Turn, Turn, Turn…


turnturn

Summer is gone in a flash, like lightning it is bright, hot…fleeting. Raising children, there are times when every moment seems to pass at this lighting speed. There are also times that seem to stretch so long in an eternity of torture that you begin to wonder if you are the punchline in some cruel joke. When you are raising a child, time is precious and boundless and finite and endless.

Tomorrow comes fast on the heels of today. Tomorrow my five year old becomes a Kindergartner, and even though he has been to pre-school and made friends from strangers and coped with new situations and learned in a group setting before, this is still a new and unknown adventure.

There are all kinds of mothers in the world. Some moms work outside the home. Some are crafty. Some pre-cook meals and freeze them and some are just fine with pizza three times a week. No one way is guaranteed to produce a happy, whole, well-adjusted child, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. But there is one instinct that I believe all mothers will understand.

The instinct to protect.

We all know it is best for our children to learn to cope with stress, to handle conflict, to problem solve. We all also know the best way to lose weight is slowly, through diet and exercise, but we all secretly hope that three day cleanse will work just as well and faster.

The radical, rule-breaker, fist-fighter inside me wants to redo elementary school alongside my son, creating a shield of rebellious protection. The mother in me doesn’t even want to argue with her. But the woman who had to learn the hard way that you must fight your own battles to truly have won, she is the still small voice — less amusing and less passionate, but no less correct. She reminds the other two that they must chill, they can’t beat up the world no matter how much they may want to, and in the end, the best thing for the kid is to just hang back and hope.

Every stage requires letting go. The baby stage, when they look at us like we are the only thing in the whole universe worth acknowledging: gone. The just walking, talking, eating everything, making up words, laughing because you blew a bubble and wow that’s the best: gone. The I can do it, pitch a fit when I can’t, still let you do it because I got bored: gone. The I really got this, back off: gone.

Children move in and out of moments like lightning, too, their faces alive with the glow of newness. And over and over again we feel them slip from our fingers, tearing at the scabs on our hearts. Eventually, we recognize the sensation. The tugging at our grip. The pressure to give some space. It comes from them, it comes from the world waiting for them, and even, sometimes it comes from us.

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We can be Zen about it, we can kick and scream, but still we are stabbed in the heart by our own offspring. We welcome the wounds. We revel in the pain because it means we are doing it well. Tomorrow my son will go to Kindergarten and I will smile and cheer and walk away no matter how much it hurts, and all the tears I want to cry will happen in the car ride home, because even though all I want to do is grab him and run, what I have to do is let go.

 

 

 

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

I am a little late today in posting, but there’s a reason…I didn’t have time this morning and I was sleepy last night. It was night, and I sometimes operate on the schedule of a three year old. I have a three year old, so this is valid.

What I’m Reading

Currently about halfway through Defiance by C.J. Redwine. I want to like this book more than I do. I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me, because books I would normally obsess over aren’t cutting it. I’m finishing the manuscript I’ve been beta reading and loving it, actually more than the published books I’ve been reading. This is a huge compliment to her, but also I think it speaks to the freshness of her idea. So…that’s exciting.

What I’m Writing

More blogging than normal. This week is the first week since sending my book to agents at the beginning of June that I have felt the itch to get back to work. Right now, my goal for writing revolves around plotting, but there is a story I think I’m going to begin working on — slowly as not to scare it away – that I will probably develop for a while. It’s a horse of a different color and will be a beast for me to write, I think. Also, I feel the sequel to my book has a beginning forming in my mind, and I’m kind of loving it —in theory. That will probably happen next week.

What Inspires Me

Taylor Swift songs. I am thoroughly embarrassed by this and turning an unflattering shade of pink right now. I can’t actually tell you why I began listening to her, but I would like to account for it with creative license. There is something deeply Young Adult about her music. Something that evokes the emotions of later adolescents so easily. Also —the catchiness. I mean, I’m not 22 but…sometimes I feel it.

