We Don’t Wish Away Time

“You know you don’t get this time back,” go the sobering, older ladies. It feels too type-A, feels like icy snowballs. I don’t need or want any more reminders of how short childhood is, but these ladies always find me.

“You can’t get it back, this age, you know. It’s already gone”. Yes, I groan, with an internal scowl. Right, and this mealtime, this cute speech where she still can’t enunciate the “er”s and he hugs, “wuv ooooo!” with a smooch. I’m already there; I know time is short.

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Where do they think we’re trying to go? Does it look like I’ve got one or two feet out the door, passport stuffed in a sippy cup, “Date Night in Antigua or Bust” spray painted on my jacket? (it’s not like I could get a babysitter, this time of day). Who says we’re not enjoying it, these days and weeks and years with the beautiful ones we’ve knelt down with to fix their cars, or suggest an alternate way to tie on wings. These are the beings we’ve birthed, reveling in their baby breath, sitting skin-to-skin. We know it’s fast.

They are the same babes who learned color and sound, heck, basic trust, with us. We flash to when they were only milk-fed and we could simply get lost and found on the shores of their foreheads, those sweet downy hairs growing in, showing me fleeting peeks at who they would be when older.

“Don’t forget” they taunt; “it all leaves you!”

I see wisps of those first day, just-born kids; they are my same people, the children who clamor into the shower and scrub their own lanky bodies. I know every tickle spot, every muscle and dimple.

Who says I’m not enjoying it, this hard, glorious, demanding work? This thing of life, this parade of time?

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It is dreadful enough to know we people cannot forever exist in these forms. The pain of a life span is already tough to swallow, ladies and gents. Of course, I acknowledge that time moves. We, women, have knelt down in birth; we know Time. We are one big circadian rhythm, in line with the moon. I know fullness and fading, gimme a break. The important things are forever, though, I say to myself. I believe in the eternal.

Really, it’s the anxiety that must go. It’s just fear. Out like soapy dishwater! Out, crooked lady lips that bark, “You’re losing them!” or “You’re too busy to be a good mom. You’ll never be relaxed”. I have a longing to flick these warnings far away! Yet, they are right, in part.

This is the truth of right now–there will never be another moment with all like this, so young. It is an existential truth. There will never again be this night, with this exact moon, the conversation, the giggly songs of my children at almost five years old and two and a half.

Every moment is a kind of love song if we sing it. How do we want to be, I mean, really be, in light of that? The world is changing; our babies are outgrowing their new clothes two hours from now. How will we speak to them? And to ourselves?

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I look at their chins, the architectural arcs, lines, planes of the beings I have known since they were little bigger than grains of pearled rice.

The magic of growing is that it is inside and out. Even now, there is growth in my thoughts and a letting go. We don’t need to hold these moments white-knuckled with fear. I realize I’ve lived this way for a long time, afraid to really exhale, afraid something monumental would change. Really, though? The whole universe is in constant change, at every moment.

Now is the sum of all moments before; it is the excitement of four-year-olds already feeling five.  Change can be wonderful for us mothers. It is the first night out after giving birth, alone or with your partner. It is the potty training, no more diapers, and first days of school, witnessing your kid buying something with her own hard-earned money.

So go on, ladies. Tell me how I’ll never get it back. I’ll say a little prayer for the grace to hold out my hands, not to squelch change inside my house. I won’t cry when I measure their little heads. I’ll high five.

It is the growing that is great, not just the staying. I’ll not drag my feet, but will celebrate. We don’t have to be afraid if we’re really living.

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Can’t Believe the Candles

Now that I’m thirty-five, I can’t believe my parents were ever this young, rather, this young and parenting. Cuz I remember when my mom was thirty-five, (and what I remember as perfect) but i feel so young and not quite there yet.

I have the stroller and bike in drive, heels and my work. I’ve got my stellar storytimes, my teaching tricks, tuck-ins that leave them wanting more, but I am so still hunting for every lost thing. I’m up for all-nighters like I’m twenty, but now see dappled sunspots and use creaky knees.

Is this thirty-five?
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Seems like thirty-five is cement. Whatever you put it gets stuck, nailed in habit. For a wicked long time. For forever as long as there is street. My scary habits are hardening as we speak, as if my birthday cake accompanied a cement mixer and the need for rich clay face masks every night following dinner.

 

Who I am, my daily love speak, my political discussions that become sarcasm, my nicknames and loud, no-way-that’s-indoor-voice banter. It’s all there on the hard drive, and barely seems pliable enough to tweak. Thirty-five is a year that gets good, but is sheer reflection of momentum and habit, it seems.

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Thirty-five is “Oh, snap”, my toned, perpetually ready for a bikini body won’t form itself. It is “Will I ever choose to play the violin again”? It is what will I show for today and this week, everything I pour in and drink up. A squashing of grapes, cup raised.

It is the season of examining the habits and what I think of before bed. Who do I want to be at thirty-six or do I dare say, forty?

My marriage, the habits of thought. My taste in clothing and perfume and color, remembering which scent sticks to me and lingers, remembering which bottle makes my husband sneeze. Where I once learned which style of eggs I preferred, now I have the quick tricks to use with kids and guests. It has all been formed and now I practice expression, how each feeling is executed, the smile as I blow out the candle.

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Thirty-five may be the best year yet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a little bit terrifying, or at least, exhilarating.

Snap, a New Sound to Growing

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Just like that, my son has stopped nursing. Rather, I stopped nursing him. I explained it in a kind of firm, empassioned mumble.

You are big, you eat so much food, even love cow milk, you are ready, my son, to stop nursing. You are so big.

And hearing it, I believed. Hearing it out loud, growing firmer as his bedtime came, I knew it all to be true. He did it, did so well getting to this point and even letting me hug him in between his cries.

And now, it is past any bedtime. I am absolved, hanging in the rafters of my daughter’s third floor room. I am restless while I should be asleep.

Her belly bare, sheets and legs twisted in the opening lines of some ballet movement. She fed him with a spoon tonight. What did I do? Videod. Relished the sweet sibling hood that makes it so three and one year old can understand each other fairly completely.

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Will he remember me looking very poured out? Tired? Or a yelping disappointment stuck in the wheels of his only two teeth on the bottom days? May we always help him move from frustration to strength and joy. I say kindness, sweeping laughter is the adhesive to all these frames and concrete moments. I say I will recall his sweet tummy growing rounder, a little puppy, how two minutes of nursing would give him two empowered hours like a mythic booster shot. I will not recall the ever-engorgement, a fever, hurting nipple pulls or teeth marks, when he couldn’t get a clear shot due to my clothes. When his teeth coming in made him uncharacteristically harsh. I will remember my baby’s love. The simply beauty that I could provide exactly his need. Mother and child fit together perfectly.

And just like that, he will grow more rapidly. I will shift. Emotions. Hormones. The speed in which it takes to link my sugary lips to spot some extra skin spilling over my jeans. Just like that, I will gather new tricks up my sleeve to comfort and quell.

Just like that, we realize we are ready.
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Eggshells and Walking

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Teeth Together Teeth

A mostly-guest-post by my three year old dearie about her growing brother:

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“Just forty five seconds
Thirty forty two 
Thirty four sixty sixty
Two and two
One two three four five seconds
That is how long it takes to be a bigger girl.

Forty six seven eight
forty two eight nine ten.

That is how long it will take my brother to become a big boy.”

Suddenly he will claim stairs marauder forts.
He will bud molars
“And I will be big enough to read books”. 
She adds.

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