A faculty meeting about trauma sensitive schools today listed the words calm, alert, anxious, fear, and terror (or something like that) in chronological order and I joked with my colleague that they lined up with the months of the school year. January, exam week, for high school teachers, blows.
So it has been a day. A day followed my crash cart grocery shopping and a dinner that will suffice and now it’s time for you to do your homework and I am sitting here, at a dining room table in desperate need of refinishing, waiting for you. As I wait, I play the I Can’t Stay Quiet anthem from the women’s march via a text message that I received early today and didn’t have time to play. You come downstairs, mid-song, wearing only your underwear, and you start to dance alone in the kitchen,
I glance up and catch a glimpse of how tall you suddenly seem. You dance to the backdoor, unprompted, to let the dog out, and dance your way back to the lyrics, “but no one knows me, no one ever will.” You are oblivious to my observations, smiling, singing, dancing. It makes me tear up, the contrast of the lyrics with the innocence of age eight, an age (for you) uninterrupted by trauma or shame.
You are on the edge. The edge of when everything changes. I look at you and try to imagine feeling that way and I really cannot remember ever feeling it. It’s funny those lyrics … no one knows me. Right now I know you. I know you like black olives in your lunch and that you don’t ever use toothpaste. I know you don’t like juice. I know you want toys in your Easter basket instead of candy (which, if you aren’t gonna use toothpaste, is probably a good bet). I have no idea who you will be though.
Not yet do you have to grapple with identity or sexuality or harassment or insults. Not yet do we have to look at college applications and wonder which way to go. Not yet has a teacher torn your work apart at critique. Not yet has everyone on your college dorm floor made a group chat that includes everyone but you. Not yet do you need to decide which post college job to take. I don’t know if you are straight or gay or bi or rich or happy or depressed or even if you are interested in science. Right now, the only care you have in the entire world is to dance along to the rhythm of a song you don’t even know the words to.
I envy you and long to keep you just this way for as long as I can. I cannot yet even imagine what it might be like to send you, my last born, off in an airplane after Christmas break, back to, what for you, feels like home. I know for me, that you and your brothers and sister are my home, and that for the rest of my life I will be able to close my eyes and see your slim Old Navy underwear hips dancing, joyfully, freely, and with no other purpose than to just be. “And in my hour of darkness [he] is standing right in front of me speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”