Her legs dangle down to my knees. I catch my breath, from both her weight and her new dangling reach. I guess I never thought her limbs would get this long, never thought her body would stretch out of the folded-up position under my chin. I never thought kissing that precious spot on the bridge of her nose would be a rare treat.
She climbs into the ergo now, at my request, in her low fever state and we are almost nose to nose. Sweet, hip-hurting bliss as Foster sleeps on the couch and the sun chases warm shadows across the floor. The cardinal couple flutters outside, building their nest a few feet from the dining window. The Sound of Music soundtrack plays Do-re-mi through the speakers, "I am not a baby anymore, Mama," she says. I know, I say. "I love snuggling you," she says. I know, I say.
And if she only knew my strange, strong craving for her love snuggles.
She carries herself like a grown human now and I have certainly contributed to all her adult-ness, sad as I am to see her act it out. "Is this not ap-oh-piate, Mama? Oh, ok. I unnersannd. Oh, I am intehsted in this flower, Mama. Do bees like this color? I am curious about it. Bees are polliators, and bats. Would you like to hear my song?" All her thoughts and questions and (most recently) jokes perfectly melt me.
She has done it mostly herself, the growing up. She had words for her personhood early and I unwrapped each like a gift, with bright eyes and wild exclamations. Inside this conversation, we are friends... connected in a way that both scares me and fills me with delight. Her words seamlessly tumble into imaginary worlds and I am jealous of her contrived companions Lu Na and Su Na... jealous that they may now know things I do not about this girl.
Foster sleeps through my small crisis of motherhood, with unshakeable calm. Motion impresses him, delight curving his eyebrows and pulling at his lips in a lopsided smile. He is content to watch the fan blades spin above him and blow slobbery bubbles that drip down his chin. He is already so good at Sabbath rest, searching beauty out in quiet morning moments as the light slowly crawls up the bedroom wall. He will lead us in quiet, I think, and remind us what is lovely and pure and true. I pronounced his precious spot early - right under his left ear, where cheek and neck and chest confuse one another, smooshed together in perfect wonder.
Oh, this love.
I could spend a day lost in their soft skin, my nose smothered up against their innocence and play and magic. What is life? Motherhood is the same clothes for days with sour-milk-soaked shoulders and answering "does it bite?" about every animal, insect, and imagined dragon we encounter.
I scribble memories down with a cold cup of coffee as Zella paints at my elbow - minimal, abstract scenes with vibrant watercolors. We are here. Motherhood is a mess, but it is existential; transportive. The sun is a true marvel as explained to a 2 year-old (with grand, mysterious disclaimers) who is "very keer-ee-uhs about it." I follow Foster's gaze behind my shoulder to a subtle color thrilling every muscle in his face. We are here.
I am very aware when I am not holding them both close. If I succeed in looking wild and free and the opposite of a helicopter, it is because I am masterfully filtering my dark thoughts and doubts. Pat is gone this weekend and the house is vacant, slower. I miss apartment life. Our former wall sharers still live in the same place, keeping our secrets and knowing us still.
The two are asleep now, after I peeled myself out from between them on Zella's twin bed. Foster fell asleep watching the mobile above us, his eyes following the movement I started by reaching high my right toes. Zella slept finally after books and a series of hymns she ordered (Victory in Jesus, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (2x), Closer Walk with Thee) before I chose one that ended in a whole lot of humming because it isn't in the regular rotation. I summoned every ninja/yoga skill I have to get out from their love sandwich, for the freedom of a few moments with the windows open and my chosen soundtrack to background the click of these keys. I check on them often, if just to see their sleeping faces. Those faces that drive me mad with defiance or midnight indigestion (which is totally my fault, I know)... I am driven like a crazy person back to those faces. What is life?
I am reading Leviticus and Numbers right now, along with daily liturgy (as sexy as it sounds, yes) for Lent. And I am meeting God again. Different.
He exists, Holy and Love and Perfect and True and Right and completely apart from me down here as much as completely with me. Hello, God. You are here.
And I am here, learning again how I am grafted into the Israelites frustration, into their disobedience and into their sin and into their misunderstanding of God's good narrative of power in mercy and hope in righteousness.
Foster woke for milk and touch and so I return now with this, my third cold cup of coffee and a long ellipses with a new baby on my chest - folded up under my chin. Coffee reheated, motherhood. Butter, sugar, blend for cookies. Charcoal, paper, light the match for the grill on the deck. Hamburgers and roasted vegetables, dinner.
And covenant. I can't get it out of my brain, God's nonsensical pursuit of His wayward children. His Light coming out from the dark, out from our dark, out from inside me. His covenant love pursues me. I run, hide, deny, fight. I do all the wrong things in the wrong order and then complain about God's dealings with me. Still, inside suffocating sin and mortality, there is a love clinging tighter than muscles to my bones.
That Love that will not let me go came all the way down to make dark light, to make sick healed, to make sorrow joy, to make endings beginnings, to make strife peace, to make death dead. All the intricate choreography of Leviticus - the regulations that exposed every way we fail to live perfectly - find a dancer in Jesus. He became sin to be sin for us. Oh, the Love that will not let me go.