space travel

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{image is a drawing of a rocket ship headed to Mars, Brooke, 2013}

My day at work was hard. The kind of Hard that doesn’t stay at the office, but follows you home, where, welcome or not, it plops down next to you on the couch and hoists its dirty feet up onto the coffee table like the worst kind of house guest, making it clear that despite your best efforts to shoo it out the door, it ain’t going anywhere.

The kind of Hard that won’t be drowned at the bottom of the glass that your husband so thoughtfully left on the counter upon your return, but instead swims amid the ice cubes and slides down your throat before settling in the pit of your stomach, there forward immovable.

The kind of Hard that leaves you wondering how the hell you’re going to make ends meet when the bills are getting bigger and your pay keeps getting smaller and the questions about how to reconcile the two are becoming impossible to answer.

“Dont forget I have to work tonight, babe,” he says.

The new reality of our need for survival — family time gives way to tag-outs and hand-offs and Dinner is on the stove.

I want to cry or throw something or run fast and far, though let’s be honest, I’d be gasping and heaving by the end of the block, so fine, I want to get into the car and drive and drive and drive until I get to a place that I don’t recognize, any place that’s away, just away — just anywhere that I won’t be, but then, of course, wherever you go you are, so I swirl the ice and take another half-hearted sip from the glass. No matter how appealing the concept might be, I’m just not a drinker. I set the glass down and just sit.

Brooke, who has been frenetically drawing at the table in front of me suddenly shuts off the television I’d hardly noticed in the background and says, “Let’s go play in my room, Mama.”

The invitation is as sweet as the richest honey and my God, I remember how long I waited to hear those words, Mama! and Let’s go! and Play!, my God, PLAY, but I’m cemented to the couch with the Hard and the Fear and the swirling ice and the What happens next and I can’t. I just .. can’t.

And I tell her that I’m sorry but Mama just can’t do it right now and she says, “I have an idea!” and her finger goes up to her cheek as it does whenever she declares an Idea and then the silence follows, as it does, as she goes on a search through the orchard of words and she slowly, carefully reaches up and picks the ones that are ready and ripe and I wait in the silence, knowing that the orchard is vast and the branches are high and some trees bear no fruit and others are too full to find the right ones and the reaching and the testing and the picking take time and so I wait as the Hard and the Fear of the How will I take care of my family churn in my belly and then she says,

“We can go to Space!”

And I say, “Oh, baby, I’d so love to go to Space but I just can’t right now. Mama’s had a hard day, my love, and I need some time, okay?”

Her words shoot out now, propelled by the fuel of the rocket that she so desperately wants to take to Space.

“But I WANT to!”

And I know, God I know, that I should find a way to move and I know, God, I know, how lucky we are, how blessedly lucky that she can ask now, that she is asking, that she has stretched and reached and picked and delivered the ripe, precious words, and I know … I know.

But. I. Can’t. Move.

“We’ll go to Space at bedtime,” I say. “I promise, baby.”

Hard and Fear welcome Guilt to the party.

I serve the food on autopilot. Brooke gets the napkins, Katie the drinks. I set out the plates – replacing the one that Brooke won’t eat off of with the one that she will.

We say our Grace, lopsided as it is with just six hands, missing Luau as we thank God for the food that he’s cooked but won’t join us to eat. Katie helps to clear the table then disappears into homework as I clean the dishes and load the washer and fumble for the detergent and start the machine and  … and realize that I’m holding my breath. One can’t breathe under water after all. I wipe down the counter and walk back to the den. I hear Brooke before I see her … then find her in her favorite spot atop the heating grate, wedged between the wall and the couch.

“C’mon, Mama!” she says, “We’ll play in my room now.”