Teens sitting on ratty carpet in a circle. There’s something about being cross legged on the floor surrounded by your friends that makes you forget you don’t want to talk. The acting/writing workshop today was all about the screen test and how you pull an idea out of your ass. When we opened the floor up for discussion, there was a noticeable sigh. But one kid started talking, and before we knew it, they had decided (almost unanimously) on a jumping off point for their miniseries. Plus, watching their faces, observing their mannerisms, the interactions they thought no one noticed, the excitement they poorly concealed, was fascinating and throughly educational.

What Else I’m Up To

My son is slightly high-maintenance. He’s smart as a whip, and that translates to him intensely and single-mindedly running the day. Right now, he is fascinated with math. Adding and subtracting on a basic level, counting from a random number until he can’t count any higher, puzzles.

I am not math person so much, this makes for interesting conversations. He gives me dirty looks. A LOT.

Trying to catch up with friends.

Painting walls in my house that looked like some dirty-palmed urchin came along and used the wall as a canvas for his filthy art.

So…what about you?

The Power of Love

I fell in love with a turtle this week. That’s a strange sentence, and not one I ever thought I’d write. On Wednesday around noon I was coming home from working out and getting my hair highlighted (I know, my life is so hard, but before you throw tomatoes at me, it had been six months since I had the time to get my hair done. And I’m a marshmallow, so work out machines resemble torture devises to me.) when the corner of my eye caught on something moving in the grass by my shoe.

A baby turtle!

Without thinking, my husband and I gathered him up, and made a makeshift habitat out of tupperware and river rocks. We discovered the little guy is a red ear slider. Aquatic by nature. We live on a hill surrounded by woods. We have a mostly dry creek bed, because Texas has been in drought, but no real natural source of water anywhere close enough for this turtle to be coming from or trying to get to. There had been a storm, so our thinking is that the turtle was washed up into our yard and then got lost.

(OK, you don’t need to know all this. I do have a point. Bear with me.)

Needless to say, my husband, Sam and I have spent the last four days getting the turtle set up in wondrous aquatic habitat. Sam named the turtle Scout, which is his favorite name. We worry over the little thing like he’s, well, not a wild turtle I nearly stepped on, but a sudden, welcome member of our family.

The turtle hiding underwater.

The turtle hiding underwater.

We love him, for some reason, and we feel responsible for keeping him alive. He’s just a turtle, you say? He is, but that doesn’t change the fact that his tiny swimming self is worth loving.

Love is funny. It is quite possibly the most natural physiological and emotional reaction in life, and yet human beings are terrified of giving themselves over to it. No matter what kind of love it is. Love is dangerous and powerful because loving something or someone means they have some measure of control over you. They own a piece of you.

Even Scout, the turtle. Scout the turtle has the place in my heart reserved for amphibians. I didn’t know there was a place there for those, but unexpectedly there is. Scout has it.

We are so afraid of the pain of love, of the losing, or the hurt that can be caused by loving that it becomes very easy to shut off your aching heart from feeling it. Your mind from opening to the possibility of it. Your body from releasing the rush of adrenaline and oxytocin associated with the fierce instinct to protect. Rather, we numb ourselves. Or we lessen the validity of the emotion in order to protect ourselves from the possible, and often, eventual pain of losing something or someone we love.

As a mother, I gave up that right when my son was born. The daily anxiety I feel associated to Sam is tantamount to tiny panic attacks in my heart. As a wife, (7 years today!) I have no choice but to feel the fear and longing of being inextricably bound to another person. The last time I was free to wound myself without it affecting another person was…never…because before my husband and Sam, it was my mother and father.

Love is treacherous. Those you love take root in your soul. The power of love is supernatural, it binds and breaks and saves. It’s an incredible thing because it is the foundation that lives and worlds are built on. Pretending love has any less power than it does is sticking your head in the sand. Being capable of loving when you understand its power is superhero work.

So, I love a turtle. His little life has bearing, even if it’s small in comparison to my other loves, on mine. I accept that. When we love things — whether human, animal, aquatic, or other — we must acknowledge their power. Writing words is a love in my life. My nieces are loves in my life. God is a love in my life. My five brothers are loves, and those married have wives I love. Best friends, old and new…and so on, forever.

