Enjoy the Blow

It’s a direct quote from my dad

after he worked all afternoon with my husband installing porch fans.

He has a remarkable way with words,

although they are few,

they are carefully selected

like picking the juiciest peach from a tree.

They are always just right.

peach

 

Paint Splatters

paintHis tiny fingers wrap around my arm.

The contrast of white against brown startles me into momentarily wondering about the origins of this beautiful child.

He is another unfinished project, like the boards of the deck, half-way painted before being abandoned by a rain shower.

The splatters of paint on my feet are reminders of the job that still begs to be finished along with the dishes, mopping and yet another load of laundry.

Where is the time? And where does it go?

I have the same 24 hours in a day and somehow it passes through my hands like sand in a sieve, constantly flowing until suddenly there is not a grain or a minute left.

I know that everything will get done, eventually, but it won’t be today.

Today, I would much rather push trucks across the carpet with Little Legs and hold Baby when he cries, share a snack of applesauce and blow the white fluff of a dandelion into the hot summer air.

Today, the time goes where I want because I’m the boss.

I’m the mama.

A Simple Gift

bunnyThe trio left through the backdoor. The woman wore the infant strapped to her chest while the toddler had decided to live his life as a bunny and hopped along behind her.

“Hop, hop, hop,” he narrated.

They made it around the side of the house when the boy-rabbit stopped completely, and as though frozen, he stared at the sky.

“Come on, bunny. Hop this way,” his mother encouraged.

The sun was hot on her face and arms. She pulled the brim of the baby’s hat back, his chubby face was peacefully resting between her breasts. The heat only lulled him further into a deeper sleep.

“Its hot out here, let’s get to the shade.”

“Nah, nah, nah. Clough!”

Instead of following his mother where she stood under the protection of a grizzled old tree with pale, green lichens growing on the bark and long overhanging branches, he continued to stare up at the sky.

“Clough!” he exclaimed again and pointed.

Sensing that the boy would be rooted to the spot until she did what he wanted, she returned to his side and looked up, finally.

Clouds unrolled across the sky like waves of wind-blown sand on the beach, stretching as far as the eye could see, against a breathtakingly blue sky.

“Clouds in the sky,” she affirmed.

“Beautiful, thank you for showing me.”

Satisfied at last with his mother, the boy-bunny continued hopping through the yard.

His mother was left behind, humbled at the beauty of the day and that it took the fresh eyes of her son to appreciate it.

All it took was to simply look up.

Bird for a Day

bird

“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs announced and pointed out the window.

Lately, this could have meant anything from a banana to a bug. His grubby hands insistently slapped the glass and left a collage of fingerprints, demanding a parental peek out the window. Happy to comply with the tiny boss, I looked out onto the back porch where a small, brown bird lay, as the countless ones before, motionless.

“Another one?” I asked with disgust and disbelief.

My heart was hardened towards these feathered dunces after the same kind of bird cracked the window a few weeks earlier and had to be replaced. We lowered the shades and added butterfly stickers to detour these crash landings, assuming the birds didn’t see the glass when they made their kamikaze descents. Obviously, our efforts were not working as intended.

Daddy Long Legs, with his more forgiving nature, slipped through the door with a pair of heavy-duty leather gloves and picked up the bird. He held it up to the window for Little Legs to see. The bird moved its tailfeathers from left to right and peered at its captor through a squinted black eye.

It was still stunned and unable to fly, but it was alive, unlike its predecessors.

And about to be our new pet, I quickly decided with a change of heart.

“We need a box,” I declared and led Little Legs on a hunt for the latest empty Amazon box.

His feet padded after mine as we recovered what was to be the patient’s temporary home and hospital from the trash.

“Perfect,” I declared.

“Puh…” Little Legs confirmed with a nod.

The box really was perfect; the flaps provided shade and room enough for the bird to hop around as it regained strength. We added a handful of bird seed and a lid with water from an egg-drop soup take-out container.

Throughout the afternoon, Little Legs checked the box and lovingly tried to feed seeds to the shy beak, dropping them on its head when it refused. And then, while he was pushing his cement mixer truck around the yard, the bird hopped onto the edge of the box and took flight just as Little Legs looked up.

