Father time, mother me

*I didn’t publish this the day I wrote it — on Dhev’s first birthday, but I should have. So I’m doing it now…even though it just kind of stops and I never finished it. I like it so its going up.*

The clock and I are not usually on the best of terms. It rarely says what I want it to. It makes me wait and rushes me. My own rythym just doesn’t match up with the 60 mins in an hour, 24 hours in a day thing. And that’s ok. In fact, I kind of love it. But today…today Mr. Clock had my back.

When I wake up in the morning, I hear before I see. My ears perk up and sounds start floating in, piling up, and knocking against the back of my eyes until they have to open. Then I blink, rub my eyes, and everyday for the last year, nuzzle my sweet babe. I smell his hair, touch his cheek, or just stare at him in peace. I never know what time it is. Sometimes I know it’s too early to get up. Sometimes I know I’m late, but I never know what time it is exactly. When I woke today, I had to know. I could not find that clock fast enough.

7:34am. I knew just seeing the numbers would flip a switch. I sunk back into the soft bed and let my awakened memory wander. This time last year, I was about to have a baby. 7:34am, March 13, 2012…I remembered that I had just texted my midwife. Contractions were short, but intense, and getting closer. Exactly one year earlier, I was alone, in labor, taking a bath and realizing that there was no doubt that my baby was on his way. Only then I didn’t know he was a he. That made me smile. A big, big smile tore at my skin when I remembered the feeling of not knowing yet if I had a boy or a girl. In that exact moment, a year ago, I still didn’t know.

It lasted all day today. Even though I wasn’t checking the clock obsessively this day last year, every time I saw a number today, I flew back to the moment I was in a year ago. At 9:44, I was pacing and talking to the baby in my belly. At 11:00, I was in hard labor waiting for Christy to arrive and feeling like such a rockstar. 12:51pm, he was born. 1:30 or so, he nursed for the first time. 3:00pm, we napped.

I refuse

I’m analytical by nature. By processing, cataloging, and arranging, I am able to filter my experiences into neat little files and formulate my reactions. It’s a clean, efficient system that I embrace willingly. I simply think that way. It’s me to see all sides of a story. It’s me to look at everything I come across from all angles. I’m the 3rd of 5 children, smack dab in the middle. I’m a virgo. I divide and conquer everything I come across. Emotions follow accordingly.

I simply cannot conquer what’s happening in the world at this moment. I simply cannot process what happened in an elementary school in Connecticut. Trying with all my might to process the horror, the unspeakable terror, the unnecessary fright that was felt by a small child in a small classroom, I break down. I can’t reach the point of emotion. My heart is broken and my mind can’t process it. I do not believe it happened. It didn’t, right? Please tell me it didn’t.

Friday, I was with my girl all day long. I was with her all day long at her own elementary school. I sat with her during lunch when she was whining about the mayonnaise on her sandwich. I watched from across a dusty field, clouds of fine powdered dirt whipping up and swirling in the air, as my girl sat with her classmates listening to their teacher read out loud. They fidgeted and rocked and laughed and teased and listened. I encountered babies, because that’s what they are–babies, of many ages while volunteering at the school’s annual Holiday Bazaar. Filing in and out, these little beings amazed me with their courteous, loving hearts. Their joy filled the echoing room and it boomed against the walls. Choosing items carefully from the line-up, every single child chose something for someone else. Every last one of them had space in their little hearts for someone else.

When does that go away?

Why?

Who holds onto it, and why?

I’m grasping desperately for any explanation. Anything at all that can be fixed. Let’s fix it please, people. Let’s fix it. What can I do? Tell me what to do.

I can’t have her smile ripped away. I refuse to let him feel that terror vibrate in his little bones. This will not happen to my babies. Tell me what to do to make sure that never happens.

For Autumn, an ode and a ramble

I used to think spring was my favorite season. Spring is soft, with its pastels, dewed grass, soft lace and linen singing in unison with purple robes and robin’s eggs. Most important of all, spring brings those new babies. Aw, those new babies. Honestly, they are what made it my favorite season. Them and them alone. Then I kept stumbling upon wondrous and beautiful springtime things that sealed the deal. Those babies, though, they always had my attention. Nothing’s changed.

