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September 20, 2011

Last night, I covered the garden for the first time. Col was already sleeping when Rose and I ghosted through the yard with her blinking piggie flashlight. We nervously anticipated skunks around every corner (particularly the family of 3 who likes to mop up in the chicken yard, after hours) while draping sheets over the tomato, cucumber and basil plants. This is really it; fall is here, I thought as the cold night seeped under my bathrobe. But really I’ve been thinking that every week or so for the past month.

Because that’s how the seasons go. One day there’s a new streak of yellow in the cottonwood tree out front and the hollyhocks have all become rattly seed heads and it’s certain: this is really it; fall is here. But the truth is that fall is a long series of nudges and leanings and ripenings and witherings, each day the season tipping more towards itself.

The kids too, are leaning towards something new. I’m trying to stay curious about these changes, instead of, say, drunk, which is also appealing. Even at just 2 days/week, Col’s new public school is stirring his emotional pot. I wish I could sit down with Col over a cup of coffee and have a good, girlfriend-y chat about his latest fears and concerns. Maybe we could break things down, work out some strategies.

But it all looks a lot clumsier. It’s looks something like Col being at the edge of a river wanting to cross, but the snapping alligators and swift current are intimidating. So he’s clinging to the shore and trying to push away from it. Which, duh, is how we all grow and hatch into something new.

I’ve been reminiscing lately, as I’m snuggling with Col in bed, about how when he was in the NICU our best time together was spent cuddling, skin to skin. Once a day the nurses would allow his floppy doll-baby body to be ferried from his incubator onto my chest. Tubes and wires sprawled like octopus tentacles, while my hand—just one—cinched around his back, securing him to me. My body heat regulated his temperature perfectly. His breathing would slow and all his vitals would fall into place. It was all I could give him (besides pumping milk), and it was simple.

Now, nothing feels simple. I find myself wanting to protect Col, to slay the alligators and carry him across the river myself. I also find myself wondering how many of those alligators I’ve put there, like when I say unhelpful things to him like, “a 6-year old should be able to brush teeth/get dressed/put away clothes without a fuss.”

My friend Sue recently said, “remember when you could fix everything with a hug?” I can. I can also remember, though barely, when you could guide a squalling face onto your nipple and a calm hush would instantly orbit the planet of mother and child.

Meanwhile, Rose has been tremendously kind and cheerful. She puked twice yesterday morning and then spent the next hour singing to a plastic turtle in the bath. “Come listen to me sing,” she called out to me and when I came into the bathroom she said, “I’m actually holding my butt now.”

Just this morning the kids were in bed with me and Col was grousing about how his morning chore was harder than Rose’s. “How ’bout we can switch, Coley? I’ll do yours and you do mine,” Rose offered.

Col: (scowly grimace)

Rose: Oh-kaaay. How about I’ll do mine and yours?

Col: No! I get to do one of them.

I keep coming back to the word trust, which feels sort of like lying skin-to-skin with my babies. It’s also this notion that I don’t know what’s on the other side of that river, or what it’ll take to cross it, but there’s this knowing, this trust, that somehow it’ll be okay.

I think about the cottonwood tree, and how it trusts the process of ripening and then withering, of transformation. Which sounds a little like bad poetry, but also a lot like life.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2011 3:22 pm

    You know what else I trust? That every time I come here, I’m always happy I did. Your words are my breath of fresh air.

    Your kids are lucky to have you and you’re right to trust the process and sometimes trust life with your kids. Because if we don’t do that, how can we inspire them to do that themselves right? I’m not saying it’s easy because it isn’t. In fact it’s far, far from that.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    September 20, 2011 3:27 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful words, perspectives and grace! It feels good to hear your murmurings and know that even as the colors change just as everything else is changing too, into that potentially scary and delightful unknown, somehow all is still well. Let’s just keep playing in the game of life and learn the rules as we go along. Big love to all of you! Blessings, Katrina

  3. September 20, 2011 4:36 pm

    Exactly what Justine said! Having spent time in the NICU, reading about your experience with Col always breaks my heart, which is then tempered by the pure complexity and genius of the boy he has become.