I acquiesce but convince her to head into mine instead, into my bed, our safe space in the storms– the cocoon, she calls it. We sit for a while, doing what we do. A Godspell script – the friends on the playground. Matthew sneezes, Mary Magdelene says, “God bless you.” We repeat the process three times until Jesus brings a tissue and Matthew blows his nose. Even in the absurdity of its details, the routine is like a sacred hymn. It is ours. It is bigger and smaller than both of us. Than anything outside our door.

We play Cariboo, then play it again as “Hint Game.”

I begin to see light dancing on the surface of the water above.

I marvel at where we are. “I am a food,” she says, “sometimes I’m chocolate or vanilla or red velvet.”

“You’re the cupcakes!” I say. We take turns hinting and guessing at all of the objects on the game’s secret doors until finally there’s nothing left but the aardvarks and she says, “I start with two A’s and end with a vark,” and I pull her close and I laugh and I gulp at the air, the air, the air.

She asks me what’s in Winston’s nose, then dissolves into giggles as I whisper, “Doggy snotties.”

I remember trying to do something like this years ago. It was an epic bust. But now here we are, with boats that cross the seven seas and acorns that are sorta like a food and books that are dictionaries. My God, how far we’ve come.

“It’s time for Space now,” she says, “and of you promised.”

“It is indeed,” I say.

She runs off to her room, then comes back with her arms full of Space supplies. Three dolls will be our fellow astronauts, Barbie the glow turtle will shine her stars onto the ceiling and create the night sky, Up and Down, the floppy clown … well, he’s just coming for the ride.

“I will say the ten,” she says, “and everyone else will do the other numbers after. Could you tell them?” she asks. I tell the dolls that are all holding hands in a circle, ready to go. I forget to address them directly, so she asks me to do it again ‘the right way.’ I oblige.

“Ten!” she yells.

“Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one .. blast-off!” we “all” say together.

I wait to see what happens next.

Usually, someone falls out of the rocket and floats in space until they’re rescued with bubble gum or sticky tape or a shoelace. But perhaps she’s sensed that her Mama isn’t up for a spacewalk today. Or maybe she isn’t either.

“We’ll take a space nap!” she says.

I curl my body around hers and close my eyes.

And here we are, somewhere in the outer reaches of Space, farther than I ever could have gone in my car.

I let the Fear and the Hard and the How fly off out into the universe, hopefully to find themselves a nice black hole in which to disappear.

And, as per the lead astronaut’s orders, I nap.

 

 

13 thoughts on “space travel

  1. I’m sorry you’re struggling, Sweetheart. I hope you can continue to thank the lucky stars you must have experienced in your space travels with Brooke and that you continue to know that you have accomplished so very much with Brooke and the family.

    Love you,
    Mom

  2. I have found that sometimes putting on the oxygen mask (as you say) so that we can be good mamas to our kids is just that–being a good mama to our kids. Sometimes THEY are the oxygen we need, the rest, the comfort. It feels counterintuitive to sit with them when we think we can’t possibly. But then you sit and you soak them in and God recharges us and helps us breathe new air. Isn’t it lovely?

  3. space naps…she knew just what her mama needed. she’s a terrific astronaut, that brooke. thx for sharing this, even though it is painful to read…the writing in this is just lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.

    • I agree with m. Beautifully written. And Brooke is always listening, just like the rest of our children, even when we don’t think they are. Holding every word tightly in their hearts, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal them.

  4. Hugs and more hugs. We all have those kinds of days, but it’s so nice that you could find some comfort in your girl. Still thinking of you and praying for you. xoxo

  5. Gosh, I can’t believe that even during your tough days, you’re still such a blessing to us. I am reminded that during our hardships, perhaps we, too, will get to experience space with our guys someday. Hugs to you, and thank you once again for sharing.

  6. I want to get into the car and drive and drive and drive until I get to a place that I don’t recognize, any place that’s away, just away.

    She says, “I have an idea!” and her finger goes up to her cheek as it does whenever she declares an Idea.

    “We can go to Space!”

    I’m not going to assume intentions but I do love the connection between your need and her idea. 🙂

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