Bean is watching my every subtle move. We are in the middle of a game of “alligator” and Sprout, perched on the couch cushions above us launches himself suddenly through the air, chubby thighs bare, and lands between his brother and me, straddling my chest, laughter erupting.
Alligator is a game that Bean invented. It requires certain might and restraint and all the physicality that little boys crave. The rules are simple: I catch him and wrap in my arms and legs, my fierce alligator jaws devouring his lithe little body, and then I hold him tight regardless of any plea, or request, or peel of giggles as he tries to wriggle free.
Sometimes I follow the rules. I am a fierce and steadfast gator, remaining unswayed until just exactly the right moment when the wiry-mulled little boy I’ve trapped is clever enough to outwit me, or strong enough to slip between clenched biceps. Other times I add a twist: I pretend to be asleep and snore, and he slips out easily, much to his delight and my pretend chagrin. And then there are the times, when it takes everything I have not do not to devour him whole: soft cheeks and sandy hair that smells like honey and milk.
Today he’s already made his first escape, and has immediately clambered on top of my ribcage for more. His weight familiar. I’ve always carried him; always held the heft of him close; always been the cradle for his small knees and elbows and belly. And thisI think, is part of what I do that makes it possible to sustain this full velocity life. Of doing the work of my heart in all the ways that I must: writer and mama, strategist and artist, graduate student and runner, all in unequal measures as the day demands. No matter what the day holds, it will always finds us like this, limbs colliding in this certain and unequivocal choreography of love.
I watch him watch me, imagining what he must think of me. My own childhood was far less physical. There was no puppy piling, no running through the house, no yelling. I remember often being told to be quite, to find the boundaries of my ebullient self and rein them in. I praised for my intellect, never for my ability to make people laugh; and other than sitting on my father’s lap to listen to a book read aloud, or hugging my parent’s goodnight, or holding hands when walking along a busy street, love was never spelled limb against limb, twirling in giddiness, kissing like blowfish, or howling like the pack of wild hyaenas always on the loose and restless in my soul.
Which is why his answer delights me deeply when I ask:
“If you were to describe me to someone who has never met me, what would you tell them?”
He tilts his head to the side and looks at my face.
And then he says, “That you’re strong…. that you’re funny*….and that you stay up late.”
Then he adds, “And that you wrestle with me.” As if this is the most important thing of all.
It’s such a gift to catch the tiniest of glimpses into how he sees me. It’s a gift, always, when you can get a glimpse of how anyone sees you. It broadens your view of yourself; increases your imagination of what you think is possible, and makes you lean into your potential differently. Give yourself this gift today: go ask someone how they would describe you to a stranger. Bask in their reply.
*FUNNY made the list! Funny. You have no idea how over the moon that makes me.