Sidewalk chalk. I’m pretty certain we’ve had it around – in varying stages of whole or broken pieces -- all of my children’s lives but, for a few short days a week or so ago, my kids became passionate about it. They covered the driveway and every ounce of sidewalk near our house – then recovered it, and recovered it, three or four times in a row (as the rain kept washing it all away). This week they’ve lost all interest in it again, but it provided some intense fun for a day or two. Jesse drew a lot of things like satellites “with broken parts” that still worked (thank goodness), mines, and telephone wires. For the longest time I couldn’t get him to take any interest in drawing – which was troubling only because I figured Kindergarten would be miserable and he’d never learn to write – but then he learned he could draw machines and robots and spaceships, and suddenly he wasn’t so averse to the drawing business after all.
Abe. Something major must have occurred with his height or features or perhaps, just his aura recently because we are constantly met with exclamations over how he’s grown and over how shockingly he looks like Mike. We were at a family wedding the other day when my oldest nephew (closer to my age than Abe’s) came up to us exclaiming to Abe, “When I saw you last – probably only about a month ago -- you were still a boy, but suddenly, you’re a man!” Living with him and seeing him daily, I’ve been less aware of these changes, but I had to laugh at that particular comment because Abe had just spent the night away from home at a “Youth Conference” put on by our church. When he came home I told him that his voice had changed to something much deeper just in the one night he’d been away, upon which Mike suggested that perhaps it wasn’t “Youth Conference” at all – rather, “Adult Conference”. All of that growing hasn’t totally robbed him of proper “boy” behavior however. He was completely bummed when he saw the donut picture (somewhere in the mass below) that I took of his siblings holding donuts on National Donut Day (whilst he was away).
I’m nearly 29 weeks. The picture above (of me holding Summer on my handy little stomach perch) was taken a few weeks ago and doesn’t properly show how very pregnant my appearance is. In many ways a baby coming never truly seems real. You can think, and plan, and wonder. You can hear a little heartbeat, and feel little kicks, and purchase little outfits or soft swaddling blankets (or even decorate a room . . . if you have one for them . . . which we don’t); but they are still a bit intangible and shadowy. A bit on the edge of reality. And, with this little girl coming so quickly on the heels of her sister, and me – so unsure still of just who this being is, and how I could have forgotten her, and why it was so dire that I did not hold with my plans of “family complete” -- she has been all the more difficult for me to pin down and grasp ahold of as an actuality. And yet . . . there is something about it being summer-time . . . and knowing a baby is coming “this summer” (even if it is at the tail end of summer) that causes my heart to lurch for a moment now and then – like a sudden little jolt of electric realization. She is coming. She will be here. For the briefest moments (though they happen with increasing frequency of late) I realize that her coming is a certainty. It’s visible on the horizon – even if I have to shield my eyes and squint to see it, and even if the details aren’t completely observable.
In some ways the growing concreteness of it all fills me with panic as I confront the truth that I will soon be immersed in the very struggles of adjustment and upheaval that I just left behind, and as I wonder how I will possibly wade my way through those adjustments with an only-slightly-older baby in the picture. But, in other ways, it fills me with an anxiousness and longing that I can’t quite place my finger on. It isn’t exactly that longing to hold my baby that expectant mothers so often feel – I hardly feel ready for a baby. It is more of an ache to know her, a desire to remember, a feeling almost of wanting to prove myself to her – to prove to her that while mortality may have nearly cleared my mind of some of my promises and some of my connections, she will be known again and loved as fiercely as she was always meant to be. I just need her here, is all. I need a tangible, soft, breathing reminder to stare at and hold to bring it all to me like it needs to be. Perhaps that makes no sense. Perhaps it seems sentimental. But it’s just me trying to make sense of the bits and pieces of transcendent but incomplete information that is certainty to me. And it may be that, in the trying to make sense of it all, I’m getting it . . . wrong. Still, there is a longing and a hope that having her here will, if not answer all the questions, then, instead, be enough to make the questions drift into insignificance as we are filled up with the simple rightness of her being with us.