“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs waved.

Nothing lasts forever or more than a day, its all the same to a toddler.

Two Ships

shipsThe couple stood in the kitchen, meeting for the first moment of synchronized quiet since they rolled out of bed. For the past few weeks, they had been like two ships passing in the night as they tag-teamed the needs of their newborn and toddler. The time they spent together was by default, in trips to the store or on the couch at night.

How was it possible to be in the same house and not manage to bump into one another until mid-afternoon? They were too tired to think too much on it and leaned against one another for literal support. They were both so tired from the night-long activities of their newborn son that if one moved too quickly, the other was sure to collapse. It was a very precarious situation.

Baby seats and wipes and swaddles were scattered through the house, along with all of the toys and other random things that were pulled out from closets and cupboards, carried around and then abandoned in the middle of the floor by the toddler. The toddler’s latest acquisition was a bottle of red finger paint that he had been struggling to open for most of the morning. Thankfully, he lacked the grip strength, for now, but it was only a dreaded matter of time before he was finger painting the house.

The couple was resigned to the chaos, too tired to fight back the wave of trains, books, pacifiers and matchbox cars that crept into every room and hallway, while he worked a full-time job and she tried to keep the boys happy and healthy, alive was more like it, most of the time.

Somehow, through the haze of their exhaustion, they managed to find each other.

They looked at one another and laughed. Delirious? Maybe, but words were not needed in that moment. They leaned forward to kiss, when suddenly, a Tonka trunk was launched into the air and landed squarely on the woman’s bare foot. It hit with a crash of metal and plastic connecting with skin and bone and tile, courtesy of the toddler who trailed after his mother into the kitchen, hopeful for a snack.

And the two ships separated, blown apart by a fuzz-headed whirlwind.

The baby started to cry, as if on cue, and the fuzz-headed whirlwind demanded to be picked up. The ships continued on their way and sailed off in opposite directions until their next chance meeting on a clear day of perfect circumstances.

Four Frogs

They sat mostly side by side on the couch, four exhausted frogs on a log, in front of a glowing tv screen.

Thomas, the Train was beginning to feel like part of the family as he puffed out story after story, 11 minutes at a time, occupying the toddler and giving his parents a break from chasing him through the house. Their count had just gone up by one and the change was being felt by all, with the baby having the easiest time of it.

“Eat, sleep, poop,” the pediatrician prescribed earlier in the week while wearing a mask, tennis shoes and jeans; apparently, it was a Casual Covid-19 Tuesday.

“That’s all he needs to be doing,” he addressed the couple from a short stool and then spun to face the woman, “and you just need to feed him.”

Easy as that.

At that point, it was not something that the mother needed to be told. The baby was already very clear about his agenda. He was born with a powerful set of lungs that he had, thus far, used exclusively to request more milk. His mother assumed the sweet coos and giggles would come later, but first, they had to put in the hard work and long hours.

It was a job that the scrunch-faced-baby’s mother took seriously and consumed most of her time, energy and calories. Of course, keeping up with the needs of the scrunch-faced-baby was not without its cost to the rest of the household. There was a scattering of crumbs throughout the house that read like a brail sidewalk, leading the resident toddler over his path from the kitchen to the living room to his play area. Dishes lounged in grey water in the sink and the laundry had already accumulated into a small mountain that if not secured in the laundry room would have been scaled by the quickly becoming feral toddler.

Fortunately, the toddler was not altogether neglected as he made sure to always remain underfoot and nearby, tugging at his daddy’s shirt or poking at the baby’s belly. Presently, he had a glob of jelly on his face and a matching smear on his shirt which was not unusual, aside from the fact that he had cereal for breakfast and a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch.

He clearly had strong survival skills.

From the couch, the woman, wife and mother let her heavy eyelids drop down and felt herself slip into a blissful rest that lasted all of a minute before the baby simultaneously released a juicy gust of wind and a wail of hunger. As she wondered how one extra small person could create so much extra everything, the toddler suddenly popped up and ran to the kitchen for a snack while her husband’s head dropped back and a mighty snore escaped from his opened mouth.

