Category: sweetness

“H, you have a beautiful heart.”

It is bedtime, and he is drifting in and out of sleep, telling me how beautiful and satisfying the world is, how wonderful it is that I am the mama, that grandma is the grandma, that papi is the papi. The world is like a rose, he tells me. No, the world IS a rose. Even one grain of pollen is so beautiful. If there were only one grain of pollen, it would contain beauty and satisfaction enough for him.

“How do you know my heart is beautiful when you can’t see it?”

“Because I can hear the words that come out of your mouth,” I tell him, gently touching his lips.

“The words do not come from my heart.”

“Where do the words come from?”

“Well, partly they come from my lungs.”

He rubs his torso, showing me.

“You have beautiful lungs then.”

This he seems to accept. I rub his back until he is asleep, letting each caress wrap me ever more warmly in the beautiful way he sees the world.

“You know mama, I have to tell you,” he said, and I braced myself to hear how he never wants to brush teeth not ever and least of all right now, because we were at that point in our program and resistance is de rigueur, but instead he continued, “ I lost my job so I need your job, but we can share.”

And we were back on track. Sometimes all it takes is a non sequitur to lighten the mood during teeth brushing, and a lightened mood can make all the difference.

“H, you are a really, really wonderful person,” I told him.

I make it a point to say things like this, apropos of nothing, at least once a day, usually as we are lying in bed together at night. “You are important to me.” Or, “I am really glad I get to be your mama.” Or, “I am so glad to know you.” Or, “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” Things like that.

“Oh, yes,” he said, “And I matter.”

He’s been listening.

H crawled into my lap at the dinner table the other night and snuggled into my chest. I exhaled slowly and pulled him tight.

“You are my sweetest heart,” he said.

I closed my eyes.

These are words I say to him, and how sweet it is to have them make their way back to me.

Bright yellow rain jacket and dark brown cords on bright yellow swing. I push. H swings. Yellow on blue. Yellow and brown on brown. Yellow on blue. Yellow and brown on brown. Push. Swing. Yellow on blue. Yellow and brown on brown. Like a metronome. My breathing matches the rhythm. For a moment, this is all there is and all there needs to be. Yellow on blue. Yellow and brown on brown. Yellow on blue. Yellow and brown on brown.

“Wrap H up,” he requests as we walk home from the grocery store. The lengthening winter nights have crested with the Winter Solstice, but it is still middle-of-the-night dark at 5:30pm. I pull H into my ams and wrap the edges of my down coat around his body. Street lights send yellow pools of light down on us, illuminating our path at intervals large enough that they do not drown out the dark.

“H is cozy,” he tells me. He pushes his arm down into my sweater.

“Hi, H,” I say.

“Hi, milk. And hi, mama,” H replies.

“I have to tell you something,” I whisper to him.

“I love you,” he whispers back.

“Yes, I love you,” I say. I can feel a hum of joy filling my body, and I close my eyes to make an etching in my heart of this moment.

I want to keep it as a balm for the quiet sadness has settled in my soul these past days. It is a sadness for which I have plenty of explanations, but instead of analyzing it or thinking the feeling away, I have invited it to sit quietly with me, carrying it as gently as I carry H. I am hoping that this sadness will reveal its lesson in time or simply ebb into the vastness of the universe when we are both ready to part. Until then, we travel together, the sadness, H, and me. Perhaps the extra companion is what makes this ordinary moment glow especially warm. The weight of a growing toddler in my arms, the warmth of his small body pressed against mine, the playfulness with which he approaches the world, the dearness of his voice, the whispered I love yous, these tiny sparks shine especially bright in comparison to the darkness of the path I have been walking.

I notice the joy jostling with the sadness to make room for itself. I notice both feelings settling in my body. I notice that that both can exist simultaneously, that there is room enough. Perhaps this is one of the lessons the sadness is here to bring. That the heavy feelings will not consume me, that it is possible to feel all things at once, that remaining alive and open to the present moment, even though it can bring enormous pain, means experiencing more joy than I ever knew possible.

The nights are shortening and the heavy darkness of winter will soon give way to a light that will stretch itself into the the nooks and crannies of a beautiful city. Maybe it will be that way, too, with my soul.

“Mama, did you do a great job cutting the pear,” H said to me from his perch on the counter, pear slice in hand. Although his verb placement indicated a question, his cadence suggested a statement.

“You think I did a great job cutting the pear,” I said, knowing he would correct me if I got it wrong.

“Yeah.”

“Thank you, sweets. That is a nice compliment.”

I matched my reaction to the intensity of his delivery. It was hard not to burst into song while jumping up and down, but I managed to keep it to a big smile.

