Earlier, Dan and I waved the children out of the kitchen, our small tribe of screech monkeys clinging and grasping and bargaining and demanding.
“This is Mommy and Daddy time. We’re trying to have a conversation.”
A chorus of protest followed. Small hands wrapped around my knee – the one I popped out the other day moving a piece of furniture.
Our hands waved like we were shooing birds. There were pots and dishes everywhere. Toys underfoot. Clothes to be folded, thrown in small mountains on the couch. Clothes to be gathered and put away.
This is the thing about motherhood: there are always clothes to wash, dry, and fold. Things to be swept and removed and maintained. Sheets and mattress protectors have been hanging on our line outside for a week now, weathering rain and clean winter light. I’ve looked at them guiltily.
There is always one more thing to do. One more thing that I’m afraid will distract me away from the page, from my master’s thesis, from novel revision, from the fence I’m meant to stain, the food I planned to make, the nap I need to take, and the bills I need to pay.
In the kitchen, the air was full of smells that clashed up against the ferocious noise of my children; garlic, cumin, butter, a roast in the oven. I sliced and diced pumpkin and threw it into a blender, I told myself that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t measuring or paying much mind to the instructions – it was happening, I was making soup. I could always add salt, right?
Joaquin stood guard. Hands on his hips, he yelled, “Eda (Zaviera)! Sol! BE QUIET! Mommy! DADDY! QUIET!” It was as if he sensed that someone needed to take charge.
This life… I wake up to it every morning and stumble my way through.
I no longer wonder how I arrived here. Instead, I keep moving, keeping one step ahead of the fear that might overtake me if I stopped and really wondered – the kind of wonder that asks: This? This husband? These three children? These friendships? This family?
How can I love so much?
I have to let it go every day because the fear of it being taken from…it’s too much. It’s paralysis.
I let go as I pick up small toys turning into bigger toys. Small clothing turning into bigger clothing. I watch the lines appear on my face. I watch my husband pass through the house, just out of my grasp, and we look at one another like two lovers in a black and white movie, kept out of grasp by the swirling motion of a thousand extras.
In my moving forward, I fall back. Continuously. So that I don’t get too ahead of my life.
It is half past midnight and I’m up with a chest cough that rakes my throat and lungs and I’m learning to fall back when this shadow stretches toward me. Fatigue and illness, the two hands that reach and continue to reach for me. I’m beginning to nurture the belief that if I nap, if I rest, the shadow will retreat.
The belief is a flame that I breathe on gently, watching it catch hold of what it can and grow.
I believe that if I surrender, we will be carried safely along until the final light fades from my eyes, my hand held in my husband’s, my children at my side, and our story…it will continue on the other side.