Monday, June 13, 2011

Ties That Bind

We pulled into our driveway and parked. I got the grocery bags and made multiple trips into the house with them. In and out, up the stairs and down, open and close the door. I got back to the car and found Henry, still sitting in his car seat, staring into the air. I stood just outside the door of our blue minivan. I bit my tongue. My usual strings of sentences ached to pop out, Come on, Henry, get out of your car seat. Come on, hurry up. UNBUCKLE. Get your things. Come on, come on COME ON!


This time, my words stalled, dissolving on my tongue. I don't know why I was able to stop. Typically, when the mental list of To Dos swirls, I cannot stop its throbbing beat. Maybe, on this day, I was able because we had no pressing plans. Or maybe I just got lucky. Instead of issuing my usual litany of instructions, I surrendered and slowly lowered my head to rest it on top of his. Striations of dappled, warm sunlight danced around us, holding us in a sling of suspended time. A dry breeze blew, capturing Henry's boyish scent and distilling it around us. His blond hair tickled my forehead. I rested. He rested. Henry was still. We were still, together.
The light, stippled through the variegated cornucopia of green leaves, made silly designs on our bodies. The sun poured warmly around us. I felt the shift--the shift from mental minutia to this life, this now. I felt the swell of the sacred and its enormity caught in my throat. Our connectedness felt primal and familiar--like we'd been here before. And of course, we had.


Our very first connection was an umbilical cord which gave life and oxygen and nutrition. Just five years ago, the contractions racked my body, coursing in synchronicity with the Earth's pull. Just five years ago, Henry was born.
I planned to have an epidural--the anesthesiologists merely awaited the word from my doctor and nurses, and my doctors and nurses awaited the word from me. Hubby went to get a huge shot of caffeine and I lay in my hospital bed, contractions rushing me like tidal waves. As the pain ricocheted through my body, my finger sat poised to push the button to call them. But I waited. Something stopped me--a primal urge to connect with my body, the inherent power within me to grow and deliver a life. I hadn't been able to experience this when I delivered Abby so this time, I waited. My body coursed with the primitive synchronicity of life. I felt at that moment more connected to a bigger world than I ever had before. I was plugged into it all. There. Participating in his arrival.

I finally asked for (and gratefully received) my epidural.

When he arrived, time stopped. It was him and me. With the umbilical cord cut, we experienced the first severing of our first bond. A first of many partings and meetings. I didn't know then, on the day he arrived, that our relationship would morph and reconstitute so many times.

The shift from nursing to formula. From milk to solids. From my feeding him to him feeding himself. To now, when I'll be upstairs and hear him in the kitchen below, food bags crinkling, while he rummages for his own sustenance. I know one day, when he lives his own life, I will yearn for the crinkling of those bags.
The bonds of our physicality change and morph daily, coupled with conjugations of emotion to continually tether us. This evolution of the relationship between mother and child, particularly thismother and these children, forces me to ponder the future. I reflect on my adult relationship with my mother. The physical distance between us now makes my heart ache for that inexorable, future parting of my children.

I know that the shifting occurs, in small, almost transparent bits, daily. I live within these evolving parameters of our life. First nights in their rooms. First sleepovers. First weekends away. And then, firsts of their young-adult lives will barrel down upon us. I know that our future points of connection are unpredictable but when these blissful blips come--10, 20, 30 years from now--I will lean into them with a fierce gratitude and faith that they will continue.


The night before Henry's fifth birthday, I sat on my deck. I sipped my gin and tonic (double lime, please and thank you). The winds played their melodies on the leaves, each different green and shape yielding a rapturous, natural cacauphony. The sound was reminiscent of waves rolling onto the shore. And I'm reminded of the powerful waves that signaled the arrival of Henry. These waves of wind signaled the arrival of this now. On the undercurrent of those winds flew vestiges of time past, five days ago when Henry and I sat in the driveway, locked in our moment. And five years ago, when Henry joined me on this journey. Together.
On that evening, the world felt so big. Carbonated gratitude bubbled through my veins. I peered out into the western sky--the palest robin's-egg blue tinged with the silvery promise of twilight. The silhouettes of trees, leaves, pine needles and branches punctuated the horizon. The wind continued to roll, playing the symphonic hush of night. The decadent scent of a neighbor's bonfire hopped onto one of the wind streams.
Right above me, in a room on the second floor of my home, a still-four-year-old Henry slept. Almost five years after his birth, our physicality still continues to shift, to roll, to morph. On the eve of his birthday, bricks and wood separate us only physically. Our lasting ties permeate, radiate.

Far off in the west, an airplane heads east, glimmering in the last remaining rays of daylight. A soft hush of supplication leaves my lips. A whisper of contentment. A nod to the extraordinary union of all that is. Henry. Me. The world around us. I relaxed into the tapestry of it all.

The sky slowly lost its pigmentation and deepened in its simplicity. Charcoal swirls of night formed where the sun left its vacancies, giving billing to the delicate silver crescent moon, subtly glowing. I got up from my perch and walked through the night into my home.


Before I go to bed each night, I always check on my children. This night unfolded no differently. I padded down the hall in my socked feet, guided by faint strains of night lights spilling their glow onto the hardwood floors, groaning at my late-night intrusion.

The night arrived cool--in the 50s--and our windows were open to the night. First I kissed Abby, cozy and zonked in her hot pink bed. Then I opened Henry's door. I lay down in his bed next to him. For the thousandth time, I studied his blond-tousled hair. I cupped his round cheek, I stared at his long lashes.

An achy pit of not being able to remember this moment grew in my stomach. Maybe missing something before it is even gone is a good thing--a mark of reverence and insatiable gratitude. So I did what all mothers do--made myself an empty promise that I would remember it all. His scent. His quirky word choices. His heart.

I knew that now matter how I tried that these details would one day fade. I knew that despite my noble efforts I might not be able to conger the silkiness of his skin. They would escape my memory like fog. I awoke, an hour later, to Henry's face just inches from mine. He slept. My arm was flung over his chest, rising and falling with the cadence of his breathing. His knees were tucked into my stomach. Together. Connected.

I kissed my four-year-old one last time. Reluctantly, I got up and padded back down the hardwood hall to my cool, crisp white sheets. The memory of Henry at four already fraying at its edges. I slept.

The next morning, I awoke to Henry's beaming face inches from mine, proudly holding up five fingers.
I'm FIVE!, he smiled.

I reached over to him, and held his free hand. It was still silky. I breathed a sigh of relief. I know, I replied, I know! Happy Birthday, sweet boy. I brushed his hair from his eyes and returned his smile.

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