You make me young again.
Like the days after you were born and I was still a student.
And it was just you and me. Those were some fine days. Your angelic smiles and giggles existed in a bubble, all for me. I had dreams for you that I would write on the margins of my heavy law books while I willed myself not to daydream through the classes that I believed would make me smart, get me a job, give us a life someday. I was thrilled to get your cousin’s hand-me-downs or to find a free activity at the park district. Life was bliss with you, all new.
And we stayed in that world for a long time, the four of us. Mommy, Daddy, little you, little brother. It is a blissful life that seemed to endure forever, just a few years back. And now the corners of the vibrant nest I created for you fade, ever so slightly, ever so surely, as they blend into the reality that exists just outside our door.
We used to play in the empty lot across the street. At one time it was a junkyard, but that had been razed about a decade ago, and in its place, bright yellow dandelions poked through the crumbly, metallic soil. Every spring, without fail,we would wake up one day to a field of happy yellow flowers underneath the elevated train tracks. We pretended it was our giant yard in the country and you gathered wilting dandelion bouquets in your sweaty little fists.
I am sure that people look at us a little funny and wonder how I have been so happy. All of us stuffed into this little house, a jumbled schedule of work and play. Needs that must be met, a resourceful mom who always finds a way. A dad who is working all the time. Is this a life? My brunching friends feel sorry for me. Is this a life? The career I earned with grades and work speeds by as those who earned it less surpass me. Is this a life? My husband forgets who I am as I become a mom in her thirties, and not the “younger girl” he married. My life is here. It is not tangible, though. It exists in these blissful moments I couldn’t possibly describe. Your hug at the end of a day. The way you looked in that red, white, and blue outfit on the Fourth of July. My husband’s face when we found out you were a boy.
My grey hair is tangible. A few pieces this year, poking through like weeds. I could ignore the color, as it blends with the few gold highlights that used to make me feel like I was special. But the texture is aggressive. And the sounds of hammers, cranes, and excavators, pounding from dawn until dark, every day, even on the coldest days of winter – those sounds are tangible as they shake the earth and pound through our field to build the promise of luxury townhomes. Eco-friendly. Half-sold already!
The scar on my gut is tangible. Sinewy piece of skin that is paler than the rest. The other day you put a little band-aid on it, covered with cartoons. “When your tummy is better, I can nurse again. Yay!” You said this jokingly, because at nearly four years old you know full well that nursing has long since passed. But somewhere in that electric toddler brain of yours, there is a vestigial memory of a clingy baby boy whose mom was taken from him for months while the cancer was cut out and repaired.
It is all too much sometimes. And when it is, I close my eyes and remember when I had a baby in the middle of law school and thought that would be the wildest, hardest thing I’d ever have to do. My smiles at the end of that year were hopeful, happy, and real. They looked forward to today.
So I picture us, under the elevated train, picking dandelions in the hot sun and thinking about the future. Happy with what we had. Stupidly happy. The future is here and it keeps on coming. There is a smile on my face because one day I will look back at this and think that the year I had cancer was the wildest, hardest thing I’d ever have to do. Be grateful, babies. We have it really, really wonderful.