    Rachel, you will never be able to grasp how lucky Rose and Col are to have you as their mama.

  4. eringoodman permalink
    September 20, 2011 6:10 pm

    ahhhhh….thank you for this. it’s just beautiful.



  5. September 20, 2011 9:01 pm

    Oh, Rachael. Thank you so much for this today. I really feel every single word you’ve written here. I really needed to read this today.

  6. September 21, 2011 6:53 am

    Oh you are so right on this… I try to remind myself again and again that this is their first time, their only time, to bumble through this childhood. Just as we all did before them. And if you can keep from slaying the gators (even though I’m sure Dan would make some kick ass boots from them) you’ll instead watch your boy do it. It’s tough, I know (I’m such a mama bear) but you keep listening and you keep telling them they can do anything and then, they just do. You hit it right on girl, Trust :)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 21, 2011 12:06 pm

      Thank you for your insightful words, Stephinie. I appreciate your experience as a mother of four, especially on another hard, emotional morning for my little boy.

  7. September 21, 2011 7:11 am

    I too, miss the days when I could fix it all with a hug. While 4th grade is hard, it’s much easier than 3rd grade was (what a difference a good teacher makes!!!). We still have our bedtime chats, where I try my best to guide her on her way of slaying the gators. Sometimes it’s hard to drag out of her what’s bugging her, but in the end, we almost always get her to open up to one of us. I hope we don’t ever lose that, even if we’ve lost the ability to fix it with a hug and a popsicle.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 21, 2011 12:09 pm

      I am so waiting for that opportunity to listen to Col “open up.” I’m thinking it takes a lot of practice, especially for a boy who’s used to shrugging off difficulties by throwing some rocks in the river or kicking a ball around. That’s so nice that you can “almost always get her to open up to one of us.”

  8. September 21, 2011 8:16 am

    Sometimes life is bad poetry, but it has good pictures. And yes, I never know what’s on the other side of the river. That’s why it scares me. I think I frighten my children because of my unknowing. So we all breathe together and I remember to learn again. Just like you.

  9. Ania permalink
    September 21, 2011 8:24 am

    oh, every time I come here I think “that’s it! The most touching piece I’ve read”. Until the next post :)))
    But it’s when you write about Col, that my heart melts completely. My boy, who is still in treatment for leukemia, just started kindergarten and… nothing feels simple…
    Thank you and take care,

  10. September 21, 2011 10:04 am

    Love this post, Rachel! I love your description of fall. It is so, SO very true. That it doesn’t arrive overnight, but in whispers and suggestions. Beautiful writing. xxoo

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 21, 2011 12:19 pm

      Thank you dear friend.

  11. Melissa permalink
    September 21, 2011 10:13 am

    Life is totally like bad poetry, or a cheesy pop song. I actually clicked here first this morning, chanting to myself (don’t worry, I have my own office) c’mon internet, give me something good, and you never fail to disappoint.

    Like all your commenters/fans, I can relate and love how beautifully and aptly you speak of this. I admire how you connect the season of change to the slow unfolding of fall.

    Avi is really amazing me lately with his fine ability to process and verbalize his feelings about all the change, not to mention his textbook dreams (eg., there was a lion trying to get me and I wanted Aba to hold me but he didnt, and I wanted you to hold me but you were holding baby).

    This lifelong push/pull to move forward and also long for the past (like when he keeps asking me when he will turn 3 years old again), Lilit stubbornly refusing to walk though she is perfectly capable. Not only do I trust this process, I respect and admire it. Like how I admire this season, which has always been my favorite.


  12. September 21, 2011 10:45 am

    Is Rose’s middle name Tom Sawyer?
    And otherwise: yes, exactly. On all counts.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 21, 2011 12:27 pm

      Did Tom Sawyer like to hold his butt in the bathtub too? Do explain. Actually, Rose’s middle name is Raven.

  13. rose permalink
    September 21, 2011 11:23 am

    oh yes. my heart volleys back and forth between trust and fear with so many shaky breaths in between. and then sometimes i close my eyes and see my girls as the women they will become. i see the confidence and security they will have in themselves from growing up knowing they were loved and worthy of that love. i know that as their experience of the world expands, so too does my heart and that there is nothing that can happen to any of us that cannot be contained by my love. the same is true for you, rachel, and those fortunate souls that find themselves in your care. deep peace and blessings to you.

