Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tilt Your Face to the Sun

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.


  1. You haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird? Please read it at once. You will be in love. AND you will want to name your next child Scout. Just like me. I totally want to name my next kid Scout.
    Love, Becky 3.0

  2. beautiful. press on, sweet mama, be encouraged!
    and PLEASE read to kill a mockingbird. pronto. (shame on you!)

    Romans 5:1-5
    "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

  3. i haven't read it either (at least i can't remember) and my 3rd child and I went through that dance. some days we still do. he has made me better. and deeper. and more. in ways i would have never chosen.

    i love your writing!

    xo ellie

  4. I'm back from vacation and have missed your blog!

    Beautiful post. So beautiful and honest and wonderful.

    And I wonder..will Silas be wearing his pj's backwards all summer long during naptime? ;-)

    Have a beautiful evening!

  5. Congrats to Laurie C! I really enjoyed just looking through what other's had to read. :-)

  6. This was such a beautiful post. Please go read To Kill a Mockingbird. You simply must.

  7. oh Siley Pie! You make me happy to read about the love lessons learned. Being a mama is hard work, the best work. You are doing good kid.
    And to Kill a Mockingbird is one of my faves. Love it so. Call me Scout, would ya?

  8. to kill a mockingbird is a must! and if it makes any difference to you, i didn't like eat,pray,love...not my thing. :S
    and isn't it amazing what God can do in just one little year...He's such a game changer...He plays by His rules.
    xo, sweet mama.

  9. so glad for the joy awaiting you and s this summer. amazing the miracles God spins in the space of a year.

  10. your words never cease to fill this gal up! love you, girly!

  11. your writing is like a meal.

    your honesty and grace are inspiring.

    well done.

  12. So happy to see how your leap of faith in God to sow your love seeds in little Silas' heart are starting to be in FULL BLOOM! Good job momma,keep it up my friend :-)
    Heather P

  13. I offer to you, my worn, pages torn, marked-up, highlighed, and tabbed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird for your summer read. and yes, I agree with many others, I wanted to name my son Atticus. God must have known I was serious because I had two girls. All of my gadgets (ipod, etc) are named after characters from TKAM.

    After reading everyone's list, I have to admit... I could have listed a million. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Pillars of the Earth, The Help (duh!), Me and Emma....

    Thanks for putting together a good list for me to read this summer!

  14. I could have written parts of your post although not so eloquently about my love for my youngest and her not letting us in for the first year. Now it is just a not so distant memory with the sting still there although she loves us completely now.

  15. You know what it's like to read something that makes you feel for that person you're reading about, but yet hoping you never have to know that feeling? And then do you know what it feels like to read something that makes you feel like you know you were meant to read it, because He is preparing you for it?

    Oh mercy, I'm hangin' on 'cause I know it'll be the ride of my life. I'm all in, though, I tell you. I'm ALL IN 'cause it's the ride He's prepared. And, in the end, what's safer than that?

  16. It has been a life full of grace watching your family grow together! Our little Silie Pie was created to be a piece of our PIE. It makes my heart dance each time I am around him and see how far your love has brought him,(you are the best Mommy ever). And Cor is the best Daddy ever.

  17. i could see your bond right away. he is swimmin' in love. so beautifully written shan. love how you express yourself. happy weekend girlie.

  18. I have never read To kill a mockingbird either. Or Anna Karenina. But I am listening to that one at the moment. I must catch up!

  19. I loved Nici's post the other day, too. I can relate as well. You both said it all so beautifully. (I wasn't going to but I will...You must read To Kill a Mockingbird!)

  20. This is my favorite post of yours. Ever. You have such a beautiful, unique way of paralleling special moments in life.

  21. thank you for the hope of this post, my summer may be more like yours last year but I know that next year it'll be but a memory and she will have realized she is loved. one of my favorites!

  22. I got wrapped up in this like a babe in a lullaby. Your whispers of love and life for Siley draw me into the rhythmn of a steady heartbeat. It hypnotizes me beyond the walls of day and night. It fades the greys. It brightens up the blues.

    I'd be lying if I said I know you, I know how you feel. The truth is, I don't. The truth is, the song that plays between the hearts of you and Siley only belongs to the two of you. It weaves together to the hymn of a beautiful quilt, and that's the part I can see. The blanket of love that covers those tears in the bottle and reflects the color of light. Brilliant color.

    You and Siley will dance through those fields of flowers to the accompaniment of crickets and songbirds. You will weave new quilt squares of the storylines of life. It will be beautiful. It will fit just right.

    I wait with anticipation to marvel in the beauty. Square by square.


  23. You are a beautiful writer...and To Kill a Mockingbird, yes, a must read. Have a beautiful summer ;)

  24. I just read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time this winter. It's definitely worth all the hype. Superb writing! ~Maria

  25. I'm glad that you can finally let out that breath that I'm sure you've been holding this past year. Contentment is quite a gift! I live a different life than yours ... I have 2 year old twin boys. But I feel the same way about last summer. I think we just existed the last couple years..survival being the most important thing. This year though- I feel exasperated as ever but I also feel like I can breathe!
    God is good..all the time and all the time God is good!

  26. i am so lucky to call you my friend.

    you are something super special...and again you prove you've got the writing goods.

    self doubt has no place here, girl. Oh, and To Kill a Mockingbird is surely one of my all-time favorites. GREAT book.

  27. Love this! So good! So happy for you! Your words fill me up with hope and anticipation for "frog-song summertime" lullabies with a little almond-eyed boy who has stolen MY heart.

  28. I just read this. you know, I feel the very same way about hostas? Not a big fan. Plus the snails keep eating them which totally defeats their purpose eh?
    I loved this post. I feel similarly about Shel. He was sort of a mushroom or something for his first two years, and in the last few weeks, BAM! Things are different. He's turned into a character, not a sleepy...uh...fungus. I'll leave the garden analogies to you. :)

  29. This post just makes me so happy. TO hear that Siley is settling and soaking up love and finding freedom in it just delights me. And tell CMB that that first pic is to die for. It looks un-real it is so be-yoo-tee-full.

  30. Seeing the dayton dragon hat and the osu jersey made me smile. My husband and i met and graduated from U of Dayton. I grew up in a tiny town an hour north of dayton called Versailles! Oh Home Sweet Home. I still love it there.

  31. I am utterly, completely, wonderfully undone by the beauty of this post. It's not just the words, which are gorgeous, but what has happened for you and Siley.

    I have tears streaming down my cheeks because it's so clear that YOU are "Home Sweet Home" for your children.