But ya know, springtime isn’t truly my favorite. Though I crave the bright warm of the sun’s kiss on a pink morning in March, there’s something more like autumn inside me. Something lively and musty like cinnamon calls from within. Something round and full like pumpkin lurks. I need something that crumbles and crunches like fallen leaves. That same warm sun peeking out from behind a web of prickly branches, searching to pierce the cold morning, that is where my heart lies.

In autumn, textures are denser, richer. In autumn, flavors are heavy and powdered with thought. The bright colors are subdued and easier to digest. Orange is a true, rich, red orange. Brown is at its best. There is something to be said about the brown of autumn. The brown of nutmeg, clove, and old wine. Now that’s a color I can miss; and miss, I do. In autumn, there’s a friendly chill that sweeps across my arm and touches my cheeks. It blows softly on my eyelids and makes me thankful. It’s the turning that reassures me, that yes, Austin summer will end, if only to return in a few short months. It’s the polyester costumes and food coloring of a modern Halloween that remind me to let go of perfection. Yet it’s also the ancient pull from the beyond that first created Halloween’s ancestor ceremonies that ignite me. It’s like today at 6:00am; fog thick in the air, so thick I could bottle it up and sell it. If I could, I’d keep a jar of that fog in my cupboard. I’d wrap the jar in brown Gingham, and put a little in my tea every morning year round. It’s that.

It’s potential and regret in one swig of cider. The spice and the sweet that are so human and in us all. It’s how everyone tastes it differently. It’s summer behind me and winter ahead. I’m renewed. I can focus. The spotlight sun tones itself down as hangs like an enduring dusk for a few months.

It’s retreat.

Changes

Strumming guitar, wispy voice, love song. Getting carried away with a rough whistle and constant strings against fingers,

make me dance.

Violin, drum, slick and bellowing trumpet,

let me feel it.

Tangerine fruit sun, hanging low in the sky, pushing up and painting the clouds. 7am in September’s cool breeze. 61 degrees,

cool me down.

Message from a sweet friend using words like “deinstitutionalization,”

I need you today.

The flow of straw-colored bubble-filled wine into glasses as we toast a birthday,

renew me.

Happy little tree,

make me smile.

Belly laughs, sticky sweat, summer fun of bruises, cousins, games of tag, piles of limbs escaping Grandpo’s tickles,

take me back.

Knowing I’m right, clearing my conscience, peeling layers of weight off my shoulders,

keep on comin’.

Blinding gaze, two little white chicklet teeth, unconditional love,

let me see it through your eyes.

Tumbling soft flesh that cannot be contained in size 9months,

come closer.

Tender smile, lending sparkle to my girl’s eyes. Twinkling without reserve, always lurking,

never change.

Old white houses, creaking columns, peeling paint with a story. Three stories high, stick-straight green grass,

inspire me.

That sweetest of all feelings. Pink flesh, punch of blessed potpourri when I brought you to my chest and searched your grey eyes for the first time,

remind me.

Dusting off, starting over,

we meet again.

Little feet

My heart thumps. It’s pumping with all it’s might. Thump, thump, thump. The lump in my throat swells and my heart patters away. My body might burst into a thousand tiny pieces of pride and go bouncing all over the room like rouge rubber balls. What a mess. Every time I watch her on the hard wooden floor, tip-toeing to counts of eight, my heart thumps.

To many, it’s a simple thing. A small dance class. A free one, at that, housed in a small, vibrant old house, with smooth, unpolished wooden floors. This class makes my heart thump. It slows down time and amplifies movement. Every time we pull up outside, I feel the familiar pitter-patter. The sunflowers greet the blue sky. Cacti caress the pavement. To the door, Lucy runs her clumsy run. The walls barely contain her enthusiasm.

She corrects her little feet, fitting them neatly in the invisible box that they call home until the music starts. Her dance teacher presses play. Cue the violin, cue the piano. “…and walk. One, two, three, and four…” the steps are called out. With the vibrating strum of strings and the tink-tink-tink of keys, she is ignited. She walks her best walk. Leaning, sliding, tickling the floor with her bare toes. She meets her partner and takes his hand. Adjusting until she’s got it just right, she moves an inch more to the right and finds more comfortable embrace. Tango. My girl.