  14. September 21, 2011 12:57 pm

    I love, love, love this post. Lo, how I wish we could learn all our lessons from glittering joy. But man, sometimes those rough spots can carve out the best places in our souls. It always helps to have fabulous parents, though. Thank the lawd Col & Rose have that, eh?

  15. September 21, 2011 6:39 pm

    Rachel, it has been many years since I experienced “skin to skin” from my children who are now approaching “senior citizenship” :o( you bring back loving memories :o) thank you…

  16. September 21, 2011 10:09 pm

    oooh. good stuff. dang it you made me cry. i feel i am there leaning forward and listening to you as you speak – wise words and so sweet.
    .. and yes good luck to our men out hunting and gathering. i will keep posted to see what your season is like so i can cheer you on!! wish we lived closer so we could share beers and shake our heads at our hubs craziness during the rut.

  17. September 21, 2011 10:10 pm

    Okay, this post had me laughing….at least Rose did. :)
    I was here, catching up yesterday, but didn’t comment, then saw you commented on my blog today, so came back over to say hello!
    Quirky Bay Area, as you know, almost hits the peak of summer, just as we nod an actual hello to autumn. We’ve melted in the 90s this week. (No AC anywhere but the car, not a place I like to spend much time.)

  18. September 22, 2011 10:15 am

    Beautiful and honest post! And thanks for visiting my blog. I’ll definitely be hitting you up for some high altitude farming advice once we move to the Oregon mountains. We’re not too high up, but still will have a pretty limited growing season.

  19. September 22, 2011 5:52 pm

    Lovely post!!! Parenting can be a bit like ripping a band aid off at times :-/ Beautiful words like these make it better!!!

  20. Christy permalink
    September 22, 2011 10:21 pm

    Col does have you on BOTH sides of the scary river cheering him on. That was the instant imagery I had reading about the alligators and current. You on one side cheering him as he starts swimming, cheering him all the way across, and waiting with a towel and snack on the other bank.

  21. September 23, 2011 8:33 am

    Change is hard, even when good. Whether school or seasons, we all cling a bit to what we know. We are human and what we know is comfortable.

    Seriously though, think on every difficult but good change you made in your life. Was it worth it? Did you find comfort in the new place that made the old place a fun memory, a step toward The Other?

    I am talking to myself here too, you know. As we ready to move from our beloved home. I just heard on NPR that there is a gator wrestling camp in Colorado. Maybe Col and I should sign up?

    Much love to you mama,

  22. September 23, 2011 9:10 am

    oh my gosh….it feels like such a similar path that we are on with our boys. the trusting path. well, that’s the path i want to be on, but i do slip into fear multiple times a day!! i have said and thought to myself the same thing so many times, that a ‘whatever-year old’ should be able to do this that and that. he gets to it all when he’s ready, not when i’m ready. and i go insane until he does. unless i am trusting. and if i am trusting, i sit back and revel in how interesting he is, and how glad i am to be his mom.

    and you know, i had a hefty nicu experience with max. kangaroo care, skin on skin, was like heaven for us both, too. i snuggled up with him, my now 9 year old, the other day, as he played on the iPad, and i could totally go back to that feeling in a way. he had just showered or something, cuz he smelled good and sweet like a baby, and he actually loved me being that close.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 23, 2011 10:25 am

      Oh – this comment made my chest ache, because it’s so beautiful and true…how our children will do something when they’re ready and if we don’t trust that process we’ll go insane. I don’t want to go insane, I want to “sit back and revel in how interesting he is.” Thank you.

  23. Melly permalink
    February 17, 2019 5:19 pm

    I am in love with both rose and her dress. 8 years later. Ps I just found your blog and I have been binge reading the back entries for hours a day, starting at the beginning, and here I am now. I get really surprised and thrown off though when I remember how long ago it is, and re-realize how not-little your kids are anymore. (I bet that happens to you all the time.)

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