motherhood

We Already Knew Him

Ten years ago today, Tim and I met our first boy for the first time.  We finally saw Luke face to face, and even though it was the first time we looked into his squinty, swollen eyes, we already knew him.  We didn’t know yet that he would grow up to be a grace-filled, brave, creative, empathetic and goofy boy.  We don’t know what kind of man he’ll end up being, but we knew him back when he was a scrawny, cone-headed newborn.  We know him now and always will.

He’s our first born.  Perfectly Luke.

At two days old, he came home from the hospital to our tiny apartment.  We spent one sleepless night at home before finding a funky looking sore on the thin skin of his shoulder.  Tim called the nurse, who calmly, yet urgently, told us to go into the emergency room.  This initiated the process of the unraveling of our souls.

We packed his tiny body into the car.  When he was awake, he wasn’t fussy at all.  He just looked up at us in the E.R. waiting room, cool cucumber like.  Later we would find out that this was his default for life.  Smooth, just rollin’ through.  Of course, his demeanor changed when the nurses tried unsuccessfully to get an i.v. into his nonexistent veins.  Tim and I watched as he screamed and writhed on the table as nurses tried five times to stick an enormous needle into his back for a spinal tap.  All of those unsuccessful too.

I don’t remember much of the conversations with the doctors.  My brain grew fuzz as hormones and emotions surged.  My body still ached from being in this same hospital days before.  Tim told me later, much later, that he remembers asking the doctor one thing.  “Are we going to lose our boy?”

Tim doesn’t remember much after the doctor replied with a complacent and dull, “I don’t know.”

Shock flooded over us.  I don’t remember them admitting Luke.  I don’t remember how we all got upstairs to the room in the children’s wing where we would live for the next four days.  I don’t remember what the doctors thought Luke had.  What was wrong with our boy?  I do remember they didn’t really know either, or at least they weren’t letting us in on their diagnosis yet.  They spat words like spinal meningitis and unknown infection and samples for the lab.  According to Tim, there was a Seahawk’s playoff game going on throughout our wait in the E.R.  I don’t remember that either.  By the time we got upstairs, the game over and a W in the books.

Luke lay in that starchy hospital crib.  Wires, connecting him to a myriad of monitors, streamed off him in all directions.  A nurse successfully found a vein in his head so the i.v. tube got taped to his scalp, sticking to his fine, black hair.  All I wanted to do was to hold him, but all those tubes and wires felt like walls.

Luke and ITim and LukeTim, Luke and I

Over and over nurses came in to check on him.  All of them commenting on how laid back and chill he was.  Huh, I thought, aren’t all babies like this?  That was just Luke, still is.  Blase, blase.  Looking back, I feel like he was teaching and guiding us.  I feel like if we could have turned our freak outs down, we would have looked into his eyes and known everything was cool.  Of course we now know the splotchy skin thing turned out to be nothing.  I’m not sure if it was a miracle or all the medicine they pumped into his body healed whatever the lab couldn’t even figure out.  Maybe it was health officials just taking necessary precautions with a newborn, or maybe even newborn rash that looked funkier than usual.  We don’t know, never will.  I do know that hindsight gives a fuller picture, but some part of me knows that even if it had turned out to be something serious, Luke would have surfed right through it still.  Teaching us how to be so chill.

Being a new mom, I was so unsure about it all.  How would I bottle up all this love so I could adequately function as an adult, instead of crumpling in a puddle while my insides flung into all parts of the world?  I should have listened to my gut when I saw Luke for the first time.  I should have let that moment bring me through the turmoil in the days to come.  I already knew him, always will, and that’s all I needed to remember when the chaos came.  I just needed to know that sometimes he will be the one to guide me.  I’m not sure how to go with the flow when my world is falling apart.  Luke does.  Even when that huge wave is about to crash down, I get to watch Luke surf it.  It has taken me ten years to realize this lesson.  I still mess it up most of the time.  Sometimes he looks to me to show him the way, but mostly, I just watch him and learn.

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motherhood

Only Our Kid

I didn’t think much of it at first.

Jack pulled a bright green paper out of his school folder and tossed it across the table to me.  “Mom, I want to take this new class.  Can you sign the paper so I can go?”

I read over the information and found out that his teacher was going to offer a class before school for kids who wanted to learn how to type.  Whelp, I thought, he might as well learn now.  That’s a skill he will use for the rest of his life.  Well, until Stephen Hawking gets the patent for a robot who can read your thoughts and record them onto paper.  Until Stephen or somebody else figures that out, typing class it is.

