I feel my life start up again, like a cutting when it grows the first pale and tentative root hair in a glass of water.
- jane kenyon
one day i will tell him the story of how he saved my life. but now he knows how to shade it in. my new favorite colors.
how by some fated miracle, eighty seven pounds of me, a smoke trail of who i could have been, became pregnant with a tiny boy whose love is like a waterfall inside my body, spilling over into forever. how my brain and heart were awash in a preternatural sense of urgency, of life wanting to crack through the hardest, tightest shell. out of nowhere. ready to live; ready not to die. three months before i knew he was growing. how i had to protect him before i knew he existed. how we were one beautiful thing, born together, hearts and bones. how i owe him the best of me.
i went away for the first time last week. without him. the first time on a plane, the first night, the first time not waking up to him in some dark hour, in a dream or need or tangle of limbs. the knots in my stomach were like years of old chains, pushed to the back of a drawer.
he had his memorized lines. "where am i always, littlest?"..."in my heart, mommy?"
"what will i do when i come home to you?"... "you will hug me forever and ever."
i needed them too. i used them as an anchor. knowing who you are to someone you love, is almost always knowing who you really are.
and he believed me. oh, did he. it was me who needed to prove it to myself. me who had lost all of the wild, brave freedom of being young and hungry with nothing to lose but dreams. but then i lost the dreams, and more than that. i lost my footing, my compass, weight and choices, my streak of green, my home. and so new seasons mean new rules, new ways, new wings to grow. i find myself with him, and with my daughter. it is another country, where we learn the language as we sing it, where everything bends like new shoots out of rich earth, where the mirrors are either inside or the love in each others eyes. where 'i' is swallowed by 'we'. it's a new world that i can write about with nothing but honesty. and the honesty is only ever touched by the palest shades of grey. the darkness is held at bay. it is part of me, but never a compartment. it is the light at the bottom of the pool, pure and strong and untouched by whatever floats in the water around it. it is the heart of the pictures i take of them. it is the why. he is the reminder.
the four days away taught me things i could not have seen coming, in all their subtle, slanting light. i saw the holes in me as the light came through. i felt the dark parts, the snags that catch, the memory of myself at my best and worst. i was quieter and shyer. i walked so much faster than i remembered i could. i missed the million years it takes him to do everything, as it is a million years going too fast. i missed the hard and fast shortcut he gives me to intuition. i found my way to the reasons i write about him, and not my marriage or town or resume. we live our truths. and any amount of camouflage or digression will eventually wear away. i want to stay in this purest place. i want it to wash over everything else.
i came back to him. that fourth night. two in the morning and too full of love to sleep. but calm, still, like he had really been in my heart all along. in the realization that what we had gone through was only a tiny speck in the map of survival i had drawn out in my life. that this was as safe as we would ever be. if it had been light, i would have wanted to take a picture of the moment. when he woke up later that morning, he climbed out of bed, looked at me, his face falling, his voice cracking: "you will hold me forever?" it is certainly a start. the only start.