We were exhausted. The weekend turned out lovely but was long and filled with hours of swimming and holiday excess. At about 5:00 last night my left lid began to twitch, and another wild-eyed mom approached me to say, “That was me last night. It means you’re tired.” And if I were done, you should have seen the kids. Purple under their eyes, green chlorine in their hair and a half-hearted “where’s the party?” followed semi-desperately by “where’s my bed?” on their lips.
We kicked off July with a visit to the San Diego Fair, which teemed with colorful people and crackling noise. We pushed from booth to booth, elbow to elbow, foot on foot, sweat gland on sweat gland. The kids loved it. Fried Twinkies, ice cream cones, ferris wheels, elephant rides (don’t get me started on how my heart broke at those sad animal eyes), and ticket after ticket of roly-poly amusement attractions. We made it all day, too. But after the Big Time Rush concert I dragged us out of the fray and we all limped knobby-kneed out of the park, grateful to finally locate our car, roll down the windows and lay our heads against something soft.
Saturday dawned brighter and earlier than we were prepared to face. But a few quick harumpfs and we were off once again, sprinting down the greenbelt of summer, heeding its siren call of bright blue and searing yellow. We started with swimming and a BBQ, then rinsed and repeated on Sunday and Monday. By the end of it, the girls lay tummy up in the water, barely able to move arms and legs to stay afloat. For the first time since their births, both my girls willingly closed their eyes when it was time for bed.
Most of us slept the sleep of the sunburned and beer before noon, but around midnight, my youngest crawled into bed next to me with a robust case of the sniffles. She flipped and rolled for many long minutes before crying she couldn’t breathe through her nose. I tickled her back and whispered soothing words in her ear, but she grew increasingly panicked and sniffly. I told her to breathe through her mouth. To relax. To not worry. To…sleep. Then she looked me right in the eye and pleaded, “Mommy, can’t you do something?”
She asked fervently, hopefully, faithfully. As if she knew I could so something to help, she just knew it. I’m her mommy. Mommies make it all better. Help is our noble calling. She asked again, holding my cheek in her candy-coated baby girl fingers, saying the words carefully into my ear as if maybe I didn’t hear the first time.
I thought of the days leading up to that night. How The Rock and I wanted to give the girls the kind of Fourth of July weekend they could remember. The one they wistfully recall in their 40s, a memory full of pools and friends and burned hot dogs. It all came back to me as I stepped outside Monday evening and smelled the thick sulfur of illegally ignited neighborhood firecrackers and watched the glittery billow of twinkling silver in the vast distance. Childhood in a bottle. I want my kids to have one to tuck in their own pocket and set to sea when they’re ready, then have it wash back to them when they call it from the rocky shore of adulthood and responsibility.
My husband and I, despite what we know about growing up and its triumphs and near-misses, wanted our children to have that silver twinkle of when it was simple and light and easy.
“Mommy, can’t you do something?”
It was only a question I know. But its fervent faith drew tears to my eyes. I wanted to do something. Something beyond medicine and a wet cloth. I want to erase your sniffles, lull you to sleep, relax you into my arms, tell you it will be OK.
But all I could think was of the times I couldn’t, wouldn’t be able to, do something. Couldn’t plan the weekend just so, protect you from when it’s not so easy, keep you from when the sky doesn’t ignite in silver, draw covers over your shoulders, tickle your back to make it all go away. I fast-fowarded to the mean girls in middle school, to the college rejection letter, to the phone call at 4AM. What do I do? How do I do something? Keep her from it all? While knowing it’s not mine to keep, can’t I do something?
Eventually she nestled into that mom space between my neck and shoulder and blew her baby breath into my hair, back and forth, back and forth. It was midnight, July 5, the four of us lay crammed together, breathing in tandem, and for now, that is enough.