It was one of those days— biting my tongue when I wanted to respond, stumbling when I needed to soar, snapping when I meant to soften. I called the YMCA to find out about open gym and told Sean I wanted to take the girls. I was going to cleanse the day, smooth away the guilt with unplugging and refocusing. Yet the first thing I did upon stepping through the door was to bark at Briar to get out of my way. My cheeks burned as shame washed over me for responding to her excitement to see me with rejection.

Biting back tears and a scream I told the girls we’d be going to the gym to run around. It is not an exaggeration that I needed this excursion to remedy way more than 60 minutes of anything had any hope of doing. The girls gleefully scampered about gathering shoes, coats and wondering if they’d need swimmies, jump ropes or backpacks. “It’s just a gym, girls,” I said as I dug around for pants. “Is there a playground? Or a pool? Or toys?” the big girls asked. “Go a’mimmin, mama? Go a’mimming in da water?” Fin asked hopefully.

I took a deep breath, promised myself that once we got there they’d be instantly transformed into enthusiastic little gym-runners. Fifteen minutes later we walked into the gym and the walls shook with the sound of teen age boys bouncing basketballs. Briar’s face was devoid of all color, Ave was slumping into a pre-tantrum crouch, Fin’s eyes were darting around for a place to hide and Sean’s face clearly said, “This is a colossal failure.” My heart sank.

“Come on girls, let’s go play,” I chirped. Briar began to cry and Ave said she didn’t want to. “I don’t think they can be here, Amanda,” Sean said to me in a stage whisper. I began to ask why but yelped instead as a cart of balls careened my way. Sean ducked out the door and the girls followed. We were standing in the hallway, a heap of forlornness, frustration and panic. When a friend walked by and mentioned she was going to the “family yoga class” I almost jumped into her arms.

Family yoga! Perfect! I dragged the girls and Sean to the room. We removed our shoes, grabbed mats and I quietly chanted, “Please be good, please be good.” The instructor was an easy going mid-30 something woman who was completely undeterred by the tumbling, squealing and just-shy-of-chaos shenanigans of the kids. After a few minutes she began leading us in simple poses. Briar, back straight, mouth set with determination and eyes locked on the instructor, took to it like a fish to water. Ave wove in and out of willingness and insubordination. And then there was Finley.

Sprinting in circles, scaling my prone form, darting to the equipment room, clutching barbells and declaring, “Missed you, love you soooo much, I do.” Sean maintained an uncharacteristic calmness, this sort of public misbehaving usually sends him reeling. I lowered my head and took a deep breath as she lead us into balasana. Briar and I bowed obediently and blissfully as Fin and Ave continued to demonstrate flagging interest.

No one ever turned a judgemental eye, so when Sean stowed his mat and shepherded the little girls out it was more preemptive that reactionary. Briar and I carried on with driven faces. My leg trembled as I stood in tree pose, Briar to my right, giggling but standing tall and steady, was radiant. “Look at Briar doing Vrksasana. Great job, Briar.” The praise lengthened her spine and I could literally feel the pride coming from her taut little person.

I glanced sideways to search for Sean and the little girls outside, but saw nothing, so I returned to the positions. Ten minutes of unmitigated oblivion followed as I allowed myself to release the responsibility, worry and preoccupation of dinner, activities and guilt. Guilt. Gone. Briar and I moved our mats to prepare for the close of the class— a song and a time of reflection.

Savasana and Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole. Our instructor asked us to relax and move into Savasana (corpse pose). “Sometimes kids want to cuddle on mom or dad’s chest during this move, that’s fine.” I thought maybe Briar would, instead she took a very studious approach, focused entirely on our instructor, I reached my hand out and as it touched hers, she loosened her fingers and laced them within mine.

Well I see trees of green and
Red roses too,
I’ll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself

My body loosened, my fingertips traced the surface of Briar’s hand. My eyes burned as I found my way back to Briar, my firstborn. My amazing first daughter that took my breath more than five years ago, lay beside me enjoying an experience with me in a way no other person ever has before. Muscles tested, then rested, and engage, then released, our hands touching.

“Take a deep breath. Trust that you are safe. That you are loved. Feel the light of life, joy and love around you.”

I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying, I…I love you
I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,

Tears coursed down my face. I walked down the aisle on a hot June afternoon 15 months before Briar was born, Sean waiting beneath a pergola, as three dear friends sang Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole’s version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” My ears quickly filled with tears as Briar’s little fingers squeezed mine. A peaceful, enduring bridge between parent and child. Each breath I drew was ragged and relieved, a love and peace as pure as anything I’ve ever felt.

On a Friday night at the YMCA I rediscovered  my center and my meaning.

The light within me honors the light in you.

My family, my light.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow