I am up late with the wind. It roars like the conversation of a crowd, constant and everywhere all at once. I strain to hear my thoughts. Trees cast their shadows, frantic fingers dissecting street lights. All of this bluster is pressing against the hours I have to think.
Yesterday, or maybe the day before, Sol asked me, “Can God’s love be broken?”
I said, “No.”
“Not by anyone?”
But before I could answer, Sol continued, “Only his son? He can break God’s love because he died?”
And I had to stop what I was doing, whatever it was. I could have been shaking carpet cleaner everywhere, arcs of white powder moving in slow motion. Maybe I had the refrigerator open, my hand on my hip, staring, trying to remember why I opened the door in the first place. Or, scanning the shelves of their inventory, trying to figure out dinner. Most likely I was rinsing dishes, extending my leg to keep Joaquin from opening the dishwasher, asking Zaviera to climb down from the cupboard shelf. Whatever it was I was doing, it stopped then.
He continued, “If God forgives us, can we do anything? Or does that hurt God?”
“Well,” I said, pulling one child from the dishwasher, another from the top shelf, or maybe turning off the vacuum cleaner, leaning against the counter, “Everything we do has a consequence. When you do something that isn’t good for you or others, there will always be a consequence, but no matter what we do we are always loved.”
Sol frowned. He was trying to even the score in his mind, to figure out what he could and couldn’t do without consequence, what God might or might not accept. What I was saying was too big, too broad-stroke.
“Okay, here is an example. You know how if you hit your brother, I get upset?”
“And I have to teach you that it isn’t okay to hit someone smaller than you?”
Sol wanted to argue, but he didn’t. In his mind, a hit deserves a hit, whether or not it was intended or if the hitter is five years younger.
“But, even if I get upset I always love you? Even if I don’t like what you do, I always love you?”
“Well that’s how we are loved.”
It seemed like enough. He walked away, already thinking of other things. Whether or not Joaquin had touched his Ninjagos, or if Daddy took more than his share of hotcross buns.
The wind has settled. Sally sits up on the table, Belicia cowers beneath her. Earlier, I discovered that Belicia had peed on the carpet and now she is all eye whites and bent ears around me. Sally reaches down and taps Belicia on the head, testing. She does it again. I wish I had the camera. Sally is Zaviera’s animal familiar. A crazy cat who pets dogs on the head out of curiosity; what will it do?
My children are teaching me about curiosity, about stopping before I answer a question. Sol is teaching me to listen. Sometimes it feels like we translate things so differently, but what I understand correctly is this: he is looking to me, the way that children do, to know that he is not alone in this strange world.
I remember my child-self clearly. Her fears, anxieties…her awe. Her need to know her parents were her allies.
Before I put him to bed, Sol stands at the doorway and watches as Joaquin crawls all over me.
“Mommy, was I like that before Zaviera was born? Did you do this with me?”
“What do you mean, sweetheart?”
“Did I get more cuddles? Because I was the first?”
I see the tears in his eyes, the way he is holding himself rigid, and I hold out my arms to him. Joaquin presses against my chest and says, “No! Go away!”
But Sol is already beneath my arm, his skinny legs stretched out next to mine.
We discuss this issue of cuddles. He expresses his anger that there is anyone but him in the family. He tells me he wants time, just the two of us.
Seven years and here I am, understanding: I’m a mother. Time is the currency I deal with these days.
And that I don’t think I could have understood God seven years ago, not the way I am beginning to, now that I am a mother. My children – they translate God for me.
I want to tell my son that yes, there are things that can break God’s heart, but never God’s love.
I want to tell him that God’s heart, like a parent’s, is made to break.
I want to tell him that every year that passes, I break and grow stronger.
But these are the things that don’t translate into words, so I draw him closer to me.