused that the butterflies were probably dead now. (As I've mentioned before, he is the King of the Non-Sequitur.)
As I perched on the side of couch, I watched him. I rubbed his head in that way that a devotee rubs a worn talisman or good luck charm. I hoped by physically handling the brief moment that I could indelibly brand it to memory. Before the inexorable sweep of the second hand took it away.

I offered Henry a cozy bed and an endless basket of bedtime books. He raised his arms, intonnating that he'd like a ride upstairs. I abliged. The house sat silently, the padding of my wool clogs the only exception. Henry then sleepily chattered about his "fingwer" and how well the advil was "wuhking". He held the offending finger high, like a beacon to the sky.

I carried all 42 pounds of him up the stairs. We entered the dark bathroom and stopped. His fuzzy monster jammies, which have glow-in-the-dark stars, faintly lit our space with their luminescent glow. We stood, heads together, in the dark, gazing at our private garden of stars. The combined concoction of warmth, peace and Henry's intoxicating scent kept me still. With Henry, in my arms. Forehead to forehead, soul to soul.

We climbed under flannel sheets and I began to read. Henry nestled so tightly next to me, our breaths existing in unison. I made it halfway through the Velveteen Rabbit and stopped. Henry slept. The night light, like an evening sentry, cast its own soft, watchful halo across Henry's cheeks. Oh those cheeks. And those lashes, resting just above. I stared. I stayed. I soaked him up.

As I padded back out of his room, the coldness of the house slowly enveloped me. I turned back, once more, took one last look and finally, closed the door.

I know that these fleeting moments...flee. Being able to fully experience them sits intrinsically in knowing I'll never be able to replicate them again. I just don't know when an everyday occurrence, which I might not appreciate, will suddenly become the last. The last incorrectly spoken word. The last time I can easily carry his solid body up the stairs. The last time he thinks I hung the moon in the sky, just for him. The last time we star gaze together. Lasts. My anticipation of the lasts may indeed crack my heart open, exposing a vast plane of apprehension. A mixture of subtle grief surrounding the recognition of time's passage.

Perhaps it is this inky awareness that provides the very canvas by which I can distill these moments into my soul. A dark canvas which beautifully exhibits the tenuous relationship between remembering and being. Between darks and lights. And I offer this platitude: I must have the darkness of lasts to appreciate the light. The light of the forward movement of time. Of firsts.

Today, I've indelibly imprinted the following: the scent of lemons, glowy stars and a sleepy body, close to mine. All while precariously straddling the tightrope between lasts and firsts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Metaphors and Roadsides

Yesterday, Henry and I drove to the grocery store. Periodically, I'd pull over to the side of the road to snap photos. Henry said,

Mommy, why do you keep puwwing over and taking pictures?
Because, I answered, I keep seeing beautiful things.

Things that used to speed by but lately, I've slowed. I took photos of the rustic beauty: of trees. Of light. Of shadows. I feel interwoven with the stalks, the snow, the chipped bark and barren, regal branches. I'm reminded that I'm just one part of this majestic, pulsing world. I sit in wonder as I consider the seemingly barren tree, bubbling with spring and fecundity just below her winter's casing.

Winter landscapes inexorably mesmerize me; while I absorb their beauty, I feel a carbonated gratitude bubble through my being. Nature demonstrably exhibits resilience and fragility--one of life's paradoxical metaphors. One which I identify with so, so much. Strong and weak. Driven and lagging. Inspired and flat. Up and down.

Just like life.
Just like me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Sunday morning. 9:45 am.

Locals filed into the bagel joint. The air sat heavy with the scents of just-made bagels, bacon and hot coffee--a warm respite on a biting February morning. Hungover 20-somethings, young families, older couples, and our clan.

Our weekend had been filled with the familiar and comforting company of old friends. We decided on an impromptu breakfast out and half of us were still clad pajamas. Abby in her Merry Christmas PJ bottoms and Henry in his silly-monster-footy pajamas. Both sported their slippers--a very special treat, indeed. We settled into the comfortable din of the morning, enjoying decadently delicious bagel treats. (Is there anything better than a bagel made on-the spot?)

Suddenly (as it always seems to be), the kids expressed their immediate need to leave:

I'm so firsty, Mommy. I weally need some to dwink. Fidget, jump.
I'm sooooooo thirsty. Spin in a circle.
I'm ready, Mom. Mommy???
Mommy, can we go now?

