The scrawny-legged Freshmen class of the flower garden has arrived with slumped shoulders and braces and man, are these girls beautiful. They don't know it yet, just the way you didn't know and I didn't know. They're whisper thin, they bend with the breeze. They know enough to hope that they'll bloom into something more, but they're not putting a deposit on a slinky prom dress quite yet. They're sick to death of hearing the flat-chest jokes from the snotty hostas, all round and hippy. But everyone knows, hostas were made for the shade. They'll live and die without anyone feeling particularly inspired or wowed by them. They're filler. But don't tell them I said that or they'll key my car.
Life swells into color as I lean into that decadent, glowy, frog-song summertime lullaby, and I'm already taking stock. I'm caught up between daydreaming about stretched-out, sticky weeks on this patch of earth - you couldn't make me leave if you tried - and frantically cleaning it within an inch of its life so that someone else might fall asleep under the delicious heaviness of air that blows through open windows rather than duct-work.
I try to picture last summer, and the best I can do is a 1980's film-strip version - the kind my 4th grade teacher wheeled in on special cart, on loan from the oppressively low-ceilinged library. The images were grainy, the far-off voices didn't quite track and there was always the occasional blank.
I look back and see sun and rain, dirt and grass. I can see it, but I'm not sure I was actually there. I can't smell the roses, or even the hot dogs.
Tonight I read something my friend Nici wrote, and all I could do was nod my head. My world last summer spanned only as far as the length of my arms. True, my arms are ridiculously long, but they are not long enough to hold the gift of three hazy months, lined up like onion shoots. To do that, to fully hold the gift of summer, it takes more than hands and arms. It takes clarity and steady breath. It takes eyes able to see up past the clouds. It takes a heart with room to store up the sunsets.
My summer was spent within arm's reach - all the time, every minute - of my youngest. This boy who now sings me out of frustration and hugs me into hope has taught me the better part of the Encyclopedia Brittanica of Adapting, along with the Unabridged Webster's Dictionary of Patience.
He has struggled to resist our love. He's lashed out at everything new - everything us. He's waited for us to get with the program. He's waited for his heart to push all of its furniture into the very middle, freeing up all the rest for love that he never knew he needed.
His tears and mine have collected in a bottle and I think we're both surprised to see that what we hold in our hands is the recipe for forever. I never knew forever called for a bottle of tears. I never knew I could learn so much from watching a baby cry.
This summer, I'll reach down, over and over and over again, and hoist him up. My hands have memorized the dimensions of his ribcage. My arms wonder what they ever did without his weight.
But in between my carting him around, he'll run.
He'll play wild and shirtless with sweat tracking down his temples. He'll pet the kitties and do his best to keep up with his brother and sister.
He knows for sure, this time around, that he is fully loved.
Wheel that rickety film-strip out of here, Mrs. Artz.
We're ready to live this one.