Loving gives them the right to need you, to want you, to take your time and energy, and very often, to cut you deeply. If you don’t love, and you don’t understand the potential in loving something or someone more than yourself, then you miss the fruit of having them love you back. Of having your son wake up in the morning, run upstairs and tell you you’re beautiful when you know —right then — you’re not. Of having your husband hold you when you’re crying because you just are and that’s enough of a reason. Of so much more that makes life, actually and only then, worth living.

That’s…the Power of Love. Happy Arrested Development Premier Day and my wedding anniversary. A special note to some other wonderful couples who got married today as well: Jennifer and Darren, Allen and Mindy, Violet and John —May 26th is Love day!

Chapters End

Credit John Maxwell's Writers Refuge

Credit John Maxwell’s Writers Refuge

My relative radio silence for the last few weeks may seem a little odd. No, it’s not that I was sequestered in my writing cave, hunkered over a desk sculpting words like clay. I have not been deathly ill with an exotic disease you can only contract in the Amazon jungle, therefor indicating I was in the Amazon jungle and that’s why I wasn’t writing.

It’s only that we have been preparing for a major life change and so I have been quiet. I have been waiting to share until what I was sharing was less transparent-like.

About a month ago, my husband and I made the decision to move back to Texas. This was a hard fought choice. When we moved to Brooklyn almost two years ago, we were babies with a baby. We had no idea how significant this move would be in our lives.

And we have cherished, sometimes begrudgingly, the chance to live in a city most people only dream of living in. As I said in my “About” page, moving to New York changed my perspective on what kind of writer I was going to be.

It made me a writer.

The challenge of living here, and the bursting creative energy that is New York City, was a force behind the novel I am now revising for publication.

I am thankful to New York City for her help.

Now I have to go. It’s hard to say exactly when we knew the time here was coming to an end, but once we knew we made the move. We’ve always been this way, and I hope that never changes.

Over the next weeks we will be packing our apartment, finalizing details of our move, and waiting in earnest to see the purchase of a new home come through. I will try to share as much of the transition with you as possible.

We want to send out a very heartfelt thanks to our Brooklyn friends. The life we have had up here has worked because you guys found us and we you.

If you look at life like a novel, (and when you are a writer of a novel, everything becomes comparable to the writing process) you see that chapters don’t end without connecting to the next. Backstory, action, characters woven through the narrative, create the overall arc. Nothing is random, and nothing ends. Until the end anyway.

What I’m trying to say — and maybe not saying clearly — is that this is not a goodbye. This is a turning of a page. A chapter that leads to another chapter, and the work I’ve done developing my life in Brooklyn, will not be scrapped for revision.

This move is not the beginning of a new book. It’s the continuation of my family’s story arc.

My husband and I watched Battlestar Galactica for all four seasons. (I must be careful here, because when the BSG comparison floodgates open, with the waters come my longing.) BSG was a show that completed it’s arcs well. It built a meticulous framework, filled it in, roofed it off, and then landscaped it.

What I learned from BSG (besides some new curse words) was simple: everything is connected when telling a story. Every story must be filled with peaks and valley’s, comings and goings, location changes and losses. And in the end, every part of the story matters equally. If it doesn’t, it wouldn’t end up in the final draft or make it through post-production.

I intend on keeping New York a part of my life for years to come. I intend to have to because of my career. And I expect it not to be long before I am visiting. (And crashing on above mentioned friends couch/second bedroom.)

Now on to the wild lands of Texas again!

Pending the signing of a Warranty Deed and funding, my husband and I will once again be homeowners. So I leave you with the wisdom of Stewie Griffon and whatever you are able to glean from it.

Road Trip Wednesday: #164 If I had a bookstore

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic is: Imagine you get to open your own bookstore. What would it look like? What kinds of books would you sell?

My son got present obsessed during Christmas, a totally normal and completely enraging pastime for three year olds. After the initial panic that present time was over wound down, Sam began to ask, “What present do you want?”, whenever he got bored. Whoever was around had to answer him, and then ask him the question in return. His answers range from a Spiderman bounce house, to a trip to the moon, to a puppy, etc., etc., etc..