I still didn’t think it was that big of a deal on the Sunday night before the first Monday class started.  I looked over my weekly planner and reminded Jack that he couldn’t diddle around the house tomorrow morning if he wanted to make it to his new class on time.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t as mopey as he normally is when the school week has to start up again after a fun, carefree weekend.  I should have clued into that slightly abnormal behavior, but I still sat in naive oblivion at that point.

When the next morning rolled around, he pretty much snapped his fingers and his chores were done.  And done very well, I might add.  When he bounced happily into the car, I started to get slightly suspicious.  Something strange was going on, but I couldn’t put my finger on it yet.  Monday mornings are especially hard on Jack because he’s a boy after my own hermit heart.  A carefree, lazy weekend is heaven so when an obligatory all day function like school rolls around, normally there are scratches on the kitchen floors from dramatically dragging feet.  Sometimes he leaves a trail of tears on his way out the door too, but that happens only about once a month.  He loves school, but he loves being at home with us even more.

I had to make a special trip to drop him off early since the class started a half an hour before school.  I would circle back and take Luke later.  On the drive there he chatted happily away in the backseat.  Normally he gets more talkative the more excited he is, which is sometimes overwhelming for anyone else in the car.  This morning the chattiness was bearable, actually it was quite enjoyable, since the topic veared away from fifty billion vague minor Star Wars details in each episode.

We both pulled up in the car to the drop off zone so he could easily hop out and zoom over to the school’s front door.  Instead of getting out quickly and slamming the door as I yell, “I LOVE YOU!  HAVE A GOOD DAY!” like we do everyday, he leaned forward and tried to give me a bear hug.  It turned into an awkward sandwich hug with the driver’s seat in between us and Jack’s hands reaching around my neck and strangling me in the sweetest way possible.  It was endearing,  I promise you.  I got to look him in the face and tell him I loved him that morning instead of the normal, slam and me wishing his butt and backpack a good day.  Usually he and Luke walk quickly away from the car, look in the opposite direction, then to each other in confusion, as if they are both wondering who that weird lady is yelling obscene “I love you’s.”

By then I could tell his excitement level was high because he kept eye contact with me even after he shut the car door.  I waved cheerfully as he returned the gesture.  He paused and waved exactly four more times before he passed the car.  I was so shocked by what happened next, I almost rear ended the parent in front of me, also dropping off their kid.  He turned back for the last time, for what I thought was the fifth wave, but instead of waving, he put his grown-up boy hands up to his lips and blew. me. a. kiss.  I am not kidding you.  He did this in public, in front of all his typing friends, on a Monday morning, no less.

And that is when I knew there was no denying it.  This kid was definitely ours.  Only Tim and I could make a kid who would be flipping out over an un-required, extra schooling class that involved learning how to type.  We sure know how to make some pretty sweet nerdy kids.

Update: I went to drop off the boys at school yesterday (the day after Jack’s inaugural class) in my normal morning school run attire, which is whatever I rolled out of bed in plus boots, a hat and my coat.  Yesterday I wore my vintage Sonics t-shirt (no bra) and my pink and black floral pajama pants.  On Tuesdays I normally come in to volunteer in Jack’s class about an hour after school has started to help out with math groups.  On our way out the garage door, Jack stiffened and paused as a horrified look spread over his entire body.

“Mom.  You’re not wearing that when you come into my class are you?”

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And that is when I realized the excitement of a new typing class had worn off.  Apparently, he couldn’t appreciate the fact that I had stylishly tucked my pink silky pants into my boots.  That and I tried to save him from embarrassment by zipping up my coat to hide my no-bra status.  Dude, my blue and orange hat matched my coat.  I do have some fashion sense left in me, after all.  Your welcome.

There weren’t any loud displays of affection when both boys hopped out of the car that morning.  I wished their little behinds a good day and an I love you.  Normalcy restored.

 

Since I had some time before making an appearance in Jack’s class I went home to attempt some self improvement.  I slapped on some make-up and sprayed my hair with shiny spray to make it appear like I actually washed it.  Then I put my fancy Target cardigan over my t-shirt and jeans, because I. am. a. professional.

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books, writing

Answering the Call

I giggled to myself on Saturday morning.  I woke up before anyone else in my parents’ house.  A late holiday weekend celebration underway.  The house, still cold and quiet, as everyone else snoozed away.  The early morning Winter sunlight barely showed through the tightly shaded windows, promising some minute heat as the day wore on. 

