Pinky swear

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Labor Day Saturday, 2012

Labor Day weekend 2012.  Grace and I pulled two of the lounge chairs on my parents’ back porch into the shade and sat down to read.  She was utterly absorbed in Judy Blume’s Sheila the Great, and I was re-reading an old favorite, Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions.   The sky above us was the saturated cornflower blue that I associate with late August, and once in a while I looked up from my book to watch a cloud skid across the sky.  The day felt elegaic, swollen with summer’s end, with awareness of earth’s turning towards autumn.

I put my book down on my lap and looked over at Grace.  I studied her, the planes and angles of her face as familiar as my own.  Though we were in the shade I could see the spiky shadows her eyelashes cast on her cheeks.  Her deep pink lips were pursed slightly as she concentrated on her book.  She must have sensed me looking at her because she turned to me with a quizzical look.  “What, Mummy?”

“Oh, nothing, G.  I was just looking at you.”  She smiled at me and leaned her head back against the headrest of the chair.  “Look at that blue sky.”

She looked up.  My children are both accustomed to my stopping in my tracks to look at the sky, and often to photograph it.  “Mmmm, yes.”  I heard her say under her breath as she gazed at the sky.  Something broke over me like a wave, nostalgia and sorrow and deep joy, and I mourned the loss of this moment even as I sat right in the middle of it.  Awareness of all that is already over tightened like a band around my chest, and I felt short of breath.

“Grace, I love you, you know.”

“Oh, Mum,” her eyes widened with surprise.  “I know!  I love you too.”

“Good.”  I blinked quickly, my vision suddenly spangled with tears.  “Do you promise you always will, even when you’re a teenager?”

“Yes, I promise.”  She nodded vigorously and studied me.  “I swear, Mum.  Pinky swear.”  She held out her pinky.  With her other hand, she reached out to lift my sunglasses off my face.

“Are you checking to see if I’m crying?” I smiled, thinking of all the times she’s sighed, resignedly, as I sit in tears in public at a school event.

“No.  I just wanted to see your beautiful eyes.”

Grace turned back to her book but I stared up at the sky, fighting my emotion and then, like slipping underneath something, gave into it.  They are not long, these days of sitting side by side and reading, these moments when she openly admires me, these moments of pinky swearing, tears, and overwhelming love (well, that part may stay).

Already this is a distant memory, but I am so, so glad I wrote it down at the time.


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12 Comments

  1. Posted May 5, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    I know what you mean in this post. Sometimes I mourn the passing of time in the middle of the moment, too. It’s not that I am not present, it is almost that I am too present and the awareness of it is so deep it can be a little bittersweet. Our youngest son turns six Tuesday. Oh boy!

    admin Reply:

    Exactly. It’s almost TOO present – that’s such a good way of putting it. A lot bittersweet, in some cases … happy birthday!!

  2. Posted May 5, 2014 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Tears with this. Tears. xo

    admin Reply:

    I am sorry about the tears!xox

  3. Posted May 5, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Such a beautiful snippet of your life. I’m glad you saved it.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. Me too. xox

  4. Posted May 5, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    So true and so real. A similar feeling happened to me last night, the ‘in the moment but not wanting to let it go’ feeling.

    Your post reminds me that writing these emotions and memories down is the best way to hold them and keep them. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Yes … for me at least writing them down is the best way to preserve what happened, although unfortunately that doesn’t ameliorate (for me) the very real sense of loss. xox

  5. Posted May 5, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I catch Briar watching me. There is something about the mutual worship of mothers and daughters. Lovely.

    admin Reply:

    Something indeed. Something beautiful, and deep, and complicated, and fertile, and, I hope, sustaining. xox

  6. Amy
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I love that you capture all of these fleeting moments of parenthood. So precious! Belated thanks as I *finally* read DEVOTED. Wow.

    admin Reply:

    Isn’t it wonderful!!?? I’m so glad you read it (and I knew what you meant!) xoxo

  7. Amy
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Sorry, sorry! Moving too fast. I finally read Dani Shapiro’s DEVOTION (not DEVOTED!). Just gorgeous. Every word.

  8. Posted May 5, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    This is just beautiful. How I adore the way they look at us with such deep admiration and love. I often wonder if, and when, that will stop. I find myself trying to soak it all up now, store it somehow, so I can access it later if it’s gone. Thank you for capturing these fleeting moments of childhood so perfectly for all of us to share.

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU so much. I am glad to know that you can relate. xoxo

  9. Posted May 5, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Glad you wrote it down, too, Lindsey. Beautiful story. I love the words “cornflower blue” and “swollen with summer’s end.” Operating Instructions was an eye-opener for me, glad to be reminded of it.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind comments. And yes – Operating Instructions, thank God for that book! xox

  10. Posted May 5, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Lovely;) xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you xoxo

  11. Posted May 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    This. This right here is why we write.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. It certainly is for me! xox

  12. Janet
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Love this, captures exactly my relationship with my daughter who’s nine. And Amanda’s comment, “mutual worship,” which I also love. I wish we could put this feeling in a bottle and keep it forever; I guess words will have to be enough, “pinky swear,” sniff-sniff.

    admin Reply:

    Sniff sniff indeed. xoxoxo