I felt the only appropriate way to answer this was by looking inside for what I would have wanted as a little girl. Other than a window-seat and “to be a Newsie”, there was one lingering, unattainable desire I carried. Upon introspection I realized, I still carry it. So I said, “I want a library.” He furrowed his brow at me, “A library?” I grinned. “Yes, like the Beast gives Bell.”

The truth is, I have always dreamed of a room with books lining walls. When I was in my early teens the movie You’ve Got Mail was released. I wanted that bookstore. That home for books, where quirky people found not only a wonderful new companion made by words, but also answers and true friendship.

This makes me sound like a romantic, which I guess I am, to an extent. Or maybe I’m an idealist. Maybe my fantasy bookstore only exists in a movie, but it’s a fantasy, so that’s OK.

recycled

source: Mary Beth Butler

books

source: Project Vinyl

In my hometown of Denton, TX, there is a wonderful place called “The Recycled Bookstore”. It’s housed in the old Opera House, and jammed full of thousands of books, vinyl records, DVD’s and even VHS’s. When I was young, I thought the place was haunted. My friends and I would go there to get Nancy Drew books and search for wandering spirits.

My bookstore wouldn’t only be about the books, it would be about the atmosphere. It would be a place to go, not just to buy. It would be a retreat from the normal world because that’s what books are. Books are our way to more.

The other day Sam came to me in the kitchen while I was cooking. He and his dad had been playing “store”, and he had bought me a present. In his hand was my library.

read library lights

All I Want for Christmas, Part Two: To Believe

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I was not raised to believe in Santa Clause. My parents didn’t want to perpetuate a tale I would only one day discover to be false. As Christians, there was the concern that if I believed in Santa because they told me he was real and I found out they lied, what would I think about God. The logic is pretty sound, even if ultimately believing in God comes down to more than what your parents say.

My husband wasn’t raised to believe in Santa either. I don’t think his parent’s reasoning was a defined, I just think my husband and his siblings weren’t that interested.

Even though I didn’t believe in Santa as a real person, jolly in the North Pole with a gaggle of elves and flying reindeer, I loved Christmas. It didn’t hinder the mystery or inhibit my imagination in any way. I was, as you can probably deduct, a head-in-the-clouds type already. I didn’t need any help in that department. I loved Santa Movies. I loved my parents. Getting a present from them was more valuable than getting one from an imaginary fat man. (My dad has been silver-headed and heavy set as long as I remember.) I loved the manger story. I loved Christmas trees and Rudolph movies.

Sure, there was always the compulsion to tell an unwitting friend who did believe that it was a crock. In fact, when I was eight years old, I remember conspiring with a Jehovah’s Witness friend at school (who was slightly bitter about not getting to celebrate or believe herself) to break the news to our doe-eyed comrade that her parents were scamming her. I also waged a campaign that year for my Jehovah’s Witness friend to have a birthday party. I had a finite sense of justice. Not right and wrong — as is made clear by the fact that I did end up souring Santa for my naive friend — but justice. I also spent a lot of my time in trouble that year, and most years to follow.

This is a roundabout way for me to tell you my husband and I had decided not to do Santa with Sam. It wasn’t even a consideration in my mind. Up until this Christmas, it wasn’t a consideration in Sam’s mind either. But things change.

As you know, Sam is obsessed with Superheroes. My family is kind of hardwired for fantasy, so Sam’s existence in the Marvel Universe (or DC) is not shocking. He is drawn to the imaginary, the fantastical, the beyond-our-own-reality. Which is why, when his cousin told him Santa was real, Sam believed.

Much to my chagrin.

When he told me that Santa was coming on Christmas Eve and bringing him a Flash costume (The DC Comics Superhero) I was irked, but trapped. I couldn’t tell him no. I couldn’t sit a three year old down and say, “Sorry, honey, Santa isn’t going to bring you a Flash costume, because Santa isn’t real.” I’d rather not think about the psychological damage, or the fit, they would ensue.

