It might have been high summer, the tiny daises and violet weeds speckling the lawn, or one of those perfect warm autumn days, every fallen leaf in perfect contrast to the green grass below. We were still in the strangely blurred phase of long days and longer nights and milestones measured in months. I know for sure that the sun bright, and that I was acutely aware of our small yard, vibrant with growth and change as my little girl toddled down the uneven concrete front path with her hand tucked in someone else’s. She was happy, going to the park, and did not look back.
I was standing at the sink, distracted by ordinary chores like the dishes, which occupied my hands, and the radio, which occupied my thoughts. In truth, neither was fully engaging my attention because the other things I had to do that day tugged at my mind like a toddler's insistent hand on my hem. The sort of things that require organization and coordination and result in a functioning household, but the doing of which add up to hours of time and nothing more measurable than a good dinner and clean underpants.
You may have noticed a pause in this space. A little lull. (You may not have noticed anything was amiss, and that’s fine too. Hi. So glad you dropped by.) If, however, ran your fingertip along this URL and came away with a little halo of dust on your fingertip, I apologize. I have been too quiet in this corner of my virtual and creative house. Nevertheless, here we are. It is good to be back.
Three-thirty in the afternoon. The store is busy. Kids, hungry after school, lean hard and cranky against the shopping baskets their mothers push down the crowded aisles. I watch a middle-aged guy jump the check-out line. He sees me see him and he straightens up from his hastily maneuvered cart and does a defensive ‘who me’ shrug. Hurried myself, I bite my tongue, check my list, press on. There is a tall brunette bearing down on me.
I hadn’t been particularly focused on Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance except that I happened to catch it being re-watched on YouTube by the teenager on my couch. She would not likely have been focused on Beyoncé’s performance either except that there was buzz about it, and kids have exquisitely fine-tuned antennae when it comes to buzz.
“She said, “If people are going to keep doing that, I wish I’d never been born.
I sat on the floor and held her tightly to keep my own spirit from draining through the soles of my feet. I don’t know what other mothers say at such moments; … But my children have never been people I could lie to. My best revenge against all the dishonesty and hatred in the world, it seems to me, will be to raise right up through the middle of it these honest and loving children.”
In the fresh bloom of the pre-school years, I agreed to become a member of the Board. The school was everything early education should be: they played music, hatched butterflies, went on small expeditions, little hands in little hands, a long caterpillar of wee ones in boots and coats undulating slowly along, noticing every leaf and stone.
She was applying false eyelashes to my lids. Despite my best efforts to tip my head back and stop them from falling, tears were slipping from the corners of my eyes. But she was a professional; the stiff dark fringes stayed in place. I peeked under them at my daughter standing in the center of the white room, styled and made up, poised in front of the camera like an antelope, alert, wide-eyed, somewhat out of her element.
We were driving on a two-lane coastal highway after having dinner at a burger place in town. Hoping to savour one of the last lingering summertime evenings before school’s inflexible arrival we skipped dessert at the restaurant because we wanted to go back and make a fire to roast marshmallows for s’mores.
She was the sunny cherry tomato to my shy string bean. She drew pictures, I wrote stories. We found the same things funny, but she delivered the punchline and I was the fall guy. We were a secret club of two, both of us in terrible glasses and kitchen haircuts. We were each other’s safe place throughout elementary school and beyond.
What will they remember? For a while I thought mine would recall every detail of childhood:
"No Mummy, we sat on that bench over THERE last time. Remember? We ate fishy crackers. And a bird came. I want to sit THERE.”
I was sure such specificity would translate into forever-moments. The ones I tried to savour even as we were still sitting on the bench. I wanted to remember the purity in that glint of excitement, the little extra curve to the r in the word “there”, the small fingers in mine forever.