The woman in the picture is my maternal grandmother. I'm the one in the blanket. If I am remembering correctly, she gave me this picture. It's in a photo album next to a note handwritten by my mother, "Hi Mamaw! Please pick me up and give me a big hug! Mommy said you would take good care of me. Will you rock me to sleep tonight?"
My grandmother was a nurse at the hospital in which I was born (you can see just the edge of her nurse's cap in the photo). I was a preemie (although, weighing in at a whopping five pounds, I was a giant compared to my also-preemie sisters who didn't break 4.5 pounds), so my stay in the hospital lasted longer than the typical two days. With responsibilities torn between home (where a two-year old waited) and the hospital, I imagine my mother slept just a bit easier (if she slept at all) knowing that even as she could not be at the hospital with me, family was there - holding, watching, loving. In fact, it was my grandmother who years later told me that with each new family member, God created more room in our hearts to love.
There has been much talk of family this week as Nathan makes his daily presence more known, seeming to have found his voice and the ability to better use his tight grasp, simultaneously. Perhaps, it is simply the carefree spirit of summer migrating into our house, but we are beginning to wear this family-of-four status much like a favorite worn blanket: actually showing up on time for a couple events, and Jason and I finding a few more niches of calm tucked into our days to share with one another. Audrey has especially been centering my thoughts homeward with her family-themed comments and questions. Nathan is part of our family, right? When I am big do I get to tell you what to do?
(I told her no, but when she became a mother, she could tell her own children what to do). Will you still be a mommy when I'm a mommy?
Yes, but I'll also be a grandmother. (This brought on a slew of questions.)
Then, on Wednesday, she asked, "who is Mamaw's mommy?" I told her about my grandmother and how much she would have loved to have known Audrey. I also explained that my grandma had died before Audrey was born. Audrey was silent for a few minutes. Then she said, "So, since Mamaw doesn't have a mommy, she can cross the street by herself?"
"Yes. Mamaw can cross the street by herself," I said. Audrey changed topics. But I found myself rolling her sentence over and over again in my head. What she said could have been merely an accident, but even as an adult - one whose children were grown - I can imagine that in the days and months following her mother's death, my mom might very well have felt as if she were crossing the street by herself for the first time.
Audrey has been making a "first street crossing" of her own, so to speak. As of a garage sale find yesterday, she has traded in her tricycle for a bike with training wheels. This afternoon, Jason taught her how to push the pedals. Forward to go. Backward to break. Now, he in his rollerblades and she on her bike, the two circle the cul de sac while I type - their motion interrupted by the occasional shaky collapse of the bike. Then, it is up again. Forward to go. I sit, typing as fast the words come, trying to hold the moment. The week that has just been. Backward to break.
Moments from last week:
Last Sunday during a session outside involving running through sprinklers, Audrey and Jason began discussing his hair. Audrey has only known Jason to have very short hair.
"Why don't you have hair?" she asked.
"God didn't want me to have hair," Jason answered.
Audrey accepted this answer for a few minutes. Then she countered, "Yes, God did want you to have hair. He gave you hair on your belly."
Monday night we asked for her help to shuck ears of corn. While shucking the "ears," she asked, " Does corn have a head?"
On Wednesday, Jason had told Audrey he would walk her to the park after we finished eating. Then, when prompted to go wash her hands, she ignored the request. "Not washing your hands isn't helping your cause," he said.
"But I don't have a cause!" she yelled.
Nathan began crying Friday afternoon. "Are you still hungry, buddy?" I asked. "Or just tired?"
Audrey looked up from her plate at the table. "Or maybe he just wants his waffle [her nickname for Jason]. I think he wants his waffle and not his crepe [her nickname for me]."
Jason called to let me know he was on his way home Friday evening. Audrey asked if it was him. "He's on his way home, but might take a while because he's stuck in traffic," I said.
Audrey, familiar with the word "stuck" in relation to sitting along the side of the road out of gas or being trapped in an elevator, asked, "Does he need someone to help him?"
Happily, this week we are not feeling stuck around here. The workload has not decreased and our days run on basically the same schedule as before. But the sun is holding its own a bit more these days, trying to show night who's boss. Neighborhood children test their kites against the wind in view of my back door. The garden is a daily treasure hunt. Inside the walls bounce with laughter and light. No, we are not stuck. Unless, you count this little feeling that wells up now and again inside a mama. The desire to encourage her little ones' growth: the desire to set time to a slow simmer. Forward to go. Backward to break.