Nor do I see the point in it. He has chosen to believe. Isn’t that what we want our children to do? We want them to make choices about their faith, or how they exhibit their faith, and it’s not up to us how that plays out. One day, he’ll learn Santa is a myth. (At which point I will direct him to his cousin to place blame.) Right now, his belief is a joy to him. It’s an expression of his willingness to accept the magic in the world, whether that magic is real or imagined.

I have chosen to believe many things in life, some with tangible proof, and some merely because I want to. Choosing to believe is a lifelong dance. I value these simple choices for Sam, these choices made by easy faith, and I revel that he is learning the tools to make greater choices one day.

Santa may not be real. Santa may not be my first choice. But it was his. And the Flash costume we ordered from Amazon that came in the mail yesterday will have a special note from Santa, written in handwriting oddly similar to Mom.

All I Want for Christmas, Part One: Planted Feet and Palms Pressed Together

poinsettia
This is the second Christmas in a row we’ve spent in Texas, when we actually live in New York. This is our second Christmas setting up a tree at a house that isn’t ours. Hanging stockings on a mantel above a hearth that’s not our home. This is the second year of feeling transplanted, up rooted, and disjointed at the Holiday season.

It’s our sons third year of life. His fourth Christmas. My son doesn’t remember the first Christmas he was on earth. He doesn’t remember the snow, or our little house with the white fireplace and the tinsel strung throughout. He can’t remember that for his second Christmas I didn’t want to set up a tree, so I bought a little silver one already twined with lights and plugged it in. He doesn’t know that last year, I hated Christmas. I had no spirit for it. Right now, my son sees a mom determined to be jolly. I’m the mom who took him to the shed behind her uncles house in the darkness, the light from Sam’s flashlight illuminating the path, to haul in a box of Christmas decorations she’d packed away when we moved. He watched me arrange tinsel strung garland across the mantel of a house that isn’t mine. He helped me hang ornaments, some deeply sentimental, in the glow of a lighted tree I didn’t pick out from the store.

We are living a divided life. Our family in Texas, our work in New York. We fly back and forth in airplanes as if we were driving across town in a car. Setting up a tree for Christmas, hanging a stocking, lighting a Hanukkah candle, these things become more important when your life is so confusing.

The Mayans may have been wrong about the world ending today, but it is not wrong to live as if it still could. Because it still could everyday. Mayan foolishness aside, our individual worlds, and the world as a whole, is not guaranteed tomorrow. Life is a complicated game we play, it’s a battlefield you can strategize but never fully control. I played the game of RISK once when I was babysitting a friends son. He was a master strategist at six years old. When we were setting up our campaigns, he explained I had gotten lucky. I got continents that work easily together. My battlefront would be more united because I wasn’t operating from a disadvantage created by previous misunderstanding or skirmish.

This was a pretty layered examination of the RISK world, six year old or not, and something I still think about many years later.

We are in a strange time. A time where we lose things and where we find new things. A time where we hold close those we love, and where we have to be willing to hand them off as well. The Holidays tend to make reflection difficult. It’s more common to be caught up, to be hustled and bustled into a credit card meltdown or a gift giving coma, but a gentle easing on of glasses over eyes for examination may be the prescription for the ailment of this peculiar season.

On Tuesday I took my son shopping in Denton. We went to the Square, which is filled with locally owned shops stocked with simple and personal presents. My son was wide eyed as we walked through the stores. He was picking out gifts for cousins and grandmas and Daddy. And I let him. And it was amazing to observe his choices. With every gift we bought, he reminded me why it mattered to buy in the first place. Why, when life is a hodgepodge of wonder and ruin, we keep walking on, holding hands, connected even as the world falls apart.

I won’t pretend to understand anything, or to always do good, or to always have faith. I won’t lie to you, many days I fall short. I just know that from the mouth of babes wisdom flows, and I believe, wisdom changes us. Division, bitterness, resentment will make you lose the battle. Link hands this Christmas. Pray together. Dance together. Play Patty Cake together. Whatever. Even if tomorrow you want to create a fist. Tomorrow may surprise you still.
sam hand

That sick feeling is normal.