Seeking out warmth and looking to escape the frozen tundra that was my old bedroom (now deemed the guest room/Pell abode), I tiptoed down the hall.  Tim and the boys still snoring.  Ryna and Eric’s door still closed and nothing stirring at my parent’s end of the hall.  

When I was in high school there used to be one tile that was warmer than all the others, a little short of midway down the hall.  A malfunction of some missing insulation on the basement heating ducts, I think.  My toes searched for that warm tile but found only uniform temperatured flooring.  Then I remembered my dad telling me how he fixed the ducts below the house a few years back.  I mourned that warm tile that used to welcome my blue toes each morning.

I managed to make it down the hall and next to the fire without disturbing anyone else, not even Clementine.  Someone had been up earlier than me.  The evidence lie in the extra two logs burning bright and already blazing throughout with neon red embers and white charcoal falling off the bone.  Whoever it was had already gone back to bed for a few more minutes of shut eye.  Lucky me though, the family room was nice and toasty, a stark contrast to our bedroom.

A cup of coffee would have been nice in that moment but I didn’t want to wake anyone with the grinder.  That sacrifice for the quiet stillness would be worth it, especially if I got a chance to thoroughly dig into my new book.

I tucked myself into the blanket on the couch and cracked open my bright yellow book.  New pages smell so good, don’t they?  Always in need of a few stains from greasy fingers and some accidentally dogeared pages.  Pristine, unused and crisp, with so much promise of new worlds to explore, new ideas to discover, rich words to dissolve into my soul.

And that’s when the real giggle occurred.  I thought, Wow.  I can read the shit out of anything.  It’s always been this way.  If I can write half as well as I can read, this author thing might really turn out well.

All throughout my life, when my counterparts were outside, I was holed up inside, or at least in the shade, so the sun wouldn’t blind me to my page.  Don’t get me wrong, I still liked to get muddy outside, build forts in the empty lot next door and run crazy around the neighborhood, taking breaks to quench my thirst with the garden hose.  Yet even as the dirt layers grew on my bare elbows and knees, those words on the pages called to me.  Come back, we’re waiting for you.  

So I split my time living and reading about living.  I found kindred spirits in the real world and in the pages.  Both kinds real.  Both true friends.

When a rare sunny Summer day showed up in the Pacific Northwest, there was a 50/50 chance I would be inside soaking up the words as others soaked up the sun.  Most didn’t understand why I would actively choose to be inside.  Maybe they didn’t know that my soul needed to consume the written word, more than my skin needed the vitamin D that day.  Reading, an active kind of rest for my inner being.  When others needed the fresh air, I needed to breathe in new worlds and new characters.  It wasn’t an escape from my real life, it was more of being unable to deny the beckoning of my book.

On those days I picked my spot and settled in for the long haul.  In high school my parents had these forest green leather couches in the family room.  A matching overstuffed, shiny rocking recliner became MY spot.  I’m sure there is still a buttprint matching my teenage hiney in that chair.  That spot vacant only when I left for a food refill or a potty break.  I discovered the life and times of a red-haired girl from Avonlea in that chair.  Tolkien’s Eowyn kicked some ass there too.  Right there, by the fire, I traveled to other worlds, lived other people’s lives and spewed out emotions on all sides of the spectrum.  My body lay sedentary, but my mind flew.

Another time, I took over the hammock set up in the shade at our Eastern Washington campground.  Aslan was on the move and I couldn’t leave that spot, not even to jump in the cool lake.  The sun crossed the sky as I swatted gnats away and flipped page after page.

As these stories called to me and paralyzed me until they concluded, I began to feel more alive.  I needed the stories and, somehow, they needed me.  Lately, it’s been the same with writing, except the story is begging to be told instead of consumed.  And just as I stumbled along as I learned to read, I’m still tripping up as I write my own story.  Someday, I hope I can write the shit out of anything.  For now, I will attempt to free my soul pounding out one word at a time.

In my parents’ warming spot by the wood fire, I thought about how not much has changed.  Well, the green recliner is gone and other life loves and responsibilities don’t allow me to spend all day reading, but that new book still beckons to me, it always will, threatening to hold on until the last page is reached.  And so, until that first person walks down the hall, maybe searching for the elusive warm tile, I will crack open my book and answer the call.