Drinks were gone and it was time. Since my friends still ate their meals, I asked them to stay and enjoy their tasty bagels while I took the kids to the car. Hubby ventured to pay the bill. The kids waited for me by the front door. I grouped butter-soaked napkins into a neat pile. I adorned my Nanook-of-the-North floor length down coat and began to gather our strayed belongings from the dinged, Formica table:

A half-eaten cinnamon raisin bagel wrapped in its crumpled foil wrapper
My coffee cup
A notebook
A hand-drawn picture of a man "with weally, weally long hair"

My huge bag hung over my elbow, opened to receive each item. Plunk, thud, thud each fell in, joining the crumbs, receipts and cluttered subculture of my purse. The restaurant continued to hum.

Peripherally, through the smudged restaurant windows, I saw it. A blurry flash of very familiar silly-monster-footy pajamas. I saw the blond bed head. In the parking lot. Running. A car approaches. A dark, salt-covered, winter-dirty car is driving. Right. Toward. Henry.

The din of the diners fades. I hear only the deafening, maddening thud of my heart.

I can't quite breathe. A black time warp threatens to swallow me away from the parking lot. I'm moving but I feel as if the tiled floor suddenly became three feet of wet sand. Time speeds and stalls. I'm moving in slow motion. I'm flying.

The car?

Their momentum continues, my eyes glued to the unfolding scene in the parking lot. Outside my reach. Outside my control. Outside.

I finally reach the door. Through the glass, I see his face, cheeks bitten red by the wind. His eyes cheerful, he and his silly-monster PJs obliviously run toward his sister. As I whip open the door, the cheap, metal bells crash against the glass, colliding with each other. The wind whips and rattles the local advertisements taped to the door. The wind holds the restaurant door open a bit too long, chilling the watchful patrons. Cold air crashes against my face.

Henry now safely stands next to his dumbfounded sister. Abby stands next to Henry in stunned silence. Terrified. Her pink cheeks flaming against her pale, frighted face. She understands the significance of what just almost happened. She's now old enough to comprehend. Her eyes and hands tremble. Her eyes tentatively search out mine.

The car sits in the middle of the drive--its driver and passenger also dumbfounded by a pajama-clad four-year-old frolicking, alone, in the parking lot. My eyes meet the driver's eyes. I sent my silent thanks:
for paying attention
for driving defensively
for seeing him
Thank you. Oh, thank you.

Large, lazy snow flakes fall around us. I turn to Henry and crouch to the salty, snow-stained black top. My long parka splays out around me. It's bright blue color in jolting contrast to the black hole I just left. I shake with terror. Pulsing relief, anger and desperate sadness threaten to swell into a tsunami of raw emotion and hot tears. I grab Henry's arms.

Our eyes lock. His blue eyes stare into my bulging, raw eyes, decoding all emotion simmering there. He wants to look everywhere but at me. He knows. My words, staccato and sharp, puncture our silence:

What you just did was so incredibly dangerous.
You CANNOT ever leave ANYPLACE without Daddy or me.
Why in the world did you think you could run in the parking lot?
Do you know what would've happened if that car hadn't seen you? Do you? I clench his arms in a desperate attempt to physically imprint my words into his being.
I am very upset. I am so sad because if that car had hit you...
Oh Henry.

My heart threatens to surrender to the almosts. The what-ifs. Alternate, dark endings clog my brain.

Henry rings his silky hands, working one over the other. His silly-monster-pajama-clad body safe. His blond bed-headed hair tousles ever-so-slightly in the raw February wind. I exhale. A shallow, slow exhalation, jagged and raw. Like the wind. The tears, they come. The murky, dark pit of almosts and what-ifs in my stomach? They stuck around. Heavy and leaden. For days.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Flawed Abundance

The last weeks I've slowed the pace of life, allowing time for gratitude, being, and total occupation of a moment. This deliberate, languid pace quieted the cacophony of thoughts and actions usually clamoring for my attention:

Rush. Do this. Do that. Orchestrate. GET IN THE CAR!!! Must do...Should do... Hurry! Oh shit. Hurry faster. Whirl, swirl, rush rush rush.

It's easy to continue to speed along, living on the facade while not delving into these inky, vital, churning masses. My new awareness makes the practice of being present easier and softer. More natural. I've seemed to step off the maddening swirl, creating a tapestry deep in rich nuances and emotions, allowing me to do the living and exploring that needed to be done.

