Posted by: alegra22 | June 25, 2013


mud-maid2By eight o’clock, Dan is resting his head on my back, one of his legs thrown over mine.

I’m on my stomach, trying to keep my focus on a short story, but the strain of arching my spine and holding half of my body upright to type is too much.

The children, the dog, they all sense my surrender and swarm around us. Joaquin makes a dive for the triangle of space between my jawline, shoulder, and the crook of my arm. Zaviera nudges Joaquin out of the way. Joaquin howls, paws at his sister. She bargains with him.

Sol paces, “So about those buckets I need for Stomp? They need to be like this *insert Sol acting out shapes and angles* so that I can do this *insert Sol air-drumming various techniques* bah-bam-bam-BOOM.”

Belicia curls into a tight little ball inches from my forehead and does her anxious –shiver thing.  I scold, “Belicia, you are OKAY.” She continues to shiver and give me her best droopy-eyed look.
Joaquin is running a temperature and has yet to return to his  normal self. Dan and I both agree it would be best to keep him home…

…from about, oh, roughly, after dinner, Zaviera has been discussing her croaky voice and the way it will get her in trouble at school. Her forehead is a bit warm.

At some stage I accept that I’ll have three children home with me tomorrow.

I tell them, “No arguing.” They all agree and I know they’ll break their agreement against their best attempts. It’s okay.  There will be a point of exhaustion tomorrow but I’m not focusing on that.

My letting go brings me back to a dream I had when I was a child living in Ithaca, thirty plus years ago.

I was walking through a stone garden, running my hands along the plants, stirring the different scents of each flower, herb, and succulent. I’d  rub  their petals and leaves gently between my fingers, as if I could absorb some answer to the mystery.

I followed my shadow as it went ahead of me on the gravel path; it was familiar, a reminder that I was something separate from the garden. With all of that chasing, my shadow left me hungry. I wanted more of it and I couldn’t catch it or contain it or otherwise make it mine.

But still, I tried.

I tore off bits of plants and shoved them in my pockets.

I tried to memorize the details of the rough stones and the scent of earth, mineral, and broken-open-plant.

That sort of effort never works.

I woke up. Which isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it’s the best sort of situation a person can find herself in; alive.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly waking up.

I’m living in my secret garden.

I learn to let crumpled rose petals fall where they will and exhale:

Here I am. Now what I am going to do with all of this love that has been given to me?

I think about this when Dan rests his heavy head on my lower back, and asks me, “How are you?”
I love the weight of him. I love how he uses his size and power to gently contain me. Today, after days of stress, he tackled me in the hallway. I fought him. We laughed.
He is my best friend.

But still, I get mad at him because sometimes he falls asleep when I’m talking to him and I’m sure that is proof that there is something…something that confirms I’m broken and unlovable.

I don’t know how to say all of this to him, so I say:

“Better than I’ve ever been but everything inside me is settling in, finding its place. Are you okay if I don’t talk about it?”

I want to use less words but I don’t need to. I don’t need to apologize for myself.
Dan moves closer and says, “I’ve  missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too. That’s all I need.”

“I’m here, babe.”
And then he begins to snore.

I laugh. A surrender-laugh.
The children and dog gather around. Zaviera starts her bargaining with me in regards to our conditions for tomorrow, “So, if I take care of Joaquin, maybe I can get chewing gum *she displays her best jazz hands*”

I repeat, “No, no, no…”

I know she’ll challenge me again tomorrow. I don’t want to disturb Dan but after I’ve been hit from three angles (Sol, Zaviera, Joaquin), I say, “Okay! Enough! Your father is sleeping!”

I shift Dan to one of the reclining chairs that he got for his birthday.

I swoop down and around the children, moving them toward bed.

I glance at Dan. He’s asleep, his mouth half-open. I think, “He’s collapsed just like he has every time  I’ve given birth.”
And when he wakes up, I tell him this.
I tell him that I think he’s been holding on, sensing I was in danger, that what I was carrying inside of me was trying to make its way into the world, but things were going wrong. He could see the stress lines, the fierce contractions, my pacing and cussing.
“Yes,” he says. “I’m so glad you’re writing again. I’m glad you’re here for all of us when we come home. It was what we’d talked about from the start.”

And it is.

In those beginning days of our marriage, I was anxious about my weaknesses but committed to “making more of my husband and putting good humans in the world.”

“I can’t do it all,” I told him. “I’ll want to, but my body won’t let me.”

He had said to me, “You don’t need to do it all, only what you’ve been gifted to do.”
I loved his faith in me, even though I didn’t feel worthy of it.

Nearly eleven years later, I’m learning that maybe I don’t need to feel worthy; so much as accept that I  am worthy. We are all worthy. I’m learning that Dan and I can’t do it all on our own. Accepting my interdependence on others has made me humble and grateful in a way that nothing else could.

I tell Dan to go to bed early. He needs the sleep. He’s been keeping watch for months straight and now the danger has passed.

We’re back on track.

“I love you, babe,” he says as he gathers Joaquin up into his arms and trudges off to bed.
“I love you, too. More than you’ll ever know.”
The house settles into its after-hours quiet.

The quiet is like light spreading.

And I stretch in its warmth. I let it sink into me. I unfurl.
I know that all of this can pass through me and I don’t need to grab it in fistfuls and pocket it.
It is mine.
This wild peace and unearned love.



  1. This was deeply moving.

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