I think this may be my first compliment from him. It felt good.

We were outside tonight, bumping up against the hour of H’s bedtime routine. The coming together again after a short separation, the warmth of the sun on our skin, and the softness of the early evening light tugged at us to stay, so we did, stretching our good fortune by unraveling the garden hose and playing with the cool spray of water showering from its nozzle. H held the hose as I turned the spigot, and he caught me with the first spray.

“Mama get wet,” he laughed, as I ran to get out of water’s way.

“Yes, mama got wet,” I said, laughing, too. The sticky, sweaty heat of the day had given way to a gentler warmth, but still the water felt refreshing and nice on my bare arms.

H turned his attention to the hose, shaking it up and down and turning his body this way and that to direct the flow of water. His mouth and eyes were open wide with delight.

“Mama get wet some more,” H implored.

“Yes!” I agreed.

I counted one, two, three, and ran through the misty spray just as if I were 12 again and on the front lawn of our house in Fisk, running through the sprinkler on a hot, humid Wisconsin summer day.

I ran through our makeshift sprinkler three, maybe four more times, and something about our laughter mingled with the water droplets and the warm Seattle summer air and being out later than we usually are pulled me into a deep nostalgia for my own childhood. I was transported behind the shed, one of the juiciest, most daring places to hide during games of Ghost in the Graveyard that lasted well past sundown; to the metallic, fresh smell of summer rain hitting the gravel on our driveway; to the seat of my blue Schwinn bike, pedaling with Jenny S. around huge country blocks that penned in fields of corn and alfalfa; to the railroad bridge we sat on, drawing on its concrete supports with chalky rocks and dropping stones into the water below; to a time when I was young and carefree and unmarked by the inevitable pain and suffering that visits us in life.

I stood back out of the water’s reach and studied H playing with the hose. A deep longing to memorize the moment came over me. It is a familiar desire I have, the desire to somehow capture in a jar the quality, presence, and sights and sounds of an experience so that I might have some tangible reminder of it forever.

My jar, if I had it, would tell you this: There was the comfortable warmth of a mid summer evening, and there were rhododendrons, an oak tree, and dirt and asphalt. There was a woman that, when she thought of it, felt surprised by somehow having reached middle age. There was a young boy with a hose. He was 33 inches tall, wearing a red hat snapped up on the sides, its red string pulled taut under his chin. His collared, short-sleeve grey knit shirt had a blue line drawing of a fire engine. The blue, yellow, and green plaid shorts he was wearing did not quite match his shirt, but he pulled it off with aplomb anyhow. Light grey socks cuffed over once peaked out of lime green and midnight blue shoes strapped on his feet by velcro. They were size 6 1/2. He was filled with playfulness and joy, taking delight in the simplest thing, a garden hose, as if it were the only thing to do. He was in the moment. It may very well have been the only way he knew to move in the world at that time. He was perfect.

Through the spray of water between him and me I saw a rainbow that danced as H moved the hose, growing larger and smaller depending on the water’s relationship to the sun and the tree branches behind us.

My jar, if I had it, would contain a beautiful summer moment, perfect and complete just as it was, the kind you want to linger over and then savor long after it has passed. My jar, if I had it, would be one I would take down from the shelf at the end of every day.

“Oh, baby,” I say as I pick H up to rock him. We are in bed, heading into what I sense is the final stretch before sleep.

“Oh, baby,” H repeats.

“You are my baby. You will always be my baby,” I say, gently laying him back down on the bed and kissing his nose.

“H always comes back,” he replies.

“Yes, mama always comes back,” I say. It is something I have said to him often, almost every time I have left him for any length of time over the past two years. I think this is what he means to say to me now.

“H always comes back, too,” he says, and I realize he said what he meant to the first time. He is telling me he always comes back.

I wonder if he can see right through me, right into my heart. I wonder if it means it comforts him to hear those words from me. I wonder if he knows that it might comfort me, too, to hear those words from him. I wonder how I got so lucky to be parenting this gentle, sweet soul.

H and I are in the bath, chatting about his upcoming birthday.

“H is almost two,” I tell him.

“H almost two,” he tells me.

“H is almost two,” I say.

“Mama almost two,” H says.

“Mama is almost two?” I ask.

“H almost two. Mama almost two, too,” H clarifies.

“H is almost two. Mama is almost two, too,” I say.

“Mama almost two, too,” H confirms.

I think for a moment about telling H my actual age, but decide against it. Instead we carry on like this for a while, playing with words and enjoying the fact of being almost two, both of us. And then I realize that, in a way, he is right. I may have lived many more years on this planet, but I am, as a mother, almost two.

H is almost two. I am almost two, too. Happy almost second birthday to both of us.