I want to run toward and away from change. I want to be in its inner circle and skirting its periphery, a safe distance from the roil and tumble of its consequences.
When things change, I want to hold my babies closer even as I rejoice in the slow curve of learning to let them grow, and to let them go day by day, milestone by milestone, year by year.
Last night my son’s hand reached to hold onto me as he slipped into sleep, and my hand slipped through his grasp as I promised I’d be back later to kiss him again, to hold him again, to say good night and our prayer all over again. But instead I went to my bedroom to change out of my work clothes, to the kitchen to do the dishes, to open a beer, then back to my king-size bed to lay down on my own for the first few precious moments in years, relishing my time in solitude even as I mourned the lost opportunity—going and going, and someday, not too long from now, gone—to hold my son’s hand, to press my forehead to his cheek, to wrap his lean, strong boy of a body completely in my arms and just be still.
Last night my husband brought our daughter to our bed. I fight it at bedtime but relinquish every night in the wee hours, welcoming her to fill the space beside me that she’s chiefly occupied since conception 20 months ago. For now I hang on to the status quo, to the lock of her lips blindly finding and latching to my skin as her eyelids rest above her bright brown eyes. For now I wake and, after the alarm has sounded, watch the rote movement of her lips’ persistent, gentle pucker, place my hand on her slowly rising and falling belly, lean in to kiss the plump of her olive-toned, apple-round, smooth-as-pearl cheeks. Then I kiss them again. And I kiss them again. And again. And I watch her sleep for a few moments before I rise, before the day begins, knowing that we are one day closer to the day that the nursing ends, the next phase begins, to her being more like her toddler brother than like the baby she still is; then like the child he is so swiftly becoming in these daily, small permutations and transitions: new words learned then replaced with newer words; sentences uttered; numbers counted; letters recited. First milk then mashes then solids. First pincers that learn to bring orts to their mouths, then gums that learn to smash, then throats that learn to swallow. Fingers that can grab forks and spoons. Hands that can hold. That can reach for mine.
Soon their hands will be slipping through mine, and I will be the one continuing to reach and reach and reach, and not wanting to relinquish my hold.
All this change—all these small, daily permutations—makes me feel alive and makes me feel my powerlessness in life, in love, in stopping the eternal coil of time from unwinding and unraveling, and my heart unspools and my gut roils and I cling to hope and to the love I store and harbor and cultivate, against all odds, in my stubborn, determined heart.