4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Tim brought Mica to me last night. I was in bed.
We were watching television, the president juxtaposed against Ferguson, burning cars and police in riot gear throwing tear gas, scared they wouldn’t make it home alive to see their spouses, their homes, their children. I sat shaking my head, hand over my mouth in disbelief.
And as I turned away from the television, I saw Tim standing next to me, holding my boy, all pale flailed limbs, utterly still in slumber. Tim set six-year-old Mica in my arms. I wrapped him in my favorite soft blanket and he curled up like a snail’s shell on my lap, folded into himself. His face was entirely angelic, pale and smooth, translucent, the faintest blue where it wasn’t pink. He nuzzled into my shoulder, like he once did when I’d hold him during the night to breast feed him when he was a baby, like they all did.
Those evenings we’d sit cuddled close in whatever room was the nursery, me tucked into whichever pillows were softest and kindest at 3 am. And I’d sit breast-feeding my babies, their smacking lips and stroking fingers and fluttering eyelashes, me so tired, and them so greedy and luxuriously sated. So safe. Then I would stagger back to bed.
I’ve always wondered how my parents didn’t know what would befall them, how my mother couldn’t see the wreckage, the difficulties that awaited her around the bend. I wrote once that in those old black and white photos I could almost make out the silhouette on the ground, cast in tree’s shadows, of the plane overhead that was about to explode. That the metaphorical fuselage would rain down on her was so apparent to me in those old photos, especially her pregnant with her firstborn, my brother Butchie, who would require her care for 50 years. How could she not know? How could she not know that these things would crash down on her, on all of us?
Now I contemplated these hurting people in their faraway city, with my only literal connection, distant relatives living somewhere out in Missouri and a blogger acquaintance on the police force outside the city of Ferguson, and yet, and yet. I felt scared. How could we get through this night safely?
How could we sleep tonight safe in our beds, with translucent babies, now grown into young children, so safe and sound, 1,200 miles away? How could we deserve that? When there are all those people mostly young but some old, who can’t conceive of peaceful protest because this is not what they’ve known, peace. These people who have lost so much, or never had it, or are so tired of having it stolen away, shot away, that they’d throw a brick and light a building on fire because the plane has already crashed, keeps crashing, was always crashing. That absence of peace was always there, only now we are seeing it, writ large in flames and tear gas and a weeping mother. We all should have known. It is time to know.
I’m afraid I can’t explain this feeling of unrest. These fragile children of mine are too healthy and happy and perfectly flawed. Even my mother never had that. This could end at any moment. This will end. Life has taught me that.
So today I went to the childrens’ Thanksgiving assembly, the one where the teachers performed a song from Guys and Dolls and one from West Side Story, dancing, playing steel drums and 27 Jennifers on four acoustic stringed instruments. We sat in the front row on the floor where the pre-k and the kindergartners and the first graders sit. My seven-year-old sat on my lap and the twins snuck away from their teachers and smashed themselves close to my legs. I sat sniffing his hair and stroking their backs, holding their arms, laughing in his ear.
“This is bliss,” I whispered. “This is pure happy.”
No matter how transient and tinged with regret for the losses, I am thankful for this, my fragile, nearly translucent children, my husband, our sense of home.
This Thanksgiving I wish for everyone peace, security, and moments of such pure bliss that we can all momentarily forgive the shadows sliding along the ground before us.