Children laugh a lot. It is a beautiful thing.
A few nights ago, I heard my son laugh from upstairs. The laughter tinkled merrily down the stairs from up high to down where I was standing in the kitchen. It was the laugh of a four year old – giddy, unrestrained, and in those chucklesome, high-pitched, and somehow fairy-like tones that only children that young can achieve.
That night I heard the free, sincere, heartfelt laughter of my son, and I had a thought, suddenly. It hit me without consideration and washed over me harshly. It did not care what I was doing when it came on, or where it would leave me after it fled into the night beyond me.
And the thought was this:
There will come a day when I will not be so privileged as to hear that sound anymore as a common occurrence in my life, my day to day What Is, my moments possible to take for granted (even though I don’t want to). There will come a time when that laugh does not even exist anymore.
There will be a day when forever more I will not be able to hear that sound. His laughter will still be accessible to me (sometimes) but it will never sound that way again. It will become lost forever in the vault, deep and wide and sometimes difficult to navigate, that contains my lifetime of memories.
And memories have this awful way of fading and being so hard to recall in a tangible way, so hard to truly feel in the same way as they were once experienced.
I stood there, at the foot of the stairs, frozen in that moment. I stood there, playing that brief sound over and over in my head, savoring it. I was all alone, and may have nearly appeared catatonic in that moment of true consideration and revelation.
Braden may never know that he’s ever done something so simple but so incredibly and effortlessly meaningful that it captivated his mother so greatly. He might not realize that she once stood quietly relishing the joyous beauty of a 3 second laugh he uttered about a little bit of something more than nothing that faded into the night without him giving it another passing thought.
When I write these moments, it is like I’m drawing a map to put up on the inside of that vault, so that when I dive into it later, so much later, maybe I can find these most important of thoughts and feelings, these memories of the most golden days, and hold them near me again for a few moments.
And I will know.
And now you do, too.
once upon a time on Valentines day I got a wonderful present
confirmation that you existed
the world has looked different every day since then
sometimes more fierce, sometimes softer, in spite of itself
because of you
the days have flown faster than I ever knew they could
and despite what I say about wanting you to slow down
i am also eager to see who you will be tomorrow
and the day after that
and the days and months and years after that
i know that before long
it will seem
like the blink
of an eye
i will have my answer
so many of these flying days will stack up against one another
that you will be a man
but for now I still get to be your hand holder and your scare chaser
your cheek kisser and your hair smoother
the one who you wake up in the morning and who puts you to sleep at night
and I get to sit by you at the table and watch you
as you flex your muscles while eating a carrot
your eyes lighting up with imagination and magic as you say
i will eat my vegables and then i will grow to be a strong, big daddy!
and then i will be a growned up!
but not yet today.
Happy Birthday, my beloved!
The world may sometimes seem fierce
but it will never be quite as fierce as you.
I miss this time.
The further we go in, the more painfully aware I am of the no rewind button on my kid.
Totally still need that sticker on my forehead that says “appreciate today.”
(And pie, I really, really need chocolate pie. But that is another story entirely. I think I just cheapened this post? Fuck it. I’m sorry.)
one moment i was looking at this:
and i seem to have blinked.
the very next moment, i opened my eyes upon this:
and that is both intensely beautiful and horribly frightening to me.
At first I think that surely I can’t remember something from such a long time ago. I mean, if I were trying to call on a specific, dramatic memory, I’d have more confidence in my ability, but this? I’m doubting I’ll reel in anything of describable value when I cast my line into what have become the murky and age muddled waters of my memory.
Elementary school lunch wasn’t important, it was just another thing that happened every day, in the same place, with the same people. I don’t need that information anymore. It has to have been crowded out by important things, I think. But instead of fishing a boot or an old tire out of those polluted waters, when I close my eyes I see into my mind, as if through the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. It is almost like I am actually standing outside that cafeteria, looking in through the rectangular windows at rows and rows of tables, each one lined with chattering children.
Then suddenly, I’m not standing outside the windows anymore. In a flash, I’m inside the room where the ambient noise rises ferociously with the spark of my transition. Utensils scrape across and smack into plastic, segmented tray plates that clink against one another and slide along table tops and counters in search of final resting places. Chairs scratch the floor both meeting and departing table tops, as diners come and go. Bags, books, and other items thump and bump as they drop into waiting places, becoming items of secondary importance now that the task at hand is eating, socializing.
Above and beyond these sounds there are the types of audible events that come only from the mouths of humans: talking, laughing, yelling. The majority of this is of the child variety, mostly high-pitched, squeaky, and giggly. Most of the yelling is happy, jovial, prankish. Occasionally, there’s an angry yelp or an adult admonition. The overarching effect of the mingled, youthful voices in all of their utterances is a feeling of busyness, of pleasant fellowship and mirth.
