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Tag: slowing time

apple pie, poker & the afterglow of hardballs to the noggin

these odd chapters somehow always manage to creep up unawares. and so this one.

we were sitting the other eve, forks in mid-lift, i’m certain, when suddenly a skinny pair of sun-browned legs came swishing through the steamy jungle that these days is my secret tangled garden, the one tucked along the side of this old house. not many lopes behind him came another pair of legs, grown-up legs, a mother’s legs. but not his mother’s.

while it took my brain cells a spell or two to shake all this out, it all came tumbling clear once i saw the look of dazed despair on the little one’s face, and the ashen worry on the mama trailing just behind. then i saw the boy holding something to his dust-splattered head, and i needed little explanation to reach the quick conclusion that this was not how the evening had been scripted.

while the little guy stared up at me with those thirsty hazel-brown eyes of his, in that way that kids have of signaling simultaneous distress and “help me, help me, mama! this here’s your job,” the mama trailing behind him began to spill the dots.

there had been a game of stealing bases, and a hardball, one zipping through the air at 35 miles per hour, she figured (and, the mother of three ball-playing boys, she knows these things). that hard-beaned hardball made a beeline straight to my little guy’s forehead, which set him “crumpling” (her word) to the ground, upon which he couldn’t remember my phone number, and kept saying the same thing over and over. oh, and he was dizzy. and he thought he might throw up.

now, mind you, i’d just the week before heard a tale of precisely the same thing, a kid on the side of a ball field taking a bean to the head, how he got rushed to the school nurse, who thought not so much of it, so he went along to his after-school playdate, only to start getting droopy-faced within the hour. that poor kid wound up in emergency brain surgery before the sun set, and now, thank god, is a-okay. though he won’t be playing ball for a long long time. or ever, if his mother has anything to say about it.

so, with that fresh little spectacle shining in my head, i took in the scene with my very own head-bonked boy, and before you can spell “concussion,” i’d speed-dialed our trusty pediatricians, who wasted no time in sending me to the ER we live so conveniently close to. (note to mothers of boys: when house hunting, be sure to clock the door-to-door distance to your nearest friendly emergency room. it comes in handy.)

not-so-long story abbreviated: dear boy didn’t even need a CT scan, though of course they ruled his head bonk a by-the-book concussion. and, worth mention, his big brother did a memorable job playing ambulance driver, clicking on the bright red flashers only to be stuck in traffic behind the north shore’s slowest-ever driver, meandering lazily down the express route to the hospital. and, happy ending taken up a notch, we walked out of that ER into the arms of a thrashing summer’s storm. hallelujah!

but this wouldn’t be a tale worth telling if not for the prescription that came with the bump: no TV, no computers, no reading, no contact sports.

egad.

for how long we must endure this, we do not know. we see the concussion doctor monday. so for now, and through the weekend, we’ve turned back the clock and we’re playing like pioneers, minus the covered wagon.

yesterday we filled the day with this list of exotica: two boys — ages 10 and 11, mind you — baked, from scratch, an apple pie. yessiree, they sliced the apples, dumped the sugar, sprinkled cinnamon with vigor. they rolled out the dough, crimped the edge (in remarkably poetic undulations). then, because both share the initials TK, they drew out a lance from the kitchen junk drawer and lanced away at their letters, a cris-cross of hard-edged consonants nearly doing in the pie top.

while the apple pie did its oven dance, they did what bakers do: they tried their hand at texas hold ’em, a poker variation, then moved on to black jack and dominoes. ping pong served as minor interlude, along with a promise from our head-bonked one that he would not, absolutely not, come crashing down on the sharp corner of the table.

later in the evening, yet another little fellow wandered by. he took the bumped one out for ice cream, and, quietly strolling the lanes from there to here, they returned home for a long night of not-oft-seen board games. checkers, monopoly, and the fierce pursuit of plastic real estate.

so goes the old-fashioned, turn-back-the-clock life of the forehead compromised.

and, of course you’ve guessed that the point here is that gifts sometimes come wrapped in odd packages. say, ones with purple-green swirls just under a little boy’s forehead curls.

