I just wrote the other day about forgetting, losing the possession of the little ‘isms’ of this time in the girls’ lives. It’s true though, already the memories are taking on a bit of a watercolor consistency, the loopy ringlets blur, no longer dark and light, but varying shades of honey and chocolate, tilting to and fro on the back of one bouncing little head. They are one magnificent spirit in my heart, running, pants and skirts flapping at their ankles, sticks and wands raised in their hands. Or hand. The images, as I said, have blurred.
This afternoon I was testing a new approach for nap time, a Let’s try and have quiet time. If you don’t sleep, it’s ok. When quiet time is over we’ll go downstairs. Are you laughing yet? Because it failed, oh how it failed. For Avery there was not enough structure, for Briar it was incessant questioning about whether quiet time was over and if not how soon would it be over and why exactly do we have to be quiet and is this quiet enough and…you get the idea, no?
I really was managing ok there for a while. I calmly and rationally explained that this was a way for everyone to get what they needed. A compromise. Avery could take the nap she needed, Briar could avoid a nap and mom could work quietly on her computer with diminished guilt. The thing is rational holds no water for kids and calm gets lost when rationality is disputed. Perhaps third trimester pregnancy plays a role in the swift loss of calm, but I hate giving hormones all the blame.
So it was that after twenty minutes of not-so-quiet time I began to lose my cool. Why can’t they understand I am doing this for them? That this is a way for me to sit with them. Weren’t the projects enough? Why do they have to fight me? They weren’t thoughts I was proud of having, their ricochets on the inside of my head sounded whinier with each bounce. I stood to reset and walked toward Briar.
She quivered in place, so eager to have quiet time be over, so happy to have my attention and so nervous she would say the wrong thing. “It’s ok honey. Let me cuddle with you and we’ll do quiet time together, ok?”
She took a ragged breath, “Ok mama, that’s so nice,” she began stroking my face, “If I can be a good girl now that I am six and not sick anymore than we can have quiet time be done and have no bad words that get me locked in my room.” My insides tightened, not far off from a contraction, as the sweetness of her words and the confusion of her message etched a hollow in my heart, “We’ll live here, these words uttered from the lips of your first-born. We’ll be here when you sit in traffic, when you wait outside an emergency room door and we’ll be here, full of life, as you watch from a wooden seat as she walks down the aisle and into a life of her own.” I swallowed tears as she smiled at me, her thoughts far away and her worry gone.
I kissed her brow and slipped from her bed over to Avery’s. “Now it’s your turn,” I whispered. She grinned at me and athletically twisted her body over and wrapped me in her arms, “You cuddle a’me.” She began pawing at my shirt, tugging at the sleeve and neckline to get to my skin. She still reaches for my body though no longer nursing. Her fingers seek out the familiar contours of my neck, the muscle on my shoulder and the tiny mole alongside my bra strap. “Is yours, is mine,” she murmurs, a confirmation, all that is mine is hers. If she only knew. I burrow my face in her collar as the waves of emotion overwhelm me. Her slender neck, the curls that nip at her strong jawline, I can see them years from now as she runs across the track or skips in from outside. The nearness of her older version steals my breath and I wonder how I’ll make it.
I lift my head to look at her, but she thinks I am leaving, “You cuddle me a little bit of tiny?” And I am undone. A little bit of tiny. It was Briar’s. She would plead for “a little bit of tiny,” at bedtime for more lotion, at dinner time for more ketchup, at the park for more time. “A little bit of tiny.” And there it was, springing from Avery’s plump lips.
For every damning I lay against myself I find redemption in these girls. A missed occasion, an undocumented milestone a dashed hope, or a forgotten memory, each is erased by some unexpected bit of magic. New wonder trumps old pain. I cannot fathom in what ways they will ease my burden of having failed them as we navigate the days and years ahead, but I know they will. And maybe, just maybe, along the way I’ll weave some magic of my own, filling up their reserves so as they move forward in their own lives, enduring nerve wracking interviews and suffering through bad dates, they’ll hear my voice echoing from some where deep inside offering just, “a little bit of tiny” to see them through.