1. The growing
“Tell me more about sea turtles being born, ” we glide under bright 9 am sunshine. She requests more poetry, more evidence to learn who these turtles are. What are and are not mammals? She did not hatch from an egg. She was fed breastmilk.
We scoot to school, in what first begins as my expression, “We’re off like a flock of seagulls!” No wait. Turtles. We are a flock of turtles, maybe, excited but traveling slowly. “You know,” I say, “Turtles are perhaps the slowest creatures on earth.” She thinks snakes, maybe, too, but we imitate them & remember their speed. We think fast; we don’t miss a beat, but notice all the puffs of hydrangea, orbs of spring dawning mid-summer.
I talk about how turtles hatch from shells. We talk reptiles, feathers and scales, how marine biologists will study a mother sea turtle and protect her and her eggs from harm, a little bit PETA and a little bit doula. We speak of their middle of the night hatching, their hard journey to water, the soft tread of their mini fins through thick sand as they ping themselves over what must be Rocky Mountain hills of sand.
(And I think everything we do is new).
We muse how those babies depend on moonlight and how cars & streetlights & store lights mess them up, confuse and muddle their infantile inner map.
(And I think how many times I’ve been fooled, wincing in floodlights, thinking them the moon).
Not only that, but other animals may want a midnight snack. Wow, so many odds to beat before they are even born, then the trek to water, to waves, and survival in black depths.
There are certain impossibilities in moonlight, a growing need for safety. I am back to looking at me. You know, I cannot even read the news. The realities of humanity seem, some nights, all shark and no minnow. Was there always this much famine? This much rape? Floods and disaster? This much need for Light? Yes, it must be that we’ve always needed our Creator and the model of Strength in the arms of a hug.
2. A Delivery Room
I push us from school, home. We loiter outside the barber, the old couple and their pet Red-Ear Slider turtles sitting, trying to claw their way out, standing on each other’s heads. They are funny, eliciting laughter and yelping observations from the kids. I see them as sad, all cooped up in Tupperware. Where is their jungle? Their pond? Their basking rock in freshwater? I know. They are just turtles, but I see them trying trying to get out, wanting to use their shell and test their speed.
We hang up towels, untangle our drippy hair. I learn of my student today. Our Nagisa passed away.
I think of our book about the seahorse and all his friends who hold on to the eggs, to their future babies, some in their mouths.
At the end, we giggle at the absurdity that is Mr. Seahorse, that is the animal kingdom, depending on the animal. Off he lets his babies go, just as soon as they are hatched. They must let go. Kariin looks like she’s heard a joke when Seahorse turns away from his kids. “No way, I wouldn’t be ready yet”. Such a story; to a three year old, it begs for a smirk. It is ludicrous. A long-shot joke to be without one’s parents.
I think of Nagisa’s mother. She was a mother. Now there is sorrow. A life, a house, a schedule ripped from the walls. I don’t understand how nightmares can remain in the day. I teach my group of girls, her friends, this Wednesday and we will all think she is not absent. It will be tough to breathe right. And I am deciding certain things–ways of being, not just what I say. It is Sunday night. What must her mother be doing, wringing out her heart with her hands. What will she do? How do I climb the rope bridge to carry comfort. She must be slumped. Eyes crying, wringing out.
See, there are so many, too many, ways to lose your kid. Too many sadnesses. What I am getting back to is that this life is way too short for timidity. If I am to love my students, love my kids, I must love big. I must not leave room for unspoken, unacted-on things, but move with the discerning warmth of the sun. It’s time to swim with my kids and let all my senses in. It’s time to speak encouragement and dig up the seeds we let languish in the just-good-enough, crappy field. Put it somewhere needed, somewhere great. I want to hug all her friends, hold tight her mother and invite myself in, pound out what was her life. I can picture her thoughts, her habits like air bubbles. Everytime I leave school and stand under the ginkgo trees, I wonder was this the route she took home. I want to find out everything to bring her back is the thing.
3. Collecting Oneself
It’s time to pick up my kids, to go past where all the schoolgirls are finding out. It’s time to open the hatch on heartfelt things, on tears, stethoscope over heart, fingers on wrist, and life into veins. I have a need to find a planetarium. I teach my girl about galaxies. I am sick of the ills of this world.
I didn’t plan on telling my daughter about death. It was going to be my secret for a long, long while because who can tell their baby…people can get sick and that’s it. That sometimes our prayers are lovely and heard but…the body is weak. I didn’t even want to tell her about the mean queens and witches in her books. We were going to skip pain.
I was going to outlaw these words. But I cannot shield my own face’s emotions. I cannot teach her empathy and the kind of love that hurts when others hurt and loves when others love if she only thinks folks pray for trivial things, for missing earrings and tummies to not ache. This is a world that needs sensitive three-year-olds to look and CARE, to learn prayer without ceasing, to wait on good news! There is shadow because there is light. Quiet is quiet because we know loud. Night time is when we rest with the moon, rest in reflecting the sun.
4. A Chariot
She looks on her sweet nail beds, sees the candlelight flicker from braided Havdalah light. We hold our nails up, to witness light reflecting on our very skin, our cuticles, on our life. And we are commanded, also, to notice shadow. The shadow signifies light, so we are standing in the middle of where we need to be like a giant sun dial. We move together, newborn turtles who trust, still, that light will bathe us and take us towards greater things, to the salty foam of sea.
With the close of Shabbat, the tips of our little nails, there is the next day and the need to sleep, too.
I pack up for Monday students, the diapers, shirts, and sheets for my little kids to sleep on at school.
I wonder what will keep me from chewing my nails. What is to keep me from letting the light in. Perhaps nothing.
It is like how that time I hatched chicks in my classroom; our hands turning eggs, holding them to the lamp.
Which one will change, which one has passed, unfertilized. Later, the smell of eggs warming in their incubator, wet chicks using their toothed, pecking beak. It would be terrifying if you couldn’t already imagine them fluffy, walking around cheeping.
Today my baby boy drank cow’s milk and I went to bed with eggshells in the sink.