As I've cultivated this slower cadence, any previously ignored or brushed-aside parts needing attention percolated to the surface. A collection of assorted subcutaneous themes (which, for me, usually reside just below the frenetic pace of life) actually gained voice and traction.


At any given time, I help and guide my children. That's a given--I am their mother. Conflicts come and go. We talk, resolve, hug and regroup. With my newer, slower approach, however, I've quieted long enough to truly explore feelings and nuances where before I didn't necessarily allow enough time to delve.

Currently, my sweet daughter Abby is unsettled. The underlying, inky source of her conflict? Moi. More specifically, her perception that she isn't getting enough of me. She's been temperamental and short-fused. Sassy. Traces of disappointment and unease shadow her usually clear blue eyes. Luckily, she's started to master her ability to articulate her frustrations. While I applaud her ability to express herself, I must admit some of her observations are fairly biting. Like...

Mommy, I feel like all you do is text and tweet.
Mommy, you're always on your computer.
Mommy, when you're always on your phone, I feel like you're not taking care of me.


And you know what, she's right. My phone is my constant companion; it blings and pings and I slide that baby open, reading the current tweet/text/blog/email de jour. As a result, I'm only giving her part of my attention. I've created a situation where she feels she needs to vie for my attention. She's starving for me. And competing with my phone.

This is not okay with her. It's not okay with me. She wants and deserves solid, undivided, full eye-contact chunks of my attention. Her perception IS her reality. And therefore, mine. Her disappointment is palpable--her emotions raw. As for her perception that I'm not taking care of her--well, my first reaction was, That's preposterous! I mean, who does she think puts all the clean laundry in her room, the laundry fairy? And prepares the meals and drives to school and activities...,

but then I looked beyond her words and soaked up the message infused between them: I haven't been fully present in my moments with Abby. As a result, her foundation suffered hair-line fractures and I needed to patiently repair the damage. With patient explanation and gentleness. And time.

Luckily, I had it. This slower cadence I've cultivated allows time. Time to excavate and explore the ruins of a parental mistake. Time to create a cavernous space of possibility--allowing the dissonance to sharpen in brilliant focus. The priority? My daughter.

The steps I took to address Abby's concerns were neither novel nor inspired. Merely obvious footholds of problem-solving. I mentally created computer- and phone-free time. I let her be the one to end conversations. I allowed her be the first to end a hug. My epiphany lay in the novelty of my approach--I allowed space for the clamoring discord to have its rightful spot in the bright spotlight. Traces of Abby's doubt still linger, holding to the edges of her newly bolstered belief in her mother's love. Gratefully, I now see a returned brightness in her eyes.


A woman, a mother, must stoke the fires of her own life. She must craft solitudes to fill her parched soul. I do this. I've gotten really good at this. But in the process, I've created an imbalance. Probably because I left myself thirsting for so, so long. And now, I must restore equilibrium--that precarious balance between my needs and theirs, constantly recalibrating, tweaking, stepping-back-to-analyze. The elusive balance is never easy; and it is forever shifting. I know that if I completely plunge into their lives, I lose myself. If I immerse completely into mine, I lose them.


I read a glorious poem this morning and the following words resonated with salience:

Stripped of causes and plans and things to strive for, I have discovered everything I could need or ask for is right here— in flawed abundance.
(From Mark Nepo's poem, Accepting This)

My deliberate cadence allowed my flawed, cracked abundance to shine through. For this, I offer supplications of gratitude. For in the quiet magnitude of a moment, I learned the simplest, most profound lesson. Slow. Down. Listen. My hope: that the brilliant, humbling clarity will carry me through.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Sick Lair

I got smacked with a great winter bug. Sore throat, feverish/hot/cold and total and complete lack of brain synapse. Yesterday, I lay on this couch all day long.

Today: second verse, same as the first.

Instead of pretending (like I'd do in the past, I'd keep going, all-martyr-like, until I made myself really sick), I spoke the truth. I. Feel. Awful. (And look pretty awful, too.)

And my real-time angels keep offering the most decadent support:

"I'll pick up Henry from school and bring him home for a play date".
"I'm going to the grocery store. What do you need?"
"Honey, you go to bed. I'll put the kids down."
"Mommy, can I do anything for you?"