it is rather a refreshing, if taxing, way to spend a summer’s day, exercising the imagination, steering clear of pursuits that might potentially jar that tender brain of his.

deep inside, i long for just such summer days. for the gift of building tree forts (though at the moment, the fort is grounded, not cleared for take-off). for, perhaps, lying upon a summer’s couch, listening to the words of a mama turning the page of some fine adventure tale. and, pray tell, how about a lemonade stand, peddling from-scratch lemony-sugar potion, at the turn-back price of 5 cents a glass?

sometimes it takes a klonk on the head to get us seeing clearly. and if that’s the moral to the hardball story, well, then, i wish we could have gotten there without the goose egg hatching on my little fellow’s forehead.

how do you dream of spending a summer’s day? one spent the old-fashioned way?

not too big

any day now, it’ll evaporate.

i’ll look out the window and not see the little boy bundled in snow suit and puffy snow pants, the one too little to know it’s quite little-boyish to pull up that hood, pull it so tight, so only his little boy cheeks, all rosy and round, poke out from the layers of puff upon puff. i won’t see, anymore, how he kicks that one chunk of snow all the way home, from bus stop to house, a 10-minute meander that has him winding and spinning and kicking and scooping and, yes, ykkh, licking that snow.

any day now, i won’t walk in his room to kiss him awake, only to find at the foot of his bed, an old cardboard box he’s made into a house for his little two rabbits, who he’s tucked into bed, maybe read them by flashlight a story, whispered their prayers, then kissed them goodnight.

any day now, he won’t fit on my hip, that perch of old bone that was built, i’m convinced, to hold up a child in tears, or in heartache, or, every once in a while, in deep cuddling mode.

any day now, his legs will get longer, his words will get less of a little-boy lisp. and the occasional lapse into pure make-believe will go poof, will vanish away, overnight.

there won’t be a bear with a name. we won’t set a place at the table for that wild-haired lion named leo. (a cat who insists, by the way, on rice chex topped with bananas, more milk, please; a diet eerily close to the one thing his trainer could eat–and does–morning, noon and most every night.)

any day now, he’ll be all gone, my sweet little boy.

he’ll be replaced by a model less likely, i’m supposing, to give me a rub on my back for no reason besides that he still loves the feel of my skin. he won’t want to climb in my bed and play 20 questions on saturday mornings. and i doubt he’ll hand me the phone and ask me to dial because all the numbers just mix him all up.

so, right now, and right here, i have every intention of cupping it all in the palm of my hand. like sweet and cool waters, there at the edge of the stream on a day that’s unbearably dry.

i’ll suck it all up, suck every last drop, before it slithers away, slips through my fingers and back to the stream, where it rushes away.

i won’t get it again. this water comes once, comes in a rush that at first feels too much, and too hard to swallow, even in gulps. but then as it goes, as it trickles away, down your wrists, down your arms, back to the stream, you feel, already, the parch in your throat.

of late, the pangs come often, come hard. i miss him already. i long for these days, and they’re not even gone yet.

it’s a trick of the brain, a trick of the heart. and it’s not just a trick for the mamas among us. all of us, each, every one, we know what it is to miss someone we love before they’re not here anymore.

i really don’t think i’ve some special equipment here in my brain, the gymnastic button that lets me leap forward in time, and somersault back. it’s all of us, i’m pretty sure, with that human capacity to long and to miss, before it’s the time.

it’s the thing, is it not, that churns deep in our soul, propels us to love and love deeper. to cherish. to know, in our blood, with the swirls of our fingertips even, that what’s in our midst is sacred, is holy, is never forever.

and so, i go through my day with one extra eye. it’s trained on the child growing before me. i reach out and grab when the moments are sweet, and then all the sweeter.

the boy with the bear. the boy who climbs, still, on my lap. takes my hand in a crowd, squeezes it tight. the boy who calls out my name in the night, and awakes curled in a ball in the morning, all flannel and cowboy pajamas, and rosy and toasty, and playing like a ’possum.

it is a hard thing in this world to know just how to ready a child for all that awaits, a planet of wars and digital overload. a world where too many children are bounding toward grown-up, skipping right over the parts that teach them tender is golden, is good, is–in my book–truly essential.

