When she came to my bedside last night, in the early hours of the morning, I felt her before I could see the shadow of her carved out against the black.
In the bed, she stayed closer than close, arms around my neck, forehead to my forehead, nose bumping my nose. Uncomfortably close. Nudging herself into my dreams, close.
But she held so tightly, I could not roll away.
This morning, I run the cold water to fill the carafe for coffee.
I push the faucet to hot. When the force of the stream remains, I go under the cabinet and turn the hot water off. We have a slow leak on the hot water pipe beneath our sink, discovered a few weeks ago. It’s enough to fill one of our biggest bowls over the course of a day and a half, and with the slant of our kitchen, the water spills over and has made a dark dent in the wood of the cabinet.
I retrieve the big blue bowl that has been catching the drips, dump it into the sink and push start on the coffee.
Asher comes sliding across the kitchen floor in Spiderman footies. He’s whining that Alex has chosen a documentary that he doesn’t want to watch. His whole body is a whimper, a shoulder hunched, knees bent, head nuzzling into my side, mess of neediness.
Please, stop. I gently, but firmly, push his head up and away from my hip. If you’re not ready to handle the day, go back to your bed. This is not something to come crying to me about.
This afternoon, I’m shooting a wedding for a client whose mother won’t see Easter this year, let alone the couple’s original summer wedding date. Everything has moved up, nothing is as was scheduled. It’ll be very intimate, very quiet, very fast. I’ll be there for only a couple of hours, arranged by the bride’s sister. The couple didn’t want to put me into such an emotional situation, a wedding with a feeling of finality, rather than new beginnings.
Oh, it’s fine, I assured them, Emotions don’t scare me. I love them.
I make my living off of emotions, off of love, both romantic and familial. I seek out the father of the bride, wiping tears. I watch for the mother of the bride, tilting her head and clutching her waist as her little girl dances with her daddy, all grown up.
I write my stories from emotions. The heartbreak of lost babies turns into short fiction. Confusion and sadness over death translates into eloquent blogging.
I cry behind the camera, while smiling, while shooting.
I weep while writing.
So, why then, do I crave this space?
Why then, is it hardest for me to be the soft, tearful mush that I am, with the ones who long for it the most?
Why, when they hug me tighter in their sleep, do I want more than anything, to be free to roll away?
Lila is sleeping beside me now. It’s a Friday morning, our laziest of days, and so I let her climb in while I type.
She calls me on it, more than the boys. Alex doesn’t say anything, but his face will drop. I see it happen, when he feels the distance between us, and I’ll usually go in closer to rub his soft head. Shake it off, son. Mama loves you, even when she’s all business.
But, Lila, she tells me, I don’t like when you talk like that – if my tone is shorter than my words. She tells me how she feels. How I make her feel, when I talk at her and not to her.
It’s not you, I want to tell her. It’s me. It’s motherhood, and how it divides me in two. The shake it off and the kiss it better. The gentle and the firm. The emotional and the logical.
Anyone else, anyone, I’m a hug, waiting.
I’m a heart, willing to break.
But, with my children, I’m more often just the bowl, catching the leaking drips, emptying out into the sink and hoping to do a good enough job that the floor beneath us doesn’t warp or mold.
For better or worse, for this moment in our lives, I am functional over emotional.
In the kitchen, I pour my first cup of coffee.
Asher and Alex have resolved their issues. A documentary about Native Americans plays on the TV. Asher builds a bridge of K’nex on the floor. Lila woke up and asked for toast, followed by a sweet, I love you, Mama.
A friend just texted me a picture of spring, thawed, softened ground and green shoots pushing through.
Spring is here.
And I know, I’ll get there too.