Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Tricks of Time

At night, she ripples my stretched skin from within. A four-limbed fish I will one day size for bathing suits and usher to puddles, lakes and the Atlantic's edge. She sits, splashing salt water, wincing. Waves of brown water fill her rain boots as she stomps down sidewalks. She makes muddy moats with me and pinches her nose as she dunks into the deep-end and leaps from wobbly wooden docks. I take her hiking, breaking on boulders for milk and baby belching. She then curls into my collar bone, sleeping to the sound of steps and the smell of bug spray, sweat and pine. She grasps my fingers to stand and when she is ready to run, I take her to fields of soft grassy ground. She rolls down hills and explores the tops of mountains, staircases, and dusty bookcases. We pick apples and outfits and outings. We follow music and dance to it. I crouch at the bottom of red static slides, catching her beneath the arms. I read her books. I sing her songs. I give her paint and easels of paper. I tie strings of balloons to her doughy wrists and share with her my watermelon, ice cream and stories. She tells me her tales and first fibs and confessions. She asks me her questions and I give her my answers.

I've finished teaching for the moment, leaving the children who ask me daily about the baby in my belly --their little hands reaching to touch the mound in my middle. My days now are mostly solitary and slow. I wait in what feels like the past, worrying time will one day turn on its side and when I see my whole life, years will look thin as inked pages pressed between a worn cardboard binding. When my sister had her baby girl last summer she didn't want to miss anything so she stopped sleeping --not entirely of course, but enough to make you wonder. My sister would stare at her beautiful sleeping creation for hours. I understand it now. From the moment I thrust my biological opus from between my legs and hold her in my hesitant hands, I worry those newborn months will begin to blur and the days will pass not by seconds or minutes, but leap from feedings to changings to rockings --swallowing hours of mid-day nappings-- and lag only during hushed early morning lullabies. 

Many mothers have more than one child. And now I wonder, is it because they hope the repetition will help them to remember? Or perhaps, the second, third, forth times, they will have conquered time, paused it into picnics, printed pictures, lists, recipes, letters and collected cards. Maybe the mothers of many reach middle age with their lives volumes deep, an entire library of minutes, of shiny chronological passages to read when lonesome for the loudness of infant cries, sibling quarrels and the clattering of moments as they pile like dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.