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Missing the Middle

Asher earned his very first belt in karate last night.

I’d show you pictures, except I have none.

I have pictures and video of Alex and Lila receiving their orange belts, months ago. I have pictures of them, kneeling and throwing their old belts over their left shoulders, accepting their new ones.

But yesterday, I had my hands completely free.  In my rush to get him out the door and to class, I forgot the camera on my bed. And when I reached for my phone to ask Vinnie to bring it for me when he came to join us, I realized I had forgotten my phone too.

And so, I sat, feeling like a terrible mom, there, watching her middle child, her third child, whom she didn’t even have a camera phone to snap a picture of as he accomplished something pretty darn big for a five year old.

I sat there and had visions of him as the Jan Brady of our family, and I ached.

How will he remember that he was just as important as his brother and sisters, when his birthday was in April and he has yet to be celebrated with a party? How will he know that I care, if he doesn’t grow up with pictures of this accomplishment to go alongside the trophies and pictures of his siblings and their accomplishments?

I sat there, wishing that I could have somehow whispered into his ear as he stood, prepping for the class, tugging at his belt and pulling the long pants of his gi up over his dirty heeled feet: I promise, you’re not an afterthought, Asher.

I just have so much trouble holding everything together.

And sometimes, I slip. I fumble. I forget.

But, you, are never out of my heart.


There was a moment when Asher was an infant, three or four months. It had been a hard day and Vinnie was in the kid’s room, tucking Alex and Lila into their beds. It had been a day of me, me, me and mine, mine mine. It had been a day of pushing and of bickering and squealing. For the first time in hours, the house was quiet, and I can remembering feeling stress pinch the muscles in my shoulders as I zipped a wriggling Asher up into his footie pajamas on our living room floor.

And then, for no reason that I had given him to do so, he smiled. He gave me, what would become, his trademark grin. And it melted the stress, it softened my heart. It, he, saved me for the night.

I have similar moments, tucked away in my heart, for each of my children. Sweet memories of ordinary days that then turned out in an unexpected way, to be joy for my heart, forever. None of them are captured in pictures, only kept in the vault of my memories, which dulls all of the edges, and clutters up the details, but somehow keeps the emotional chords stronger and more brilliant than any photograph ever could.


Asher learns one on one with his karate instructor and last night I sat alone in a metal folding chair as they went through his warm-ups together. Normally, during his classes, I have Evie in my arms, or I’m chasing her around the rest of the dojo, playing. Otherwise, I’m catching up on phone calls to my mom or to clients. I don’t ever sit and pay attention to the class.

But last night, I was there, completely hands-free and I just watched.

They bear walked. They duck walked. They ran forwards and backwards. They kicked. They did punches, punctuated by the shouting of “A!” by Asher as he pushed his fist through the air.

And with each line of warm-ups, he looked over his shoulder at me. Not at an empty seat.  Not at me, behind a camera. Not at me, looking downward at the phone in my hand. He grinned, at me, and the love shot straight to my soul.

Better than any photograph I could ever take, better than any cell phone snap Instagram could ever boast.

And I think, maybe, just maybe, the smile of pride and love on my own face, may have just been the same for him.

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