Fog and Forsythia
My eyes slowly opened. I rolled over to look out my bedroom window; the early light hung heavy like a damp, gray blanket. I stretched and yawned and so did the morning. I began my usual cadence. Cereal, dishwasher, lunches, news stories half-heard because they were interrupted by pressing questions like: “Mommy, could I run when I was baby?”
The morning ambled on. Socks were adorned, backpacks hoisted and miraculously, everyone got into the car with all their needed stuff with a minute to spare. We dropped Abby off first, as we always do. “I love you, Mom”, she tossed over her shoulder as she exited the minivan. With no cars behind me in the dog-eat-dog drop-off line, I paused. I luxuriated in watching her solid steps carrying her into school. Her hot pink fleece looked electric against the gray flannel morning. I was so content. So….full.
Henry and I continued our journey to his school. The road to his school is one of my favorite roads to travel. It curves. It winds. It suspends Henry and I in our own tight cocoon. We usually exist in silent camaraderie. This morning, however, this question pierced the quiet:
“Mommy?” (He always pauses. And always awaits my response.)
“Were you crying in that photo because I was so cute when I was a baby?”
Oh if I could only give him a quick answer.
Henry has fixated on his baby years. He studies his photos and videos with an unwavering eye, paying attention not only to himself but the others in the photos. This morning, he’s referencing a photo series from the day he was born. The photos portray Abby and Henry meeting for the first time. Abby is almost three. She is round, scrumptious and thrilled to meet her baby brother. Her blond curls form a glowing halo around her fair skin. Henry is a seven-pound, perfect scrawny chicken. The photos capture Abby, Henry and I sitting on my hospital bed. I hand Henry over to Abby. My emotion turns from loving, cautious instruction, to awe, to joy and then to a torrent of tears.
As I drove, my mind swirled with old memories and images. The views on the road to H’s school brought me back to the moment and to trees blushing against the foggy backdrop.
Yellow forsythia blooms punctuated the fog. I thought of Rilke’s words, “Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems”. Overnight, it was Spring. We got to school and I parked the car. I got out and stopped on Henry’s side of the minivan to get my usual pre-school hug. He nestled in and I felt the heavy weight of his body against mine. That hug turned into me carrying him all the way into school. Henry monkied around me and I wore his orange, monogrammed backpack. My arms and heart were full of him. Good Lord I was happy. The bubbly gratitude filled my belly and soul. We haven’t done this for years. Most days, he wants me to wait at the gate as he walks himself in (and just barely glances over his shoulder to make sure that I haven’t come any closer). I knew, even as this moment unfolded, that I may be experiencing a Last. So poignant and vivid, it was, to live in the moment knowing that it might not ever occur again. Ever.
We got to the door and he placed one, sweet kiss on my cheek.
“I love you”, I whispered.
His whispered-return swiftly crushed my heart, “I love you, too.”
I walked back down the brick path that led to the white picket fence that led to the driveway that would, eventually, lead to my car. I walked down the path that hung thick with three years of nostalgia. The tinkling voices of children danced on the spring air. I drove away, into my day, with my aching, grateful heart.