I feel, in my mind, as if I’m standing there, having entered suddenly, but still separate from all of this, just taking it in with my eyes closed. But the deeper I go, the more I process. I’m allowing myself to sink into those waters and wade out to a place where eventually there’s a drop-off. I’m going to fall right in.
It happens, and the next transition hits me with cool, hard plastic under my posterior. My legs dangle towards the floor, and I grasp a metal fork with curiously uneven tines in my right hand. The fork is poised over a pretty ugly example of fruit cocktail.
The cocktail isn’t half as bad as the rectangular piece of gooey mess masquerading as pizza. I know this and at the same time, I also know I love this disgusting mockery of a real pie, just as I love the grease laden tator tots that neighbor it in the adjoining tray segment.
I look up and now I’m taking in a sea of faces at my level. Instantly I’m overcome with emotions that blast me almost simultaneously: wonder, excitement, insecurity, awkwardness, need, desire, invincibility.
This is youth, glorious youth. I have more than just miles to go; there’s a path stretched out in front of me to what seems infinity. All I can see is shining horizon and I know that forever is just over the hill up ahead.
For a moment the sounds disappear. For a heartbeat every smell of sickeningly delicious grease puddled over cheap cheese on soggy crust is undetectable. The cool, slick cardboard milk carton under the curled fingers of my left hand disappears. All the children move in slow motion.
I feel like a time-traveler in my own mind, and for just that one moment, there’s a distinct and deep pain that knifes through me, witnessing this slice of my past, this irrelevant little reenactment of an any-day sometime so long ago in my life.
I want to stand up and scream, “We are all here again! Back here again! Have we made mistakes!? Let’s do better this time!”
But then it all rushes back in with its loud busyness, its irreversible hurrying of children forward into their fates. For a moment, I feel defeated, and then I blink my eyes, and it all swirls away like bath water that flows down the drain, pulling away both the bright, gleaming bubbles and the dirty scum that once clung to you, in the same smooth motion.
As I open my eyes in the here and now, I reflect on that moment at the end, that painful longing to hit the “restart” button. But I’m here, for better or worse, and it’s okay if I can’t change the things my little self so worried about for that brief spell inside my mind. She forgot for a beat that out here on the other end, I’m not too shabby, and even the mistakes have had a hand in making me who I am today. No regret.
Well, I do kind of wish she had grabbed one of those tater tots and slammed it. This lagging metabolism is a bitch.
The following people took the challenge, too.
Thanks for making every day harder. You’re a dick.
I do not like you. You do not actually make me more powerful, you just make me want to break people in half all day long. You do not help me deal with my emotions more effectively, you just make me cry at things that should not be cried at (the fight scene in Ice Age? Really? No. Really?) You do not make my son’s toddler habits easier to deal with, you make me want to run screaming from his presence. You are like a disorder all unto yourself. I am tired of you, officially.
Yes, it’s true. Your “farts are stinky like poopoo,” indeed. The amount of joy you bring into my life with simply silly things like that cannot be measured. Oh, but please don’t kick me in the eye again. That was the opposite of joy.
I see you lurking there. I know, I know. I’m almost officially a whole year older. It’s really not even exciting anymore. It just validates the white hairs and the callouses. If you were really as awesome as you claim to be, you’d give me my old bewbies back. Now THAT’S a happy birthday.
I know you miss being at home. To make sure you feel welcome upon your return weeks from now, I am saving you all sorts of chores to complete! Nothing says loving like that, right?
Dear Debt Collectors,
Thank you for the recent letter demanding the thousands due in medical bills, immediately. The way the entire sheet of paper was pink truly made me feel the threat inherent in your message.
Dear Property Management,
I’m guessing the magic number for phone calls before you come and fix the light in the kitchen is something higher than 3. Even if you have promised “someone will be out tomorrow,” they won’t. You don’t really mean it. It was a joke – you were just kidding! I get it now. I hope you get explosive, burning diarrhea on your birthday.
Dear Jillian Michaels:
When I do the “butt kicks,” instead of holding my hands in fists in front of me, I hold out both my middle fingers. It totally helps me make it through. I’m not flipping you off, though. You are the toughest bitch I’ve ever not known but loved. In a completely platonic, non-I think of you naked when I’m in the shower kind of way. (Really.)
Dear Mexican (our dog),
Please just stop being gross. Seriously.
PS: I know. Watch your back.
I know that you are tired. I know that you hurt. I know that it’s not your fault. I know that you feel bad because I always hate you. I am sorry. I’m still pushing and I’m trying really hard to get you healthy again. Please hang in there and work with me on this, damnit.
Did you hear what I said to Body? You are leaving me, and it’s making me frantic. I know you are just really tired of the antibodies in my bloodstream and the Hashimoto’s that is the result. I feel embarrassed that you are so important to me, in a way, but it’s true. You are important to me and I have cried several times already now, noticing how you are taking leave of me steadily. I do not like to see my scalp. Please reconsider. Please stay.