so i stick with the basics, with what i know best, and what i believe with all of my whole. and i let it all play in the slowest of slo-mo.

i relish the old cardboard box, and the chance to tuck in a bunny to bed. i aim for the winding way home. and a sweet little boy in no hurry to harden.

i’ll savor each drop of each day. and know, soon enough, i’ll be ever so thirsty. and my sweet little boy will be big. too big for my hip. but never, my heart. which grows right along with him.

if this old chair has brought me anything, it’s brought me a place to pour out my love affair with my little one. forgive me the days i get sappy. i can’t really help it. see, if nothing else, some day that child will have all these pages to pore over, to read once again how his mother, she loved him. not a bad thing to bequeath, so i’m penning it now, while it’s bright in my eyes. the other thing is that writing about him has made me savor him in ways that might escape me if i was only tangled up in his moments. to write is to step back, make sense, untangle, see clearly. feel the pang right there in the heart. and so it is, and so i write. and you, if you choose, if you care to, you read along.

do you have that gymnastics button in your brain, the one that makes you leap back and forth in time? the one that propels you to a deeper grasp of the fact that what’s before you really is precious, really does deserve your fullest attention? how does it work for you?

and oh, by the way, that ol’ lazy susan is spinning afresh. not quite spring. but fresh, none the less. give it a click.

mama hunger

still happens at least once a day. my baby boy, the one now tipping 50 pounds, climbs aboard. he sinks into my hip, grabs on tight around my neck, washes me in kisses, or simply leans his curly head right against my neck.

it’s often first thing in the morning, when he is drowsy still, hasn’t dusted off the sleepy eyes. but sometimes, like yesterday, as we waited for the snow to fly, it’s simply because we still get hungry for each other’s skin.

oh, goodness, that sentence almost sounds like something you would read someplace far from here. but i trust you know me well enough to know perhaps just what i mean.

it could not be cleaner, this hungriness for skin-to-skin. this mama hunger for the baby who once was. for the baby evaporating right before my eyes.

it will all be gone soon, i know, i know. but now, there are wisps of it around, and i am all but licking it from the spoon.

i ache to think that someday not too far from now i will wake up and the baby will be gone, all gone. perhaps it’s that, that makes me so very hungry now. i am committing the baby bits of him to somewhere deep inside me. it’s a dream, perhaps, that i never want to wake from. but, of course, i know i will, and as i drift awake, as he gets big before my eyes, i hold on tight, i cannot get my fill of his deliciousness.

sometimes, i’m overtaken. i cannot keep my nose, my lips, from nuzzling in his baby cheek. cannot keep my hands from reaching out and swooping him to the hip that can barely keep from caving in under the oh-my-goodness growing weight of him.

oh, he is six, all right. very much a big boy. can’t tie his shoes, not quite yet. still stumbles over syllables, when they come one piled on another.

but if i nuzzle close enough, if i hoist him the way i used to do, pretend that he’s not 50 pounds with legs that dangle to beyond my knees, i can catch one last whiff of baby boy before he slips away.

more and more these days i catch myself drinking in the whole of him. i look down, i see legs still in little blue jeans. almost comical those elastic-waisted jeans, as if trying hard to make like big boy pants while winking at the truth.

i see puffy baby hands. not the muscled ones of big boys, or his papa. these hands, round with one fading dimple yet, still fumble with a fork sometimes. still can’t cut with scissors, not without looking as if a gerbil had at that paper, all ziggy and zaggy with dangling bits of cutting that would not succumb to safety blades.

and the cheek. the cheek, all rosy often. and soft and fuzzy still. not fuzzy like the manchild’s; in fact, i’d call that one prickly now, the cheek of he who puts a razor to it once a month or even twice.

no, this is soft like, well, yes, velvet rub of peach, or underside of kitten’s neck, or petal of a summer’s rose. this is soft, but even more, it is irresistible. once i start to sniff it, kiss it, rub my cheek against it, it takes everything i’ve got to stop and breathe again.

it is, i know because my other one’s a man now, a chapter that will pass me by, any day now. and i’m not ready yet. don’t know if any mama ever really gets her fill.

