What He Knows of Kindness

I pour myself a mug of coffee and take the milk from the refrigerator. He has the dishwasher opened, and he reaches his whole body over the door, horizontal, to grab a clean spoon. He stands on his tip toes to slide the spoon onto the counter, next to my milky coffee.

“Here, Mom,” he says. “I thought you needed this.”


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Grief, pragmatic

He sends me a message, urgent: “I have a question.”

“Of course,” I type.

“Quick,” he writes. “Where do you find burial clothes for an infant?”

The question is as sad as the answer.

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Today Will Be Okay

Sometimes your husband goes away, and your infant gets sick and stops sleeping for a few nights, and you feel like you maybe can’t handle this life. In the morning, you stumble into the kitchen, sit the baby on the kitchen counter, and convince her to take antibiotics. Then you turn around, and your three year old is unloading the dishwasher on his own. He even scolds you for trying to help. “I know where it go!” he says. He finishes the job, you hug him, and today will be okay.

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One Body

My family is Catholic, but I am not. While my husband takes the kids to be blessed as he celebrates the eucharist, I peoplewatch the shufflers:

The woman, not much older than my parents, rocks as she walks, unsteady perhaps with the curse of some muscle degenerating disease. The man behind her holds his hands open, as in prayer, just below her elbows. She stumbles; he catches her lightly; they keep moving with the line. She pauses to take communion, then moves two steps out of the way. He takes communion, then resumes his post behind her. With no visible communication between the two, they move on, together again, as one.

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Why I Drank Coffee This Morning

The baby is not sleeping at night because her gums are sprouting teeth, those perfect little crumbs of bone that she uses to gnaw her fists and my nipples. She doesn’t scream in her discomfort, though: she parties. She crawls and climbs and scoots over my body in the dark, and I make soothing noises to remind her that it is time for sleeping. “Ba!” she calls out, into the night, waking her brother in the next room. He wails, and I wait for my husband to calm him, so as not to reunite siblings and encourage further galavanting. Only a few minutes later, everyone but me is asleep again, and I listen to the soft nasal breath of my daughter, curled up against my body. I ignore the tug of fullness in my bladder and invite rest. In the morning, I’ll curse having lost sleep; now, I soak up the quiet, shadowy feel of love.

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One Thousand Kisses

For My Daughter:

When I first touched your cheek three years ago today, it was so cold that I forgot to kiss your sweet little face.  I have felt guilty about it ever since.

Today, in your honor and in your memory, know that I am covering your younger brother and younger sister in one thousand kisses.  I hope, somehow, that you feel some of that love and affection. Thank you for showing me–and reminding me, every day, in your absence–how beautiful it is to be a mom.  I love you.

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Growing (What is Essential)

There are plants growing in the playroom.  I am fond of them.  The leaves on some of the new plants are beginning to push from the soil, some still tucked embryonically inside the shells of the seeds from which they grow.  They are tender, and I turn the playroom heat up when my husband is not home to warm them.  Yesterday, the room was so hot that I thought I’d burn my feet on the floor tiles.  The plants grew, I swear, almost visibly in the heat.

 I spray them with water, I turn them to face the sunlight.  I protect them from my toddler’s curious hands.  And I protect some of them from his feet:   the small garlic plants sprouted from garlic bulbs bought at a farmer’s market this summer (fat, pungent bulbs) just went into the garden this morning.  Michael found a worm in the soil, and he scooped small fistfuls of dirt into his mouth.  I let him enjoy the almost-spring air without boundaries, but stopped him from stepping on the new garlic like I will someday prevent him from manhandling a younger sibling.  The garlic plants, with their tiny shoots, look so vulnerable in the big garden.  But the smell, as I transplanted them from the egg carton I’d started them in—full of flavor, rich with anticipation of meals to come.

I examine the plants—seedlings, I suppose they are—nearly every day.  I delight in finding new roots shooting through the outside of the pellets I’ve planted them in.  And I watch them, carefully, when the heat is on.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, they unfold their tiny leaves.  It is like watching Michael:  mindlessly dull, yes, but charged with the excitement of what might happen next, or someday, or eventually. 

And I bring them more water, more heat, more attention.  I can’t help but worry, already, about how they might fare when I finally put them all into the big garden.  But really, the big garden is the reason why I’ve started them in the first place.  So I guess my anxiety is not about their fate.  It is about mine. 

Letting those seedlings go will only prove that they can do it on their own.  If all goes as planned, they will show that I am not essential.





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