Dear Health Care Industry,
Please just fix it. Please stop telling me there is nothing you can do to help me. I am broken and you are supposed to be able to fix me.
You are supposed to.
So when I come in this next time, please do not turn me away again, telling me to keep waiting. I am done waiting. Ok?
Dear Reality Television,
You are still really, really stupid. Stop tricking people who I know are otherwise really smart.
I hate the temptation of your endless bags of delicious candy. I love your ghouls and goblins, witches, werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. I delight in feeling your spirit as I watch horrible movies about undead monsters. As you approach, I tilt my head back in the dark and utter a high pitched cackle. When you are gone, please make any leftover candy disappear. My ass does not want to be dressed up as an elephant for the rest of the year.
Dear People Who Drive,
YOUR BRAIN. USE IT.
Dear You Guys,
Thanks for still coming here.
Yes, you forget things *cough* occasionally. Your knees are bad (snap, crackle, pop!). You tell Braden it’s time for his bath when it’s time for his nap. You tell him it’s time for his nap when it’s time for his bath. (By the way, he doesn’t even notice – I’m the only one who does. And I’m required to make fun of you for it, so just get used to it.)
Don’t even think about sharing that pudding with him – you know it will go right to your old gut.
Your hair might be thinning… don’t worry, you’re going to get more and more of it in your nose and ears to make up for this. Your back hurts, but I’m here to distract you from that by demanding that you rub mine (and don’t forget my feet)! I am just that loving.
And yes, I might feel the need to make endless jokes about you being old just because you turn 40 today.
It’s because I love you. And I’m glad you’ve been around for this long, and I’m hoping to make fun of how freaking old you are for so very much longer.
You are a wonderful (old ass) daddy and fabulous (decrepit, aging) husband. Hey – look at it this way: When men age, society kindly chooses to say that they are developing a bald head and a fat gut character and charm. Women? Get slow, fat and grow a beard. Maybe don’t worry so much about your aging – it’s mine you might want to start being concerned about. *wink*
Be careful on the road and hobble home as soon as you can. I will miss your old ass from afar for now, you wonderful, old fart.
Happy 40th Birthday!
Your hot, young wife.
I miss my youth.
Now, before you go brow-beating me about how I’m still young, how I have so much longer to go before I lose my youth, or how much older than me you are and yadda yadda yadda (oh, yeah, I totally just ‘yadda yadda’d’ you), hear me out.
I mean not only youth in body, but youth in spirit, feeling, knowledge.
I miss the bliss of ignorance, the forever stretched out before me. The feeling that anything is possible.
With the passage of time comes experience; with experience comes knowledge, understanding (of sorts).
They say youth is wasted on the young. However, you realize, that is what makes it worth it. If the young knew the value of youth – the desire they would feel to have it back when it was gone… they would never really be able to enjoy it, would they?
With knowledge comes the shift.
The more you learn about the true nature of humans and the things of the world, the more you have to let go of the naive idealism that kept your young cheeks rosy and new.
No, there is no need to let go of hope, determination, and wonder. I am wide-eyed at the world still, believe me.
You could not freely wander the earth with your eyes, heart and mind open and not find a new and amazing thing every day if you tried. This is why I take photographs. Because over and over… again and again, even within my tiny sphere of movement, this happens to me.
So lecture me not on being able to capture the wonder of youth even with age.
But sit beside me for a spell and mourn with me this thing that must happen to us all. Some of us more than others, or maybe just a little bit sooner. But to all of us, it happens, to some degree or another.
The truth is that we must open our hands and let the fancy daydreams of childhood slide from our palms sometimes. Some things which happen steal them from us like wicked trolls, whisk them away to dark places; hiding them from the light. Only a child can pluck them out anew and let them grow for a time again.
My hands are too old to hold onto things which must escape them, already. The effort of trying has worn my fingers tired and weary.
We move through life, rolling along, and suddenly things assault us from this direction or that. The human tendency to ignore these possibilities on a conscious level from day to day allows us to function; it allows us to keep those wheels rolling, greasy and smooth. But no amount of greasing stops a rock from throwing you off your axel. You’ll have to reconsider concepts like need, desire, and love when your cart overturns.
It can take a long time to grease that wheel again. I’m workin’ on it.
I’m workin’ on it.
I speak in riddles because the words are too painful and tiresome to lay out in detail and push around into the proper order. It has been yet another day of remembering so many things that I would sometimes like to forget.
So many things, some of which I’ve shared before, others which I may never tell you. Time will tell.
For now I close my eyes, take a deep breath in, push a long, tired breath out, and put one hand inside of the other. And hold on.
Tomorrow, I’ll open my eyes, and move those wheels along again.
On a somewhat related note: man, I farckin’ hate PMS.