i think it’s how we’re wired. my baby-making years are gone. i look old and older when i look into the mirror. but still, there is someone soft and little in my house. it’s as if, if i taste the sweetness of his skin, if i memorize his weight against my weary bones, i’ll always have him somewhere deep inside. where, after all, a mama’s babe belongs.

do you hunger for your little one, or for the days when your big ones were little? were you mad for the soft spot at the nape of their neck? or was it their toes that sent you to the moon? do you have a nuzzler? did you? i’m not saying, not at all, that there are fewer merits in the ones who drop their stinky shirts and socks all over their sleeping pits, i’m just saying, of course, that as the little ones slip through our fingers, there stirs a hunger that’s hard to fill. how ‘bout you?

breakfast by myself

i know, all across america right now, folks are guzzling, grabbing, driving-thru for breakfast. they are sloshing little o’s into their mouths, avec kiddies. they are ordering up uber-venti-soy-mocha-latte-blah-blah-blahs. sipping to their heart’s content, there at the dash board.

not me.

i’m slow and solitary when it comes to breakfast on the weekdays. i eat alone. i eat with ceremony, even.

yup. no slap-dash for me. i make a meditation of the morning stop for fuel.

especially on a monday.

like a shepherdess with her lambs, i get the first flock out the door, nudging out of bed, knocking on the bathroom door, reminding that time’s a-tickin’, sometimes shoving on shoes while boy no. 1 desperately tries to shovel in at least a few spoons of gruel. sometimes it’s not so pretty, this sheep herding in the morn. but eventually, i get all parties out to pasture.

mind you, all of the above occurs before the clock strikes seven.

and then, by the grace of a quirky little body clock and afternoon kindergarten, baby rip van winkle snores while the little hand sweeps past 7, 8 and, often 9. i’ve even had to rouse the sleeping mound as late as 10. it’s such a shame to have to tap the tiger that sometimes bites, though he sometimes wakes up purring.

as for me and my breakfast, i find great joy in a.) making it beautiful, and b.) packing it with what might sustain me through the long hours ahead. but best of all is the cloak of quiet in which i wrap that sacred hyphen in my day.

i know souls who meditate, legs crossed and tucked like human pretzels. i know souls who open to the divine through the lighting of a candle. and i know plenty of souls who skip all of the above and just dive, headlong, into the madness of the day.

seems i feed my soul through the careful feeding of my corporal self. at least in the morning, i do.

over the years i’ve gathered a little stack of little plates, plates just big enough for the few things i eat for breakfast. i have blue glass plates, red tin plates, old willow plates and blue-and-white plates with roosters, or the latest, with a whole barnyard scene parading ’round the rim.

i pull a plate off the shelf, and thus the mood for breakfast begins. coffee, always, goes into the big red mugs, one with little white hearts, or the one that curves right into the clutch of my hand. queer as it sounds, i lay out the fruit as if i’m getting ready to paint it, a study in color and contrast, glisten and fertile earth bursting. the bread is bread most often baked by a friend of mine, a gentle man, a man who kneads his longing for simplicity and a life nobly lived into the risen dough each night. i slather on cheese. i snip herbs from my little pots and lay sprigs of green, more life bursting, on the bumpy ridges of my cheese.

i lay all this at the place at the table looking out, looking out my window into the great beyond. i catch the birds in flight. i see squirrels romping. when the spring comes, i’ll watch buds unfolding. and in the deep of summer, i will carry my breakfast to the edge of my garden, and i won’t mind the buzzing bees. in fact if they descend on my portrait-ready pile of fruits, i’ll consider it a compliment and be quite pleased.

but in the cold months, the window is as close to the outdoors as my breakfast gets. so i get as close to the window as i can.

and then, i’m quieter still. i quiet every muscle and every bone, every thought and every worry. i only breathe. i only feel the pumping of my heart. softly. tenderly against the edge of the table, if i’m pushed up that close.

i breathe in deeply. i invite the powers of the universe, of the divine, to fill me. to fill every crevice and abyss. every part of me that aches. every muscle bursting to get on with the day.

and then i eat. trying to keep breathing. in that slow, deliberate way that all great wisdom tries to teach us. inspire. expire. the lungs taking over as the cleansing act of morning.