“….and ocho one, ocho two, ocho three, and ocho four…” The floor welcomes her swift sliding, just as it has welcomed a thousand eager and adept dancers. The air is springy. It’s warm, both in temperature and temperament. My heart’s not the only one thumping away. Bum-bum-bum-bum, bum-bum-bum-bum. I’m dancing too, inside. The music is so sweet, so punchy, so bright. It slows, it revs up. My girl following the path it leads. Little feet stop and practice again.

To watch her work at something is priceless. To watch her doubt, and then change her mind, that’s priceless. Her steps aren’t perfect. Her feet get sore and she misses the beat. Sliding isn’t always sliding, sometimes it’s plopping or clunking. Sometimes she scrunches her brow, sticks out her tongue in concentration, and clunks her little heart out. She goes the wrong way. She gets whiney and distracted. Still, the song calls to her and after a while, she slides. Little feet slide. With that sliding, my pride swells. In this little class twice a week, my heart thumps.

Floating

Life has a way of blinding us. It has a way of muffling, disguising, and rolling over the beautiful little moments. We don’t even have to be in a hurry. We wake up, brush our teeth, pick our clothes, eat our breakfasts, see our friends, and fulfill our obligations. All the while, we are missing a smile here or a giggle there. We are missing a twinkle in our daughter’s eye and a smile on our son’s lips. We walk right past bright pink blossoms. We stop looking for shapes in the fluffy clouds.

Yet we are moving forward. These things sometimes require pomp and are rightfully recognized. Once in awhile the sunlight kisses the tip of our baby’s nose in just the right place and we are prompted to pull him closer for a deep inhalation and a cuddle. Once in awhile, a beam of pride radiates so forcefully from our daughter’s cheeks, we are bludgeoned with disbelief that she belongs to us. Bludgeoned, and cannot believe it for one more second because it is too good. More often, these moments flow into one another, and pour into a grand river that carries us through our everyday lives with an underlying gratefulness and security. Soon, we become accustomed to it’s gentle wave; it’s bowing bounce of grace that cushions the hurtful times. It is during these most trying moments that I can’t help but reflect on how wide and how deep my own river of small moments has become, and especially how far it has carried me. 

In a few days, my Lucy will begin a journey. I’m begging my voice to be with her. Please, just let her know I’m always there. She will have the wind knocked out of her sails. She’ll be misunderstood and overlooked. Her faith in all she knows will be tested. She’ll be embarrassed and get her feelings hurt. At times, she won’t know what to do or where to turn.  Will she look for me then? Will she need to hold my hand? I won’t be there to tell her, “Baby, it’s OK.” My eyes won’t meet hers and reassure her. That kills me, it slays me. But once, that was me.

Once I had to find delight in the sound of opening a new book or in the feel of a crisp, sharpened pencil. Once, I had to fall on my face and stand back up. My mama and daddy’s voices were there. Mama’s saying, “Honey, you’re alright.”Daddy’s said, “Shake it off, show ‘em who’s boss!” And when I got home at the end of each day, a few more little moments had trickled down into a growing stream.

She’ll go to school, and man, will she do great. I know how she can engulf a group with joy. I’m fully aware of her ability to prance, reason, and argue her way into anything. I certainly can’t deny her sly wit or her unabashed confidence. She will be great, and I know this. She knows this. My baby will amaze me, time and time and time again. Why is it so hard to sit back and watch her do it?

In 5 years and 11 months, we’ve come a long way. My girl and I have come a long way. Carrying me all the time was a glimmering dance of light on her sleeping eyelashes and her belly full of her laughter. The hope in her smile when she asks for dessert and the soft hug she gives her babydoll are a silent reassurance that she’ll be fine. My blinders are off and my heart is open. I am fiercely compassionate. I have the gall to contemplate unjustices. I didn’t before. In nearly six year’s time, I’ve changed so slowly and so much. All of her little footprints and all of her little snuggles helped me float to where I am now.

Now, she too, will begin finding her own way. I want her to. She has always had the tools she will need. May she be carried through the rough times ahead with just enough water to keep her afloat. May she learn to notice and treasure the little gems of her history. May she not only be allowed to learn, but also to teach, for she has so many gifts to share.

Image courtesy of Nayara Megarity