he fell asleep so gently right here next to me tonight. mere seconds ticked past between the deciding to lay down and the slow rise and fall of boy sleep. one hand curls tight into his bare middle, his silhouette a rolling landscape of shoulder, waist, hip, and legs in a tangle. his other hand rests limp at his side like a fallen bird, feathery soft fingers. his thoughts left hanging somewhere between swimming and reading and this living room couch.
i rest my hand on his soft, cool side and let it ride the heavy in-out, in-out. through the windows, the crisp breath of evening makes the curtains float in like ghosts. my own breathing unravels in a long sigh. in-out, in-out, this breath is a gift. the last month of summer is hours away now and soon morning will replace this night or the breath or the breathing, the hushed light of day, never promising us anything.
(written after reeling all day about this local tragedy that took place at our new-favorite camp)
(it was cantaloupe, honey dew melon, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula.)
we are just a bunch of memories. everything we’ve been informs everything we are. i am 3 and 9 and 16 and 23 and 42. i am sweater pants, smooshed frogs, banana seat, sunday school dresses, and the smell of railroad ties. cantaloupe will always be the color of my first bedroom. sundays evenings will always taste like buttery french bread wrapped in tin foil, sound like MUZAK, feel like air conditioner cold skin. the nighttime sirens and trains and sprinklers on timers will always go back to that one night, that every night, of that one time before whenever that was. you will always make me smile and he will always make me want to lay in the dark and listen to music and cry. the music will take me anywhere but here. i am poetry, way up high in your loft bed, falling face down on the pavement. even when i am in the backseat at the drive-in watching grease, in the backseat holding your hand, in the backseat my face pressed against the window going everywhere. the lady i only knew for one night told me things i’ll never remember. important things that are now more feelings than real words i can speak. like the long walk from there to here. like the staticky sound of being alone. like the way blackbirds and roller rinks and standing up there reading are right now, this moment and forever.
shit, i did not write my just one paragraph yesterday, which means (in my sick loyalist mind) that i must write twice today.
i had a good excuse at least. family birthday shin dig here at the house. and the best kind too! we ordered takeout so we didn’t have to fuss about food. i know that’s not a plus for people who love to cook, but um, i’m not one of those people. baked a stack of german chocolate cupcakes for my grandpa’s 93rd birthday and ordered in some delicious pizza. mom brought the most amazing white peaches, my SIL her beloved oatmeal chocolate chip love bombs. the kids swam, the adults chatted. there were nostalgic tears and there was laughter and sharing. the best kind of family party, if you ask me.
it’s a cool summer night in sacramento. windows open, ceiling fans swirling, just one light on in the house right here by my bed. the last night of the state fair’s fireworks boom in the distance.
all the years i’ve been here in this town feel like several lives now. i’ve been so many people. a girl, a teen, a woman, a wife, a mom (and that’s not even counting all the hair colors). i can still remember lying in my early childhood bedroom, looking up out the window at the full moon. how summer felt then compared to how summer feels now. sometimes i even google that house and just stare at it, hoping to pull something more out of my fading memories, but that house barely looks familiar anymore. the trunk of the mulberry tree in the front yard is five times the size it was then and even has some shade to offer now. that shade is not mine. never has been mine. we only had a small little tree with a skinny trunk. that’s all my childhood summers will ever have, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.
there are no new memories in that photograph. it’s just a house now. my childhood memories no longer live there. i can’t bring those days close again. they are only getting farther away, but i hold onto the way i can still walk room to room in my mind endlessly.
the state fair fireworks grand finale goes pop pop bang pow. the end.
on the last day of school, he told me he wanted to tell me something when no one was around to hear and somehow, impossibly, i forgot. forgot to pull him into my room alone. forgot to ask later as he slipped into his bed. simply forgot. maybe i was making dinner or keeping his brother in line or … who the hell knows? but he never told me the thing that night and i didn’t remember until he was gone again the next morning. that day felt excruciating waiting for him to get home so i could ask him about this thing, this so-important-only-his-mom-could-hear thing. but instinctually, i knew it was about a girl.
that afternoon when i picked him up, i asked him in the car. what was that thing you were going to tell me? but he motioned that i’d have to wait again. until we were alone. what is it? what does he want to tell me? did i ruin everything not taking the time to stop and listen from the get? is the moment gone forever? did i blow it?
but not long after, he stood in the living room and told me. yes, it was about a girl. he looked at me so earnestly and said simply, “she likes me.”
i didn’t start weeping then, but hell, if i didn’t want to. it’s one of those moments you wait for when you’re a parent. don’t get me wrong, i’m in no hurry for my kid to be considering girls too seriously, but i also knew we weren’t there yet. this kid of mine is never in any hurry, unlike me as a kid/teen/young adult/yesterday/today. it’s like he was born with the gift of doing life on life’s terms and being okay with that. where the hell did he learn that and oh, thank god he did.
the lump in my throat had nothing to do with my feeling like he’s growing up too fast. in fact, tears filled my eyes because everything seemed right on time. the minute your kids start growing out of your arms, all you want is for them to be liked. or more so, you want them to be seen for the person they are. and here it was happening. he had been seen, and he was feeling that goodness right there in front of me. the words. the satisfied look in his eyes. and the most incredible part was that i got no sense that he wanted any more than that. it was like he had everything he needed right there on the cusp of the summer before fifth grade.