We are wrapped in summer now; heat pressing in at 9 a.m., the mountains obscured by a soft haze, and the woods verdant with foliage. Along the mown paths that weâ€™ve cut through the meadows, black-eyed-Susans and daises flutter like prayer flags. Tiny wild strawberries hide under delicate serrated trios of leaves, and we squat to gather them at the edges of the path, the juice staining our fingers red. We watch the clouds gathering on horizon listlessly from the shade, wearing hardly anything at all, waiting for it to pour. Then we stand our faces upturned, fat raindrops speckling our cheeks.
Bean seeks out the hose, splashing cold water across my knees as I lounge in a lawn chair reading a novel. Heat stupored and languorous, I am trying to adjust to the pace of summer, recalling what life is like without urgency.
We make frosty smoothies from fresh peaches and frozen raspberries, eating them with long handled spoons from tall glasses in the shade. Mostly, we loll, Bean running naked in bright yellow Crocs and a sunhat; me in a chocolate colored bikini, wondering what sun will do the silver rivulets of stretch marks that have shimmered on my belly since his birth.
I catch myself staring. Heâ€™s so lithe and muscled, with the perfect little gibbous of a frog belly floating out in front of him. He moves with the ease of a yogi, squatting to inspect an iridescent June bug, spontaneously somersaulting down the easy slope of lawn, or racing pell-mell, with arms akimbo towards the garden where dirt and worms keep him occupied for over an hour. When he lies back on the grass, eyelids closed, I know heâ€™s feeling the earth spin. His skin is still translucent, and I can see his veins running in intricate patterns across his ribs.
Heâ€™s my kid, and sometimes still Iâ€™m struck with disbelief. It was strange to be away for a week and then backâ€”to watch how the warp and weft of my life separate and then entwined again. Strange to feel the familiarity of just myself: moments long on thought, late nights sipping wine and eating oysters, my pulse quickening to the tempo of the tenor sax. And then to feel the sticky sweet headlong passion of two-year old ardor, my heart thudding like a jungle drum.
Lately DH and I have been stopping each other in the midst of things to point out moments we could never have expected when we first found out we'd be parents. Like last night, the three of us in the back yard after dinner, the long rays of the evening sun falling just-so to make everything tinted with gold, DH playing guitar and Bean twirling around him in lopsided arcs. Or when all three of us were sitting on the grass, each one with a gawky chick in our lap, our uncontested favorite named â€œMrs. Tâ€ for the way her orange feathers make a mohawk at the nape of her neck. Or lying naked on the bed our bodies slick in the evening heat, the fan oscillating and the moment ripe with longing, and then Bean clambering up to toss pillows on our heads, declaring, â€œIâ€™m making a fort!â€
It canâ€™t really be reconciled, the way these moments merge together to make my life. Sometimes I think what would have been, might have, had June not brought the two blue lines in 2004. I wonder if I would have arrived at this point, with my writing, with my love, with all the corrosive stress that has worn thin the membrane of my heart, or if I would have veered off: painted big canvasses perhaps, or gotten a PhD in marriage and family therapy, as I once thought I wanted to do.
Listening to the stories of the people I spent a week writing with, I realized how absolutely not alone I am in the experience of my life. The odds tumble against everyone, and then turn. Life has a way of bringing us what we need, though not always when we imagine we need it. I was struck by how everyone held longing close to their hearts; how each had made major life decisions that painted the canvass of their life with bold strokes, yet every picture was as flawed as the next. No situation has it allâ€”life with kids, or without them; partnered or flying solo; degree program or grass roots experience. Each of us had trepidation that first day; each harbored the same isolated terror before reading his or her work aloud in front of an audience (which we confided to each other later over Malbec and warm buttered bred.) Life simply is.
So here I am, somebodyâ€™s mother. Thigh deep in the decadence of summer: strawberries by the pint full; vanilla ice cream staining our lips with milky mustaches at midday. I took Bean to the lake for his first swim of the season yesterday, and like a little waterbug, he plunged right in, head high, legs churning out a steady stream of bubbles. At night I dream of four leaf clovers, which I then find when I wake up, and stories keep raining down now, like marbles spilling from a jar.