“Well, this isn’t how I thought it was going to go.” Cian said this to me the week before last. He was lying in bed beside me, and the clock said it was about four a.m. He’d been up since the middle of the night …
Let me tell you a little bit about how 2019 and the entrance to 2020 have gone.
We had a snow storm in our area last week, primarily because David was away for work, and when David goes away for work, the skies decide it’s a good time to dump at least six inches of unexpected snow onto our large driveway. Saoirse and I got it shoveled right away that afternoon, thanks to her enthusiasm for physical exertion and my stubborn will to keep going and ignore the spasms in my bad back (three large pregnancies with three very large babies broke me). When we woke the next morning to a blessed, much-needed, two-hour school delay, a snow squall was rolling through the neighborhood, covering the driveway with a powder-sugared coating that hid the pretty, sparkly, inevitably painful sheen of sheer ice that lay beneath it.
As the kids were getting bundled into their hats and gloves and coats for school, I backed the car of the garage to make it easier for them all to pile in with their backpacks and instruments and lunches. I’d asked Quinlan to take out the dog before we left, but when I looked over from my spot in the warm driver’s seat, here’s what I saw: my little girl was on her stomach and sliding ever so slowly–against her will, mind you–down the driveway. She looked up at me in shock while her knees (bare knees, because #catholicschool) and elbows did their best to hold her up as Riley, paws skittering across the ice, dragged her in slow motion down the driveway. (You guys, it’s a pretty long driveway.) Quinlan couldn’t find purchase on the concrete-turned-skating rink to stand up, and I shouted at her to let the dog go as I threw open the car door to help her. God bless the kid: she hadn’t let go of that leash. But then I moved to get out of the car, and the next thing I knew, my left leg was sliding back under the vehicle, and, like quicksand, pulling me out of and then under the car like so much cake batter pouring out of a bowl. Imagine Gumby, or a Slinky. I flowed out of the car, really, which sounds super graceful except that a) I was yelping as it happened, and b) it hurt. My biggest fear was that I’d slide all the way under and nobody would be able to drag me back out again until the spring thaw.
(Quinlan laughs when I get to this part of the story because she said that as she was stuck on her stomach, gliding along behind Riley, I was rolling around on my back beside the car like an overturned turtle shouting, “Quinn?? Do you need help?! I’m coming to help!”)
There were neighbors who were outside witnessing all of this, by the way. Because of course there were.
Both Quinlan and I were finally able to get up on our very shaky legs, and I sent her (“Slowly, Quinn! Walk slowly!”) back into the house to change her wet knee socks. I shuffled off behind her to get the dog, who, by now, was fed up with the both of us and taking a giant poop on her leash, and by the time I turned back around, Cian had appeared in the middle of the driveway. The last time I’d seen him, he’d been gathering up his coat and gloves inside the house, but now he stood there, arms jutting out from his sides, because he was covered from top to bottom with snow. “Mom,” he said. The look on his face was matter-of-fact. “I fell.”
That, my friends, was what 2019 was like.
But then there’s this: Saoirse came swanning out of the house just then, clueless to the tumbling bodies she will soon learn to pretend are not her family members. She was wearing ear muffs, a pink coat, and fuzzy gloves. Her backpack was over her shoulders, and she held her water bottle loosely in one hand. She was dry and tidy and calm, and as I called out to her to be careful, the driveway’s icy, walk slowly in those darn uniform boat shoes, my oldest child deftly took the dog by her collar to lead her back into the house (I having already disposed of the disgraced leash), then glided over to the car and got in without nary a slipped step.
That, my friends, is how I hope to live the rest of 2020.
I’ll be back to you next week with an update on my mom. In the meantime, I’m installing ice cleats on the bottoms of all my shoes. 2020, I’m coming for you.
Take care of yourselves, too.
In the evening after the first day of school, Cian made an announcement. “I’m going to be very well-behaved this year.” He stopped and took a look around the table at each of us. A brief look of self-doubt passed over his face. “Well,” he …
Hi, everybody. Are you good? Did you have a nice summer? Or have you forgotten summer now that most schools are in session so you’re busy pulling out the sweaters and warm boots because YAY I DON’T HAVE TO SUNSCREEN THE CHILDREN ALL THE TIME …
Cian has a bit of a speech impediment–if you’ve just met him, you might have some trouble understanding his “th” sounds, say–but that doesn’t stop the child from talking, usually constantly, usually about thirty different topics in the span of as many seconds. Last Saturday, I drove him and his sister Saoirse to a gym about an hour away from our house for her basketball game. The boy talked the entire time.
I say this without exaggeration. Cian spoke, without stopping, the entire 54 minutes it took us to get from our house to the gym. He talked as he got out of the car and took my hand, and he kept talking as he followed us into the building. It had gotten to the point where I just turned the radio up and muttered, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh” at regular intervals on the drive because I’m pretty sure he didn’t really need me to listen in the first place. Saoirse said, “Mom. You’re not even listening to him,” and when I made eye contact with her in the rear view mirror I think she noticed that Cian was still talking–and hadn’t stopped when she spoke up–so she just shrugged her shoulders and went back to reading her book. Cian continued without so much as pause.
Here’s the other thing: the topics of his conversations seem to make no actual sense when he puts them together, even if in his head they’re all puzzle pieces sliding together. The other day, I was helping him make his bed. He came up to me, wrapped his arms around my legs, gave my hip a kiss, and said, “You’re just the best mom in the world, Mom.” And right at the moment when I flushed and tried to take a mental snapshot of the moment to remember for about ever, he pulled away from me, picked up a dinosaur, and said, “Just the best mom. Is the earth going to blow up one day?”
Cian turned six at the end of 2018. We took him to New York for the day to visit the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History. We went to a movie, and gave him Legos, and I made him vanilla cupcakes with blue frosting and little dinosaur candles on top. In some ways, he is very, very much a young child. His new alarm clock is covered with Paw Patrol logos. He still has a drawer stocked with nighttime pull-ups. He still gets in trouble for not following directions at school (usually because he’s talking), and argues when we tell him to clean up those Legos, and needs supervision to make sure he brushes more than three teeth at a time.
But the child also unabashedly hugs us. At bedtime, he covers up his favorite T-Rex stuffed animal with a blanket so it doesn’t get cold. He makes sure to say “Good night! I love you! Have sweet dreams!” to me and David (sometimes repeatedly), as we head out of his room each night. He walks out of school at the end of a day with an arm around his friend Mac’s shoulders, then makes sure to say hi to the other friends he sees in the meantime. He spends our car rides asking me about tornado patterns and rocket ship propulsion and analyzes the Bible story of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” because his teacher talked about it in school and he has some questions.
I hope this child–this tall noodle boy with puppy feet and perpetually messy hair–will continue to have questions. I hope he keeps talking, and keeps prying, and keeps trying to figure out life (maybe not during quiet time at kindergarten so much, but you know what I mean), because what he’s decoding is a miracle to witness. Tornado patterns. Rocket ships. Right vs wrong and why, exactly, “those humans” think they get to be the ones throwing stones.
He will talk my ear off for actual hours at a time. And he will teach me to pay more attention to what he has to say–and what he asks to know.
Next time, I will keep the radio down.
Today is Cian’s first day of kindergarten. For the first time in ten and a half years, I am alone, left to my own devices, free to use these morning hours for all of the writing work (two books! already started!) I’ve been waiting to do, …
The kids were off school this past Friday for their spring break, and David took off work so that we could do something as a family. I don’t know what it’s like in your world, but in ours there are times where all the red …