It's so cold. I dreamed I was a little girl again in Montana, standing on the playground with my arms both stuffed into the bodice of my jacket. I didn't always have the nicest shoes or newest jeans. My winter coat was from the Goodwill and my lunch ticket was blue, free. I had moved around a lot. Three years in a row and so I understood how to blend in on the playground. Instead of searching for friends I sat under the slide and pretended I lived in a cabin, far from civilization. I can still remember the way the sand smelled underneath the wooden play structure. It was full of pebbles and bits of discarded plastic. Sometimes I was teased because my shoes were cheap and my last name was funny. Sometimes I cried because all I really wanted was to fit in. But mostly, I learned not to think that much about myself, so that when people asked about me I would blush, afraid to speak my mind, embarrassed to even say my name out loud at roll call. I learned to cover my mouth when I smiled, a nervous tick that still feels familiar even now. Even lifetimes later. I've trained myself to never do it, to say my name confidently, and to shake someones hand with an assertive squeeze. These are the robes I wear. I'm educated. I know that I am beautiful. Smart. A woman who possesses worth. And yet, deep down I will always second guess myself in social situations. I will cringe at my sneakers amongst better dressed company, and feel ashamed to ask others for help when I need it. In fourth grade I was made to feel like I didn't matter; because I was poor. Because I was different. Because my family moved around a lot.
Years later, I know I am a good person. I am a good mother too. You would be lucky to call me your friend.
These childhood rites of passage make us more empathetic. More real. Better able to listen.
My prayer for my daughters is that they have the courage to be different. And even more so, to be kind and posses the compassion and insight to see the light inside every person.
I see you. I hear you. I know you. I accept you.
Nearly five. Nearly school aged. A swimmer now. A rider of bikes and scooters so fast I have to jog to stay in sight. A unicorn birthday. An almost reader. A sounder-outer. A lover of dragons and bees, fossils and volcanoes.
She has been my constant companion for years. My confidant and friend, my greatest work, my pleasure. When the summer ends so will our undivided time. And I'm thankful. What a gift these days with my children have been!
Spring is warm this year. The breezes are summer things. And even now I can feel the end of August wearing the sharp disguise of an early May sun.
I will miss her.
But I will also remember everything.
And there it was. Five years. A blink.
The house is all quiet. Gwenyth, a big girl, is now asleep in a baby crib. Abi is playing dragons at her friend, Ana's house. I am lost somewhere in the middle of a grey afternoon. The lack of color seeps into to floor boards. These moments alone are so rare now. The house smells of crock pot. The couch cushions are off. A sea of down I won't disturb. Later there will be jumping sounds and laughing sounds. I know who I am. Here I am. I push aside the feelings that I am getting too soft. My hair is too thin. There are wrinkles now, and I am no longer lovely. Some of these things are true things. I am a mother of girls. I must choose my words carefully. I am busy and life is full. I love my husband. I still crave my mother's praises. I get nervous in groups. My body is smooth. My hair is shiny. My face is still young and yet finally, there are rivers of love and worry there too. My daughter's are lovely. I am full of beautiful ideas. I am Miranda.
So I won't forget:
1. Gwen is potty trained! She's not even two and she's wearing undies full time now (with the exception of night time.) I think she's so cool. She just wanted to be so much like big sister.
2. Abi is going to be a Dragon for Halloween. Gwen has chosen a ballerina. At first we had an earwig and a baby Elmo on our hands but after some thought both girls decided to switch it up a little.
3. I am so busy this year with preschool and preschool fundraising. Abi is taking ballet and Gwen is in gymnastics and we're busy and it's fun! This is the first year where I haven't had a baby in arms and I feel so free. Now that I'm not even lugging diapers around I just feel like we can get out and do anything!
4. Blake and I have been talking casually about moving abroad and what that would look like. It seems crazy to us some minutes and thrilling and adventurous and somehow doable at other times. Maybe he'll apply for a fellowship in London. Maybe he'll apply for an assistant principal job in Hawaii. Or maybe we'll just stay put and think about buying a house again in another couple of years. It's so fun to have the freedom to just imagine some of the possibilities.
5. I've been thinking a lot about what I should do once Gwen starts kindergarten and even though it's a way off, I get excited to think about where I'll end up. I'd still like to work only 30 hours a week or something like that so that I can pick up the chickadees from school. Maybe I'll try for volunteer coordination or fundraising. I could get a counseling job or even skills coach of some kind. Maybe I'll work at the food bank. Seriously I would love that.
6. These are the things that I am currently loving about Abigail: Her zest for bugs. She is fearless in her pursuit of insects and I adore it. When she kisses me she always ends it with a little zurbert. It's sweet and slobbery and I'm so happy she still wants to kiss me so often.
