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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