By the Time

By the time your child is two or four, you already have an ocean of minutes stored up in the collective. You have sat, laid, hammocked if lucky, summer thick breaths together, forehead to forehead, in dizzying fevers or on runways, taking off or landing, hot with milk.

You have lost track of time, but for seasons which hold the rhythm and recollection of words. (Who knows when they started with “Mommy” or “I love you” or “please may I have a slice of pear”). There is now and the rolling, drizzling, dizzy months of sweaters, then peeling back to T-shirts, and then sandals and bare feet, peeling off suits, and then attaching thicker socks and parkas again. How many onesies did we unsnap, blocks moseyed in the carrier, all of these automatic motions and sore shoulders.

There are seasons of growth and even loss—the ebb and flow, round and skinny of the moon in our window.

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By the time two and a half are here or five, say, there have been endless bottles taken to the curb, bottles of baby Tylenol or baby acetaminophen when fevers got too loud, too prohibitive of that luscious kid sleep every mom needs those babies to take.

Think of the scrapes, the prayers, hand holding across meadows, the roundabouts of worry, through rainbows and tunnels,  past orchards of cars. The thrill of exploration! Chest to chest carrying, a metronome of hearts. Think of rain and flurries and bowls of diaphanous noodles. You are first, your very beat and scent and breath. You are beloved, before feet-off-couch-rules and trying to eat a rainbow of veggies; there is first a raw, visceral, born from bone and spirit connection.
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First some of me born from me and all the tracking to be brave. All the desire to know wisdom. The very first time I took your hand you’d been out less than a minute. To say I need you. Of course she needs us but I need you, too. We are for each other. Needed. That’s the only way I had the courage to begin that first nursing. I was fairly petrified, but the togetherness. Handholding can be a guide.

Before and after cereal sliding off counters and toweling off vigorously after showers. At the dentist. In screaming. You are mine and I am yours. Our fiery connection branded in the first moment of cells splitting, or later, also, in teeth cutting, in the power struggles of an almost two-year old throwing down cereal, marinara,  or fistfuls of banana mush.
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Yes, by the time you sit back, there are oceans of moments accumulating, memories like fish swirling near your tired feet. Buckets of sand just waiting to be castles, molded in the discovery of who you are to each other, how you approach the word “family” and interact with these beings towering in their independence and sheer desire to be loved.
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You pour and pour and pour juice. You close eyes, foreheads touching, his fevered, peppered warmth. He is your boy, neck and cheeks still plump. You see big boy, young man, emerging like someday-freckles and a new kind of walk, maybe like his dad’s. She is music and everything deliberate. She will be a woman, every good thing stored up like rain, dancing notes out of a flute like poetry in the park.

Forever your skin has touched, molded in TOGETHER. You remember some of the getting there, this closeness. It must have been in nursing, must have been in holding, in our legs entwined. Must have been in the spaces of prayer, in the glassine wings of a dragonfly. In the giggle of tickles or in some moment of pain? Somewhere along a wall. Somewhere in a box spring or in an unraveling azure thread, perhaps on a receipt thrown out–there is or was the secret of such life.

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