I don’t even know where to begin this month. Do I talk about the fact that I have signed you up for summer camp or that you are now sleeping in an actual twin bed, a bed you may very well be sleeping in until you go to college? I went to check on you last night and there you were sleeping in your “big boy bed kinda like Caillou’s” with a headboard and I couldn’t believe that 29 months ago you were a teeny little newborn swaddled and looking minuscule in the middle of your crib. Now you have about four or five blankets, a real pillow and two stuffed animals that you only pay attention to at bedtime. You are becoming more and more of a little kid.
Do I talk about the fact that you chatter the days away asking us “What is that?” over and over and over again, which is a kind of backtracking to when you were 16 months old when you would walk around the neighborhood asking , “et’s dat?” all the time. You have improved your pronunciation as well as your retort when I tell you what that particular thing is. “Luke, that’s a lemur.” You respond with, “Yes mama, that is a lemur,” as if you were the one telling me what it is. You are really funny about wanting us to fill in the script of what you think our conversations should sound like. You prompt me by saying, “What sound does that animal make?” I then have to ask you the same question and you happily respond. This goes hand in hand with you thinking that asking for something politely makes it a foregone conclusion that you will receive it. “Cupcake? Please? OK.” is a favorite.
It is hard for me to talk about your accomplishments this month because world events came storming into our lives a few weeks ago and we still seem to be reeling from them. Your dad had to go to Japan for business; he has gone to Japan no fewer than four times in the last three years so this is becoming a fairly normal part of our lives and this trip didn’t seem as if it would be any different. It was a tough week for him to be gone because you got really really sick the night before he left and then proceeded to stay sick the entire week and ended up finally on antibiotics for strep throat. It was a long week.
And then just as your dad was going to board his plane in Tokyo, an enormous earthquake hit Japan. It was very very big and hurt and killed thousands of people. He texted me from the plane saying he was okay and then the waiting game of seeing whether he would actually get out of Japan started, all the while stories of a tsunami and terrible destruction started filling the news, the internet, the television and I had to shut them all off and just hope with every fiber of my being that his plane was going to take off. And it did. And it was a miracle. You and I met him at the airport that night (so did the local news) and I have never felt so relieved in my life and I still am swimming in relief. I want to hold you both closer and closer and even as the mundane details of our lives go on, I feel sick every time my mind drifts again into the what-ifs. What if he wasn’t on that plane? What if he had been running late and not made it to the airport at all? What if the pilot had made everyone get off the plane instead of being brave and taking off, taking your father far far away from the disaster? What if he was still stuck there unable to get home to us? What if? I cannot bring myself to say the worst.
Two days after he got home the weather warmed up again as it has been doing in fits and starts over the last couple of weeks. A massive snowstorm hit a few weeks ago and we got a foot of snow. Two days later it was gone. But that Sunday was glorious and your dad went and got a new cherry tree to plant in the garden. It occurs to me now that it was particularly apt that we should plant a cherry tree since Japan is so famous for its cherry blossoms. A small unconscious decision that I am probably giving greater weight to now than it deserves. But I am glad we have that little tree. It is good to have reminders of the events that made you realize again how very lucky you are. While he watered it and started to clear out the dead winter leaves out of the herb beds, you practiced walking along the wood border of the berry patch saying, “look at me dad! look at me!” I had never been so happy to be in the garden as at that moment.
I hope the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan this spring. I hope that country can heal. I hold you and your father even closer now and try to cherish more moments more often. This passage from the movie Stranger Than Fiction has rolled through my head many times since your father got home. It seemed so very pertinent this month. Over and over and over I come back to these small moments that make up our lives together and I know I write about them a great deal but I do not know how else to chart the days. Long after so many other memories of your childhood have faded from my mind, I will remember you running to greet your dad at the airport when he came home. I will remember crying with relief as the three of us stood there holding each other. My little family. Three people does not sound all that significant but it is your hand slipping into mine as we walk through the garden, your father kissing me goodnight as I drowse into sleep, us going to breakfast on Sundays, you observing that Buddy is sleeping in a dramatic whisper, your dad planting that cherry tree in the newly thawed soil, your utter delight in watching the garlic come up that makes up my world and makes it richer and better than it ever could have been without you; this mosaic of a million bazillion tiny moments creating our family portrait.
“As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And so it was that a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.”
-Stranger Than Fiction