7. Gwen never makes a fit. Never. If you ask her to share she will. If you tell her to put away her toys she does it. Gwen rubs my back and says "Pretty mama." She loves baby dolls and carries one nearly every where we go.
8. Sometimes I feel really sad about the summer being over. We have it so good weather wise, financially, and everything else in the summer. Blake is home at noon. 12 pm. It's insane. My parents make a nice long visit and so there are a lot of dates and family dinners. It is really quite hard to go back to the rain. I make little things to look forward to throughout the months so that we're never feeling too grey. Tonight it's the art museum and dinner in the city. Soon we'll see Disney on Ice. Gwen is turing 2 next weekend and there will sweet little surprises in store.
Blake and I were laughing quietly in the living room when Gwen woke up. After we had waved goodbye to Blake and refilled the coffee we stayed there in the quiet of of the early sun, snuggling. Later when Abi was up we made bacon and toast, strawberries and yogurt. The girls laughed as they dipped berries into their creamy bowls and Abi suggested a nature walk. So we did. And we collected things for nature art and it was sunny and slow. As we turned toward home the sky held the moon like a jewel, and Gwennie murmured "Nigh nigh moon" over and over, in a raspy way.
Back at home there were stones and branches, moss covered bark, and pinecones. We used glitter and tape, red construction paper and purple paint. We chased away the backyard butterflies and when the children wanted to ride bikes, we did that.
First up and down the street, ringing their bells, a chorus of "watch me, and mama! look, look please!" and after awhile we made our way toward lunch. Abi dragged a chair to the counter and spread cream cheese on pieces of sourdough. Gwen ached for the watermelon, until finally she was allowed to grasp at the dewy rind. They ate together, quietly, and when they had finished we read books. I cleaned the kitchen and the sisters begged to help. I handed them each a damp washcloth and they grinned.
Gwen nearly fell asleep in my arms while Abi and I read stories of Bigfoot. After I had deposited a sleepy Gwenyth to her crib, Abi and I made marzipan frosting and spread it between two graham crackers. Our favorite treat.
When Gwen wakes up we'll run through the sprinkler and dig in the flower beds, Gwen squealing "Pie!, always the mud pies. And since it's so hot we'll meet daddy out front on the sizzling pavement and suggest Friday margaritas, tiny girl hands and feet grasping at him. "Pick up me! Me too! Up too!"
And I will tell you: (nothing is perfect) but if you wake up intent on savoring something, it will reveal itself to you in waves of beauty.
Abi took a picture of me giving Blake his "back to school" haircut last week. I've been cutting his hair for 8 years. Sometimes I wish he'd just go to someone and get it done but then he looks at me with a sly smile and says how much he loves my fingers in his hair and so then I don't mind so much.
Today was our first day home (finally!) alone without any company or distractions. The girls and I spent an hour in bed reading and snuggling. It was so warm and happy. Tomorrow is the real first day of school and Abi and I will make peach pie and cedar roasted salmon to celebrate.
I am acutely aware of the fact that this is my last year home with Abi. Next year she'll be big, kindergarten stuff. I'm so looking forward to quiet afternoons with her alone, practicing our letters, thumbing our way through books and catching ants in a jar.
When Abi is busy with preschool, Gwennie and I will take mommy and me ballet and sometimes we will eat gooey cinnamon rolls at the funky coffee shop (the really funky one) and we won't tell anyone about it.
And even though I lost my phone, stepped on my Kindle (breaking it!) and then drove away with my wallet still on top of the car (all today!) I'm okay because after nap time we'll suit up and hit the baby pool for the last of these beautiful sunny days.
Fall is slipping in gracefully.
Where has the summer gone? The last six months? Years, it seems, have ignited. Years like sparks; never a forever thing. I don't know how to keep up with time anymore. I'm 32 now and I think about how I started out on this whole thing at 27 and that sounds so young to me. 27 and a child. Yesterday I thought about the fact that I will die. For certain, I will cease. I tried to get really existentialist for a minute ( I do that sometimes in preparation for things) and I sensed that even though the thought of dying felt frightening, it would pass and one day I would be ready. One day I would wake up knowing I had been mindful and that life had been full. At least I hope that's how it goes. One never knows.
Anyway, the girls are these kids now. We were just in the woods this morning, catching water skippers in our pails and Abi looked at me with these really curious, excited eyes and said, "oh mom, don't you just love to look at a little creature?" And I knew just what she meant.
The girls throw off all of their clothes and wander into the backyard in search of tomato vines. They stand there eating the juicy treats and giggling to each other. That is summer. Naked garden tomatoes with your sister. A cool drink from the hose. (You can taste it.) The best things in life are always the simplest.
Some things are timeless.