This morning my son traipsed off in a taxi toward LaGuardia Airport with a handful of my family. He’ll be in Texas for a week, at which point my husband and I will follow to spend the holidays. I wasn’t hesitant in the least about allowing him to stay with family. It was his idea. Even with a cold this week he was still game for the journey. The night before he was supposed to fly arrived, and with it my own hidden anxiety surfaced. It began with him, very normally, saying he didn’t really want to go. Why?, my husband asked. Because I don’t want to be away from Mommy. 

Crack! The sound of my rapidly breaking shell of composure.

We talked for a bit about his feelings, my loving feelings toward him, and ultimately, the fact he wouldn’t feel that way once the opportunity had passed. I explained why I wasn’t going (I have engagements this week in the City). He understood, and then, just like that, he was over his reluctance with a kiss.

My composure lay in pieces on the ground he walked on with his cousin.

I spent the better part of Thursday evening pretending I was fine. We had dinner, started gathering his stuff, played, watched Spiderman. By the time I was laying him down for bed we were all tired. He passed out in my arms, and I proceeded to cry. I cried for about fifteen minutes. This morning when he happily left — still a little under the weather, but in good spirits — I cried again.

This is not my first time away from Sam. Before we moved, Nathan and I came to New York twice on our own. Once was for almost five days. I’ve spent nights away from him. I’ve had a few days in New York away from him. This is not our first major separation, but it is our first initiated by him. It’s first time he chose to go.

When I threw myself into drafting my manuscript last October, writing became a huge presence in my life. Sometimes an even bigger presence than Sam. I’m not apologizing for this, but want you to understand something from it. For anything to fill my mind more than Sam means that something has to be of incredible value to me. Sam has been the mark by which all things are judged since he was born. Should I do this? I think of Sam. Is this best? I think of Sam. He is the excuse and reason for a lot of my decisions.

Writing is important to me, sometimes so important it feels most important. But it’s not. I write this blog post now because my heart is being wrenched away and carried to Texas. I write in general because nothing will ever be as important as Sam, but there must be more to me than him. He just got on a plane to Texas without me at three years old. Someday, it may be a plane to another country, or to college away from home, or a spaceship to the moon. I savor him now, this time so short and sweet, but I follow my own path too.

As mothers, we find a lot of fault within ourselves for the pursuit our own desires. Or, for the pursuit of any desire that doesn’t directly benefit our children. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way and I don’t think it’s easy to admit. I think we all sense it within ourselves when we make a choice that looks selfish, or one for our career, or one to feed another part of us other than mom. It’s a tightening in our chests, or a sick spreading through our stomachs. It wells up like a geyser, or festers like a wound. It is essential to the art of motherhood, just as it is essential to every other art form. We must feel it all in order to produce anything of value.

I intend to produce a child and a novel (many!) I’m proud of.

There is no happiness when in pursuit of something worth pursuing, only the joy of the journey, the heartache of the pilgrimage, and the belief that it will be worth it. Even if we have to steel ourselves as our baby says goodbye with a smile. Even if we cry the moment we shut the door. Even if we enjoy the time apart a little too.

Hold on…

Yesterday, upon waking from his nap, my son went about his normal routine. Cuddle in his bed with mom, wander into the living room, beloved blanket nigh nigh trailing behind him like a train, couch flop and request to watch “a little bit of a movie”. The exact order. My husband and I don’t have cable. Now, we’re not pretentious or anything, nor are we destitute, but my husband can’t watch commercials without launching into a rant, and I don’t like TV enough to pay for variations of the same mediocrity spanning hundreds of channels. Our solution is a little box which we stream Netflix and Amazon On Demand through, where we avoid commercials, and where my son dominates the “suggested watch list” with Nick Jr. and PBS shows alike.

Yesterday, he saw in the suggestions a film titled A Cat in Paris. This film — which I knew nothing of until yesterday — looked harmless, read like a silly romp about a cat burglar who was an actual feline, and featured clever animation reminiscent of the classic children’s tale “Zin Zin the Violin”. Fine. I put it on for him, sitting on the couch for a couple of minutes until he sent me off to our kitchen for a snack and milk, with the requested “pweease” and grin.

