Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Midnight Check-in at Just Past Six Weeks

We see everything about her that makes her different from her brother, notice everything she does that makes her uniquely herself. Everyone else who sees her notices all their similarities. They say: She's exactly like he was!

And so right from the start, family is the backdrop against which we are defined. I am not you, and I am not you, and I am not you; I am me! See me! we say to each other. And then they say to us out in the world: So, you are one of them. And we lurch to these opposing tunes for years, trying clumsily to define ourselves.

It's been six weeks; some women go back to work at this point. I've already been back to work a little bit, but I'm glad I'm only halfway through my leave. I got an e-mail about a series of meetings they're holding the week after next. I thought about attending for a few minutes.

And then I thought about this afternoon.

I stayed up hours too late last night, finishing a novel I just couldn't seem to put down. I was tired all day, and my cups of coffee didn't seem to make any meaningful difference. I took my daughter and lay down with her on the futon on the floor of her future bedroom; it's being used for guests for the time being. Moments later my son, her brother, came to climb in with us. He brought books and being too tired to keep my eyes open and read them myself, I asked him to read them to us. He recited all the words he remembered from the pile of library books he'd dragged in from the living room, leaning his head in toward my own and his sister's, tucked snug in the crook of my arm. I near-dozed to the lull of his voice and the sound of her steady, rhythmic breathing, sound asleep after nursing herself into a stupor of contented sighs, smacked lips, and eventual silence.

I never did fully wake up today, and my lids were still heavy when my husband got home from work late in the afternoon. I wondered a few times if I ought to have gotten more done, more cleaning or writing, something to point to and say: I did THAT today.

But instead I spent an awful lot of time on the floor, cooing and cuddling and kissing and repeating silly, nonsensical words and phrases, just to laugh at the funny way they roll off the tongue. HECtaDOR! in the haberDASHERY! To tickle little faces with the ends of my hair and feel it clutched tight in small fists. To look at my babies and think about what a short time it is that they are so very tiny, fitting so fully in our arms, their worlds so completely in our hands. It's such a short time I have to spend with them, this stretch of winter weeks stuck inside together, beginning to pull together and push against one another, to figure out where any one of us ends and the others begin.

I am me! See me! say my babies, with sobs and sentences, grimaces and grins. I send an e-mail and say I won't be able to make it to any more meetings until my leave is over.  

Show me! Tell me all about it! I'm here. I'm listening. I say to my babies, lurching to the floor, clumsy and eager for whatever the next six weeks will bring.


  1. I am so glad you are taking this time for all that it's meant to be. So beautiful. I envy those women in other countries who get to do this for 6 months...or a year! Hope the next 6 weeks brings you lots more joy...and some rest? :)

  2. Beautiful! Enjoy those moments while you can. I'm still so impressed at how much you seem to be getting done!