I feel a bit like I did when I was 20, an arm and leg in each of the Four Corner states. One limb planted in Utah, another in Arizona. This arm in Colorado, that in New Mexico.
I stand with a part of me in this quadrant of life, another in that.
I feel two feet planted in the world of growing-bigger girls, another arm holding tight to my baby. And there’s that other hand reaching for the rest of life, and it’s so big, and I find myself growing overwhelmed with gratitude and awakening and fear.
The metaphor isn’t perfect, of course, because perhaps for you too, every thing is related to every other thing. So that act across the world or the nation or the city pulls at my insides and all it means in this place — with these people and their big eyes and sponge hearts soaking up.
I read this week that the voice of mother becomes the inner voice, and I believed it and felt stricken in a way that instantly peeled another layer. I think of this holy responsibility and that I am not doing this alone — glory be — and I remember the words of a friend who told me that God chose us to mother our children as much for our weaknesses as for our strengths.
So when I lose my temper and yell proclamations about how I will not clean this mess by myself again, I know imperfect is part of the package, but still I worry: what voice will they remember? For I am part patience and part mess, part faithful giver and part taker, and I affect each one of my girl treasures differently, as we dance together in ways known only to us in our cheek-to-cheek.
Every Wednesday morning, Michael leaves home early to meet with several dear friends. Most weekdays he’s the one to awaken the girls while I finish writing and savoring last minutes of quiet. But on Wednesdays, I wake them, turn the light on dim at first, kiss them on cheeks and say, “Good morning, girls. I love you…Time to get up.”
I return to each a few times, repeating some variation of the same words, as I sneak a whiff of their morning necks.
Yesterday, I laid piled clothes for the day across their bodies and added, “Girly pies, time to get dressed.”
When I returned to the room after a quick shower, Sici’s eyes laser focused on mine. “You didn’t wake us up.”
“Yes I did,” I said, repeating my words.
“You made me feel more cozy,” she said, more like an accusation.
I say the same words as their papa, even make the same steps across the carpet (though it might be the shocking pull back of warm covers from their bodies that I’m missing). But still, my voice melds with the voice of their dreams and their own insides, and in some real way, it is the sound and feel of peace.
Yesterday I joked with Lala that I’d forgotten how to hold her. “Show me,” I said.
She threw her arms around my neck, laughing.
“Now what do I do with my arms?” I asked.
“Like this?” I motioned, putting my hands around her ankles.
“Oh, that’s right, like this,” I said, holding onto her ears like the sides of a jug.
She and I giggled, and I tucked my arms around her little bottom and scooped her up. We walked the stairs to her room, and I thought about how these days are numbered. These last months of just us and the mid-day quiet times before she joins her sisters in school, and my heart felt wrung and filled up right here in front of her big sister’s bed.
“I’ll never forget how to hold you,” I said, Lala’s baby skin cheek pressed against mine.
“I’ve always held you,” I said. “First on the inside, when you grew inside Mama, and then as a baby, and now.”
“Even when you’re a grown up and I can’t hold you, you can always sit on my lap, and I’ll squeeze you tight.”
Lala turned her face to look at my mouth forming the words. “Because no matter how old you are, you’re always Mama’s girl,” I said.
Always, parts of my very insides walking around outside my body. Three strong, tender beautiful beings moving through the world while my heart arms forever fall open to hold them.