This was her crazy life and her heart was full.

four frogs

 

As Right as Rain

A cool breeze rustled the leaves in a way that promised of a break from the heat. Overhead, a sky of bright blue was littered with fat grey and white clouds. The woman hoped for a drenching rain so she wouldn’t have to lug the watering can across the yard. She could practically hear the garden crying out for water.

It just felt so far away and her legs were so heavy.

“What do you think, Little Legs, do you want to water the garden?”

He pretended not to hear his mother as he continued to splash and dump water onto his head from the water table. For those who aren’t familiar, a water table is a brightly colored, plastic receptacle that holds water and is set up on legs just high enough for a toddler to reach in and quickly make a soaking wet mess. It also happened to be his parents’ latest attempt to amuse and distract their incredibly active child. So far it was working brilliantly.

“Little Legs?” his mother repeated herself giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Surely, it was too early for him to ignore her. How could he have learned the ways of the world at such a tender age and with the last few months of that tender age being spent in quarantine? Could this be from the cheeky influence of Thomas the Train? His mother made a note to monitor cartoon time more closely in the future.

The boy took a cupful of the grimy water and flung it at his mother, splashing her face and chest. Of course, he was not ignoring her, he was simply too busy to answer. He laughed and returned to his work filling up the cup and dumping it on his head.

From an evolutionary standpoint, they were not that far from monkeys. The boy’s mother could easily see the dripping wet boy in front of her as a naughty animal throwing a banana peel or a handful of poop in response to something he didn’t like. However, she still wished that he would use words as she wiped the water from her glasses.

Life was about to change for her monkey boy. His baby monkey brother was due to make his appearance in less than a week’s time. Soon the boy would have to share everything, including his parents, toys and time, with a noisy creature who would quickly double and triple in size and ability.

Little Legs would transition from being an only child to a brother, from one to one of a pair, all while he was still sleeping early on Sunday morning. The initial part of becoming a brother had required nothing from him, aside from a little patience and grace for his slow moving mother; it was the days and months and years to follow that would take work as the two boys evolved from being siblings to brothers to best friends, with any luck.

Yards of Yellow

dandysWe left the safety of the house for our morning exploration of the yard which usually involves tromping through the grass to check in on the garden, the status of a bird nest above Little Leg’s window and to blow on white haired dandelions to release their fluff in the breeze.  I assume our neighbors will thank us for their yards of yellow later this summer.  Of course, I didn’t expect to end the expedition with plans for a funeral, but that’s life.  And death.

Little Legs led me by the hand to inspect his stack of bricks and found the pile to be as he left it, precariously leaning to one side.  I pointed out a black dragonfly with square wings like the sails of a pirate ship that landed on a flat rock.  There were no disturbances in the garden, thanks to a regular dusting of diatomaceous earth, and the three fuzzy heads of the baby birds were all accounted for in the nest.  It was a morning in which all was remarkably well, begging for a small disaster to balance out our tiny universe in which the sun, moon and stars was contained in a pint-sized boy.

As we turned the corner and headed back towards the porch, I spotted something on the concrete pad next to an abandoned Mr. Potato Head and underneath of the window.  It was a palm-sized bird laying motionless on its side with its eyes cracked open in a sign of potential life.

Little Legs shouted, “Bur…” in delight and ran to scoop it up.

“No, baby! Something is wrong with that bird.  Let mama check it out.” 

I stepped in front of Little Legs to stop his obvious course of action and knelt down for a better look at the pile of soft brown feathers.  Ignoring the threat of bird-carrying diseases and parasites, I gently picked the bird up and its head rolled to the side without resistance; although its chest was still warm, the life was gone from its shiny, black eyes.  There was no fluttering heartbeat, quivering wings or chirping, just two tiny feathers stuck to the window where it must have made impact while we were sending dandelions seeds to destinations unknown.

Do I explain death, here and now, to Little Legs?  I promised myself before he was born that I would always try to be an honest parent and tell the truth, whatever version might be most age appropriate. 

