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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

 

 

The way the spruce tree

holds the wet snow—how

 

in a blizzard its branches

will bend and bend

 

and bend until they release—

that is the way I want to love you,

 

want to trust that I can hold

the weight of you as you fall,

 

as you continue to fall,

hold you until it seems I will break

 

and then, just when I’m sure

I can’t take any more,

 

release you back into yourself—

not in anger, not in fear,

 

not with guilt—release you

with green resilience

 

so that come the next storm

I am prepared

 

to catch you again, again,

and let you go.

 

 

 

 

 

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for Amy Irvine

 

 

I didn’t know then we were lucky,

that day when we rode down the hill

on the sleds with our kids. They were cold

 

and crying and reluctant, and the hill

was small, and the thrill was mostly

missing. And I remember you saying,

 

“There will be a day we look back on this,

and think how easy we had it, how

silly we were to think this is hard.”

 

And I remember not quite believing you

as our children continued to scream and

whine, as we dragged them inside and

 

removed their soggy mittens and boots

and socks that had fallen around their arches,

as we made them hot chocolate and

 

talked in the kitchen about sleepless nights

and two-hour tantrums and the loss

of time to ourselves. How could I have known

 

that twelve years later, how sweet that looks,

how innocent, how fun, the kids banging

on the piano, their hands sticky, their faces bright.

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We’ve heard the story of the woman

who lifted the car to save her child,

and though it is hard to believe,

 

it happens. Faced with saving a life,

we find the hysterical strength

to do what seemingly can’t be done—

 

I think of those women today,

and I think of my son, trapped beneath

the chassis of teenage torment.

 

It may not be a two-ton car, but it feels

no less urgent. We save a life in seconds

or we save a life in years—

 

of course I’d lift it right away

if such a lift were possible.

I’d hold that Chevy up until

 

he could roll right out from under.

Instead I try lifting other impossible things:

The crush of being misunderstood. The weight

 

of should. The press of daily surviving.

And I think of those mothers who lift cars.

And I bless them, and keep on trying.

 

 

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The hope that is left after all your hopes are gone—that is pure hope, rooted in the heart.

            —Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

 

And so tonight when my daughter says to me,

Mom, are you Santa Claus? I ask her if it

would make a difference, and she says, Yes.

 

I don’t want him to just be a hoax for making

kids be good. And I say, I’ve never thought of Santa

that way. I think of him as generous. And magic.

 

And she says, But magic’s not real, and I say,

Some magic is. And she says, Well, it would

make sense. You always know what we want

 

because you’re the mom. And I tell her,

It is my great privilege to work for Santa,

and she says, What do you mean? And I say,

 

Well, you know, buying presents. And she says,

Why do you think he didn’t bring us a big present

this year, like he did last year? And I hear

 

in her voice, against all fact, hope,

the hope that lingers when hope is gone,

a pure hope, the hope that goodness is real,

 

that there is generosity beyond comprehension,

that some magic is real. She rolls over in the dark.

I keep hope rooted in my heart.

 

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stepping into your heart

surprised to find a large empty chair

with my name on it—

in the dust, I write thank you,

then curl in

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And usually, at some point

in the tree trimming, when the living room

is covered in twenty-year-old tissues

and my fingers are raw from the needles

and the rest of the family

has long since tired of the project,

around then, I start to wonder

what it’s really for, all this bustle

and embellishment and then,

like today, I’ll pick up an ornament—

say the one my grandmother made

from a metal cookie cutter trimmed

in blue ribbon and angel hair,

and inside it sleep two baby figurines,

a pink one for me, a blue for my brother—

and I am weeping,

remembering how I would stare at this ornament

as a child, how beautiful it was

dangling so high on the tree

where all the more delicate ornaments would go.

I was small then, but I knew

my grandmother made that ornament

with me in mind and I loved her for her thoughtfulness.

She is gone this year, and I marvel

at how present she is in this room

as I sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

with Aaron Neville and remember singing

carols with her in the church loft,

her soprano warbling and true.

And I climb the ladder to hang

the ornament high on the tree,

where the more delicate ornaments go.

And suddenly I see it is my son and daughter

sleeping in that ornament,

there where I thought it was my brother and me.

And I think of my mother’s hands

all those years she hung that ornament

reverently, and how the spruce needles

would have pricked her, too, and I

sing with Aaron about peace to men on earth,

and some of that peace slips into me,

so silently, so silently.

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And after the boy

hugs his sister

and tells her

she did a great job,

 

after he wipes

her tears and holds

her and wraps her

in his awkward arms,

 

after she leans

into him, their

sapling trunks

sloping toward

 

each other,

I want to tell him

how proud I am

of the ways

 

he is growing,

want to affirm

how much depends

on love, want

 

to say I see his tenderness,

but the soil beneath

them is unstable,

precious, and my voice

 

is full of heavy clouds,

so I wait until

they sway apart,

then I walk closer

 

and manage to say

through invisible rain,

It’s time.

Let’s go home.

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Concentric

 

 

 

See, I want to say to my son. See

how the pond has frozen in thick,

 

continuous curves. See all the lines,

how they ring each other, like dozens

 

of tiny orbits. I want to show him

the marvel of it all, but he is too old

 

now for marvels, or perhaps too young,

the precise age where beauty is boring.

 

And so I take the child of myself to the pond

and show her the rings. I resist the urge

 

to explain how the meltwater formed them,

how surface-tension forces make liquid melt

 

cling against the lower parts of the ice.

Instead, I let her gaze at the miracle,

 

trace the concentric bands with her fingers.

How curious the rings are, like frozen halos

 

that fit enormous angels. How astonishing

in their design. Just wait till I show her

 

we can walk on it, too. I let her amazement

become my own, our feet slipping

 

across the smooth surface, our breath

rising in white ephemeral curls.

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And though he struggles to conjugate estar

and though his adjectives precede the nouns,

he’s doing it. He’s telling me about una foto

and all its themes—and though the words

are like strange spices in his mouth—paprika

y cilantro—and though he insists he hates it,

there is a tender sinceridad in his voice, like

a tree seed, perhaps, una semilla, that has

some vague idea of its potential, but is still

so trapped in its seed-ness that it is intimidated

by trees. And whatever part of me that is todavia

una semilla recognizes itself. How frightening

to see all that we do not know, to stand

beneath it like the shade of a giant tree,

to know ourselves as small and still stand straight.

My son finishes his descripción, then smiles

at me, and in his smile, I somehow see

the roots, the greening leaves, the trunk

as it reaches up doing what trunks are made to do.

 

 

 

 

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And though I can’t remember

what I wrote last night, which seems

like ten years ago, I rattle off,

a body at rest remains at rest and

a body in motion remains in motion

until acted upon by an external force,

and then, mid-sentence, I have some small

fantasy about being a body at rest,

a body at rest that stays at rest, a body

at rest that is somehow entirely unacted upon,

not by breakfast, not by school, not by work,

not by mewling cats or errant bears

traversing the porch, not by nightmares

nor bladder nor hot flash nor chill,

and I think to myself that Newton

was really, really on to something,

some sweet world he posits

that I now long for, a world

where a woman might find

such rest, might be such a body.

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