My girl wakes up dizzy with purpose, she is three. Milk, toys, cartoons, toilet, toast she can’t decide, starts them all. Its barely 7:30 and the house is already a calamity in her wake. Saturday.
Someone once told me that we are born with agreements with our parents and I have no doubt that my eldest was born for her father. A good guy – my guy – transformed overnight to our man, a great man. This rebirth so quiet & profound, as a mother I admit it is unexpected to be an equal parent. She reaches for him as much as for me, always has. It is unexpected and wonderful. Some women have told me they couldn’t handle it but I can. This is how they are, each other’s. Mine. My people.
I fiddle with her shoes, trying to force them onto impatient little feet. She has grown just like that, in a day, and the back of her messy hair obscures my face, my arms can’t find the end of those long legs. She smells like milk & the salt of last nights swim, just like him.
Watching them both walk out the door hand in hand is still heartwarming. They seem to fit so well together. She turns to flash me that gap tooth grin, just like him.
The baby and I ease into a slower start, I can’t wait for them to bring back coffee so I make my own. Baby moves from one of her sisters toys to the next with such satisfaction and looks at me with a knowing grin, she would never allow this.
I pack a bag, I play a record, I tidy without any conviction, distracted by the luxury of space and security and time.
And suddenly they are back, too suddenly. He is a little white, he grins when he is nervous. Something happened. What. What happened? It’s ok he says and I know it is true because she is here and happy but something happened.
There was a man with a gun. Next door he says, they had to run but I’m not listening anymore, not really. I’m suddenly drunk on the tiny details of her being. Those green eyes that everyone thinks are brown, those nimble little fingers, that brow, always furrow. I’m dizzy with a longing I can’t quite touch, it’s not mine to reach for. They are here and safe and happy I have no right to feel the creeping dread in the pit of my stomach reserved for all the mothers that don’t get to drink in their children’s faces before the world turns black, just like that, in a day.
But I do. I feel it combine with the shame of how much I take for granted, how little I acknowledge my circumstance. I imagine how sweet a scene they made sipping coffee and sharing stories that morning. My people. You feel so safe next to him baby, I bet you weren’t scared at all. This is what all mothers wish for but its just a prayer, safe keeping an illusion that lies in the hands of strangers. To think that a man with a gun & a grudge could rob you of everything just like that, in a day, scrambles my insides.
What if. What if. What if. What if as I watch the news every night. What if on the radio every morning. What if on my computer screen. What if I lost them? What if it was me screaming wretched with grief on the front of the newspaper? Nothing separates me from those women, except a day.
I make an agreement with myself. No bad days. There will be bad moments bad moods bad thoughts bad starts bad nights but In a day I can pick myself up a million times, drink in perspective, kiss your faces and bow down to my circumstance. Luxury of space, security, time.