“The bird died, buddy.  I think its neck is broken,” I explained to a face that did not comprehend. 

Little Legs threw his hands up in question and I instantly altered the narrative to one more comfortable and understandable, one that I assume my parents gave to me until I could grasp the concept of death.

“The bird is sleeping and its not going to wake up.”

Little Legs nodded his head, sleep was something he was very familiar with as he fought it every day and night.  He went to a box of gardening tools near the door and came back with a trowel.

“Chop, chop?” he asked.

“That’s good, we’ll dig a hole and bury the bird.”

He drove the shiny metal down onto the cement with a clashing sound to further explain his plan.  I hoped that he meant to dig into the soil.  I hoped for another opportunity as seemingly benign as this one to explain life and death.  Mostly, I hoped I wasn’t screwing up as a parent and that he would forgive me, if I was, someday.

Sugar

A pair of dark eyes surrounded by a face full of white fur peered into the window and gave a friendly bark, not too deep, not too loud, but a bark that was just right to get the attention of a little boy playing on the other side of the room.

“Uh, babe, what is that?”

It was shocking to see this large creature looking in at us like a spectator at a zoo, curious and anxious for interaction.  In fact, so suddenly did it appear that my husband was unable to register the nature of the drooling visitor.  However, I knew exactly where the fluffy voyeur was from, further confirmed as it continued to peer into our living room, waiting to be acknowledged by someone who was still making his way to the window. 

The animal’s name was Sugar, she lived across the street, and was most often found covered in mud, racing around the perimeter of the yard barking at birds.  We learned her name just a few days ago, but had visited her through the winter and spring.  She was a living landmark on our walks, a touch-point during our travels that indicated a successful road crossing.

It appeared that she was simply returning the favor in her first moments of freedom.  We were her touch-point from a successful road crossing in the opposite direction.  

“She came to find Little Legs.”

At last, Little Legs made it to the window and shrieked in delight.  He dropped his Tonka truck which landed on my foot with a crash and a cry of pain, from me, as it was an old hand-me-down toy that was on the verge of being unsafe with metal and hard, moveable plastic bits.  Little Legs grabbed onto the window ledge with a grin that was made of the same combination of drool, teeth, and a hanging tongue as his visitor and pointed at the door.

He was ready to go out and see his friend without a window or gate between the two.  Sadly, it was a desire that was not meant to be for these two besties.  An invisible breeze blew the scent of something too juicy to ignore past the dog’s wet nose.  Sugar sniffed the air, gave another bark and took off at a full gallop, determined to spend the rest of its freedom doing dog-things from its to-do list, now one item shorter.

It is nice to have friends, isn’t it Little Legs?

When Daddy Comes Home

The rumble of the garage door opening distracts Mr. Baby from his important work stacking plastic rings on a post.  His little ears and eyes perk up like daffodils after a Spring rain. 

“Dada, dada, dada,” he begins to chant, increasing in volume and force as he bounces up and down.

He toddles over and throws his body into my lap with a demand to be carried to the garage door.  Obviously, the mommy taxi can take him where he wants to go faster than his chubby legs can travel.

At this point, I am chopped liver and accept my new designation.  It has been a long few days on our own.  I carry the tiny tyrant to wait by the garage door and set him down on the rug. 

Unfortunately, the entire process takes too long for Mr. Baby and his patience is wearing thin.  He flexes into a tripod position and pushes off of the ground and up to stand.  He bangs his fists against the door.  He hears the movement of a suitcase, the shuffling of feet and the slam of a car door.

At last, the door knob turns and Mr. Baby’s father appears, travelworn and weary, but glad to be home.

“Hey guys, I missed you.” 

He brings his bags inside, pushes his suitcase out of the way and kneels to hug Mr. Baby.

Mr. Baby holds his arms out and then pivots to chase the rolling suitcase.  He laughs as he makes off with it down the hallway and leaves his father, open armed and crestfallen.

Suddenly, Mr. Baby is back without the suitcase and running into daddy’s arms.

Somedays, we have to laugh to keep from crying as parenthood continues to surprise, delight, crush and challenge us.  Today is one of these days that we can just laugh.