When I returned, there was nothing at all alarming on the screen, but Sam was no longer reclined or docile. He turned to me and very simply said, “That man killed the little girls father.” I was understandably thrown by this statement and those words leaping from my three year olds tongue. I asked him if we could turn the movie off, to which he gave a bored nod and crunched a graham cracker. I tried to broach the topic over the course of the afternoon, but was met with tempered indifference and requests to put on his Spiderman mask “so he could be Spiderman.”

This morning, as if sharpened somehow by sleep, Samuel (sitting pin straight on his alphabet mat with his Superheroes strewn around him) said, very cooly, “That man killed the little girls father?” And I was at a loss for how to answer him. I considered a few approaches, ranging from feigning ignorance to telling him death wasn’t scary, to trying to ascertain what he knew of death at three years old. I settled on promising that man and that little girl weren’t real, just a cartoon, and therefor he didn’t need to worry about them. He shrugged and handed me Iron Man, but confusion still flickered in his eyes.

My response was in no way a brush off, but merely my acceptance that this subject is too big to sound byte. Ultimately, as a three year old, his grasp of life and death is still very fuzzy. He has never been exposed to great loss, and even if he were, I do not know how concrete a concept ceasing to exist is or how capable he is to hold it in his mind. Those are questions for someone else to answer professionally, with fact and science that tells us when we are able to measure the missing of someone with the memory of them existing and the knowing that they no longer do.

In the span of that moment, watching him fiddle with Iron Man’s moveable limbs, I saw that he had glimpsed something real and confusing and he was not sure why it didn’t make sense. So young, he touched a truth he will someday (because this is a fate none can escape, even if we wish our babies could) face head on, or sideways, or in great heaving breaths. That is a fact, it will not cease because we wish it to. Even after I held his superhero — cast in invincible metal and warding his own mortality away like a plague— I wanted for him to hold onto the time of not knowing. And isn’t that what our heartache, as parents, is built on? Not will they run the car into a ditch when their sixteen, or will they get drunk and end up on YouTube mooning a cop? Because aren’t those very tangible — though no less controllable — concerns born from this very place? This place of knowing the road. And isn’t that why we do it to begin with? Why we keep on doing it?

For me, the time of not knowing ended at four years old, when my mother gave birth to twins who never left the hospital. I do not remember the time of not knowing. I cannot. For Sam, for now, the understanding of true death is still a distant dark cloud on his vast horizon. He is still without the knowledge. For now, that is something for us both to safeguard. Him by his ignorance and me by my understanding. I will keep holding on until the glass shatters, then I will hold him, and tell him what I know, and know someday that will become an answer worth remembering.

(*An aside about the movie: it was an Academy Award nominee, and I actually want to watch it on my own at some point because I think I would rather enjoy it.)

Rainy Day Sam

I love rainy days with my son. Not all rainy days. There are the inevitable rainy days when Samuel refuses to engage in imaginary play, or do a craft, or read for large chunks of the morning. Those rainy days fill me with dread. When you’ve been a mom for a little while, you learn to pick up on the cues in your child’s demeanor that warn you’ll have a long day. One filled with arguments, then weighted down by unreasonable requests, and ending in the bedtime battle. When those days also fall on a rainy day, being trapped with your child inside can lead a person to drink in the afternoon.

Today, as slushy rain falls from the sky above Brooklyn, is thankfully not one of those days. Today he woke with wide eyes and eagerness. He discussed the finer points of Spiderman’s origin story with me over a banana and pb & j. (I had oatmeal. If I’m to survive the holidays without a meltdown, dry oatmeal and raw veggies have to become my new best friends.) We read through a plethora of books and sang. We made a birthday card for our upstairs neighbor, Sophia. He dictated a message to me with enough inflection to warrant this — !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— type of punctuation.

And for the first time in a while we just reveled in the pleasure of each others company. Sometimes I am not the best about this. I can be either too involved, or too distracted, too aloof, or too emotionally available. Striking a balance with my son is sometimes harder work that writing 3,000 words ever thought about being. So when it happens, it’s something to treasure.

However, capturing the moment on camera has mostly illuded me.