When I returned from driving the kids to school this morning, I found a treat bag full of magazines, chocolate, vitamin drink and sunshiney-yellow, we're-here-to-cheer tulips.

Instead of resisting the love and support of my friends and family (I'm fine, I can do it all), I fell, open-hearted into their healing sustenance. I said,
"Yes, thank you, I'd love that and so would Henry."
"Would you please bring me a pint of Hagan Daas chocolate and a rotisserie chicken?"
"Thank you, love, I'll do just that."

And I did. I went to bed. And slept, A LOT.

And even though I'm still sickly and curled up in my sick lair, interestingly, I feel lifted as I lounge, supported. Saying Yes to help is a really, really good thing. Saying Yes to support is as healing of an action as I can imagine.

My lack-of-power brain and I are signing off now. Cough. Sniffle.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Like a Warm Hand

I procrastinated. The words ached to get out but I told them "not yet", "just a minute". I ran the washing machine. I put away toys. I made myself a sandwich. Now the washer has stopped, and begs me to take out the wet clothes and transfer them to the dryer. I ignore her pleas.

The winter scape sits patiently outside my window. Aching to be lauded and appreciated. I watch the gorgeous everything, begging for my attention. I turn inward, back to the bubbling words.

I gain a sense of order and calm when things are....orderly. And calm. But those words, in my head? They started hopping like overheated atoms. Pushing against my brain, spilling out, whether I had the foresight to place them onto the paper, or not. I ignore the washing machine and the winter white wonders so I can stay here, with the words, with the security of my computer to capture the words as they tumble and fall.


In a myriad of conversations with friends (both spoken and written), their words, salve-like, normalize my human experience. As I live this life of mine, I yearn for connection and solace in a story shared, a communion of experience. Whether it be a friend sharing the spirals of a rocky day or me submerging into an article or book, nodding as the writer eloquently shares her story, their contributions shine lights on my own wobbly, imperfect, human path. I bathe in the comfort of knowing we all share the sameness of humanity: perfect imperfection. Their words delivering their own unction, unifying me with others.

I read Katrina's beautiful piece sharing the bumps in her path.
I read Amy's incredibly liberating piece about The Witching Years which so tracked my emotional feelings I thought, perhaps, she'd tapped my first five years with my children.
I read Lindsey's words about the conscious presence and acceptance of life's everyday gifts, packaged in unassuming wrapping. And about Grace.
And Christine's constantly inspiring posts about her journey through depression.

Like a warm hand, slowly and lovingly extended, the words of these brave women sprinkle grace into my life, easing the pain of experiences by knowing I am not alone.

Again, I say: this sharing of life normalizes the human experience. Today, as I was gearing up to write (yes, procrastinating), I decided to read Dani Shapiro's latest blog post. Predictably, her words resonated with insight. I happened to look down and see that she'd responded to a comment I'd left on a previous post, one she wrote about Exposure-- writers sharing our intimate details. I commented that even though they make me nervous, I find that my grittiest posts are the ones that seem to resonate most with readers. Dani replied,

"Sometimes, what we think of as the "grittiest" may well be the most universal part."

Yes. Oh my yes.

With all of our varied chapters and moments, we all share in a common experience. Being human. Once I lifted the shroud of secrecy from my experiences, I found peace. And acceptance. The liberation in sharing and finding kindred souls along the way, also living their own versions of this universality, delivered grace. And connectedness. The beginning was so scary; peeling back my protective layers of perfection, and stopping the masquerading forced vile to bubble in my stomach. It felt like a powerful vise gripped my lungs. I felt the fear and did it anyway.

I can now look back and see how much fuller my experiences could've been if I could've only fully felt the extent of what was really happening. If I could've embraced my realities instead of cohersing, editing and hiding behind the mask. And I try, while embracing this lesson moving forward, to not judge my younger self. I know she did the best she could.

As I sit with some parts of my life still ensconced within me, I know that more words and other memories beckon, aching to be released. My hope that I can soon share the fullness of my story. And I sincerely hope that in that parlaying my heritage, those very dark, inky reaches of my history, I will ease the path of another. I know with certainty that I will ease my own. Baby steps. I've still so much to share--sharing that will undoubtedly further connect me to this pulsing, kinetic human experience. I'm working up to the day when I share my entire story. All the grittiest parts.