i hold the quiet. i taste the earth. i am swept up into the divine.

and then, alas, it’s over. i push back the chair, grab the plate, swish it under the faucet. grab one more gulp of coffee. then i’m onto the day. lord only knows what the day ahead will bring. but i’ve consumed so much more than you can see on my little plate.

i am, thanks be to God, fueled for yet another round of this wild thing called living.

so, now you know my little secret, my morning meditation, masquerading as a simple breakfast. i have an inkling i might not be alone in facing the day, fueled by more than pop tarts. anyone willing to divulge a morning ritual, meditative or otherwise? i would be so curious to know if there is a whole circle of us mustering sustenance beyond grams of protein on a plate….anyone else bold enough to admit that they find joy in making it beautiful for the eye, in a way that feeds the soul? however you jumpstart your heart for the day, i send blessings, and a prayer that you’ve found sustenance in the form that feeds you best.

p.s. lazy susan, restocked over the weekend, spins anew. take a gander. there’s the herb-off recipe, david’s hands, a blessing of the week. and even more….

declaration: down day

felled by two fevers, three stuffed heads, and enough coughing to blow out some lungs (and maybe a front tire, to boot) , the mama in charge around here declared a down day. all weekend long.

no errands. no sunday school. no leaving the house, not for the little one at least. instead, we stayed in jammies. ate late breakfast with muffins hot out of the oven. finished leftovers for lunch. made a stew that stewed all day. sprinkled glitter on the last of the valentines. invited grammy for sunday dinner. watched old home movies. made a lincoln log cake. one of us even cleaned out her work closet.

sometimes, it seems, the best thing you can do for yourself is catch a little germ. nothing wretched, mind you. just a little mercury-elevating, nose-clogging, mild-mannered bug.

nothing a little tylenol every six hours won’t shoosh away.

it’s the snow day without snow (although it looks at the moment as if we’ve been doused with plenty of that). it’s hibernation without being a bear in the back of the cave. it’s the traffic cop’s flat palm shoved in the face of a world that won’t brake for yellow lights.

so you grope for the medicine chest, and on the way you hit the pause button. you cough and you sneeze, you wipe your baby’s fevered brow. and for a few blessed hours you get the one thing that should be doled out in minimum daily requirements: peace, quiet, time to catch up.

while some of you are nestled under blankets–in broad daylight, mind you–sipping 7-up, quaffing jell-o, begging for gummy worms (because, silly you, you started a game where you were the mama bird and the sick little baby bird dozed in his fleece-blanket nest, fueled mostly on green wiggly worms made of 200 percent sugar), others of you get to go about business at 33 rpm, instead of the usual 78.

now, i am not recommending you go swabbing up sick houses, incubating bad gunk in your fridge, all in pursuit of a day without places to be.

but i am saying there are worse things than being stuck home with a stuffed-up nose.

maybe it’s that winter by now is getting the best of us. maybe it’s this cold that has chilled us to the very marrow of our old weary bones. maybe it’s as simple as the fact that climbing into and out of big rubber boots, zipping and unzipping eight layers of layering, losing and finding and losing again the warm woolen mittens (and even the backups), is getting to wear a bit thin.

sure a ticket to tahiti would help. but, folks, there is no travel counselor on speed dial at my house.

so instead we slow time the old-fashioned way, the way we learned back in our school days when we savored the day with a thermometer on standby next to our bed, a glass wrapped with a rubber band, so designated as a sick-person glass. it meant that while everyone else was shuffled out of the house in the morning, we got to sink our head back into the pillow. and while everyone else ate lunch out of a brown paper bag at a school desk, we got lucky and had noodle soup in a bowl on a tray carried up to our bed. so long as we didn’t slurp on the sheets, we were queen for a day.

and so it goes. all these years later. a little bit sick means a whole lot heavenly.

oh, if only we were smart enough to slow down without a dumb bug knocking us upside the nose.

at your house what slows you down, gets you to shut out a good dose of the world and the noise? and, by the way, does anyone else wrap a glass with a rubberband, or is that just my sweet mama’s very own brand of germ control? now passed from me to my boys. like a germ, maybe….