Posted by: alegra22 | May 20, 2011

the night before

It is the night before the end of the world. I slip out through the door just as Joaquin’s shadow runs toward mine, an outstretched hand grasping as I disappear with a quiet ‘click’, my fingers releasing the door knob, my breath held. Outside, moonlight catches the edges of the dragon-tree aloe and dracaena. Feijoas lay scattered in the river stones. Clover and beach grass are unnatural in their stillness, as if waiting for me to become distracted by their mess and end up on my knees before them, hair falling in my face, pulling them out and tossing them into small piles to wilt beneath the stars.

I scan the driveway for the rubbish that Pepita left strewn around the yard. A half-eaten nappy, a Burger King bag, an empty cream rice tin. I begin to gather, bending down, losing myself in the rush of bloodlessness as I stand up. This small chore will leave me more fatigued than it should. I’m aware of my children trumpeting through the house, the stampede of noise and light and demands and accusations and grand ideas.  Toys discarded in the wake of their games. A towel draped over the head thrown to the floor. A laundry basket overturned and stood on, chest thrust out, arms raised. A red pen snatched from the hands and thrown across the room. Sippy cups abandoned, milk drop by drop making its escape to the floor.

I step on to the damp lawn carefully. I don’t see the nappy I came out looking for. I am aware that nestled in the grass there are piles of dog shit waiting in ambush. Piles so big that every afternoon when I scoop and sling them into an old plastic shopping bag, I grumble the same story about how our elephant horse craps five kilos every damn day. I am sure that tomorrow, before the world ends, I will discover that my dog has eaten the rest of the nappy and recycled it through her body.

I climb on to the trampoline and bounce on my knees, feeling the shift of gravity move through my muscles. I let go of the rubbish in my hand and fall backwards, my body lifting and settling. Above me, the clouds move slowly. A star appears and disappears. A car roars just beyond our fence. I breathe and exhale all of my shortcomings: the way I transform anxiety into impatience, fear into anger, insecurity into vanity, vulnerability into attack, need into blame, the whispers of hope into an unrelenting determination to make it be so or else.

Today, I declared myself the canary sent into the mine for my American friends. After all, I live in the future. Sunset on May 21st arrives for us a day ahead. I outlined my plan for gathering my family on to the trampoline and bouncing as high as we can while the sun sinks and spreads its finest and fiercest light. I figured the higher we bounce, the easier we’ll make things on God. No reason to make the decision difficult, right? When my children begin to lift away, I will grab their ankles and let myself be lifted with them.

The slow bounce of the trampoline settles and I put my hands behind my head, studying the tree that Dan has threatened to chop down for four years. I notice its stark silhouette, the way it has grown to accommodate the fence surrounding our property. The way it reaches upwards for light. Everything grows up, up, up – just like my children. Without warning or coaxing, Zaviera announced she was now ready to sleep without a pull-up at night. It happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to mourn the milestone, I just cheered and declared my pride. Zaviera’s eyes lit up, her smile so beautiful that I laughed and exclaimed, “Oh my darling, you are so wonderful.” Before I can stop it, Sol’s face crumpled. He ran to his room, his body a tight fist of emotion. I followed after him, knowing what was coming and why, but still never quite prepared for it. I leave one child behind, her light slowly dimming but so strong I know it will only take a whisper for it to come roaring back to life, to tend to another whose light I am afraid will be buried so deeply it might be lost.

“Sol,” I stood in the doorway, reaching a hand out to him. “Do you want to tell me what is going on?”

“It’s too difficult. I don’t want to talk about it because I can’t talk about it without crying.”

I spend the next hour flitting between my children, practicing damage control, allowing Sol to circle around me like a wounded moth. I made myself dim so that he would feel safe to land. When his eyes made contact with mine and didn’t repel him away, I grabbed his hand and led him gently to the computer. I knew what to do. 

“This is how much I love you, Sol.” I pointed to his photograph on yesterday’s blog. I pointed to all of the times I have written his name. “I think you are so wonderful that I have to tell stories about you to all of my friends so that they know how wonderful you are.”

He sighed, “But I’m not wonderful, like Zaviera.” I pulled up my Facebook account and the comments on my post. “See all of these words? These are all of my friends talking about how much they enjoy reading your stories. They are all saying how wonderful you are.”

He shifted in my arms. A smile was there and then gone. I released him.

 It won’t happen all at once, the unclenching of his pain, but I know he has heard me. Even knowing this, here I am, on the trampoline, arms outstretched, hiding and praying and resting.

On this night before the world ends, I ask for forgiveness, because tomorrow, when the sunset comes and goes, and the world continues, I will still be this woman who sneaks out of the house to lose herself in the slow bounce of gravity and the quiet witness of the stars. I am not afraid of judgment or living or dying. I am only afraid of the moments when my love for my children might become lost in translation.



  1. Well did it end? 🙂

    • We’re here! We’re here!

  2. I too feel that way about my children Alegra. They complete me, no matter what happens at the end of the day, but I am always asking myself ‘what about my girls’ – did I show them my love, are they happy, what does the world mean to them… they are growing up so quickly, becoming independent before my eyes and yet the innocence in their spirits makes me want to hold them even more. I pray for them tonight, just like every night, for their health and happiness, no matter what the world brings forth.

    My hubby is like you right now, your time zone, as he is deployed! Maybe we’ll get to talk on the phone his evening time, so he can tell me what happens 🙂

    • It seems so simple and fundamental, but my love for my children has totally shifted my experience of being alive and is a daily revelations for me! I think the hardest challenge has been forgiving myself for my humanity, my daily mistakes and falling short, and believing that my love for my children comes through, regardless.

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