I grab my little boy’s hand and guide him across the parking lot. He clomps along somewhat gracefully beside me, not resisting. His hand is tiny and almost weightless, and I have to squeeze it a bit to make sure he is still there. I pull him towards a local Starbucks, a place I have been many many many times to write, but always alone. It is a limitless day, shimmering and warm and without humidity. I notice our shadows on the ground, a mother and a child. I am a mother walking her son across a crowded parking lot. I am in charge of that child. I am responsible for his happiness, his nutrition, his words, his ideas of the world. Most of all I am responsible for keeping this child alive. The thought startles me, causing me to breathe in too deeply and I start choking on nothing, on air. It also makes me giggle. It’s ludicrous. Me, a mother. Someone let me be in charge of this spritely, golden-haired mass of fragile bones and silly smiles and sudden tears and daily exuberance. He already has a chipped front tooth from when he fell down our back stairs. I was right there, and couldn’t catch him. He looks up at me, and says in his gorgeously scattered and unclear chipmunk voice, “You ok mama? You choking? Need hug?”
Yes, I am your mother. Yes, I am choking on your beauty, your existence. And yes, I will always need a hug.
Later that day, at the Aquarium. After we have prowled the dark corridors glowing with fish and sharks and sting-rays, even two white tigers. After we have ridden the train and the carousel. My little guy points up at the ferris wheel rising up into the sky. He wants to ride the ferris wheel. I am surprised, thought I don’t know why. He is pretty fearless, this kid. I hesitate. I am almost 36 weeks pregnant. He is 2.5. Is this crazy? Will I be the girl on the news that everyone at home says what was she thinking? But I am with a friend who is a doctor. She has been on the ferris wheel with her 2 year old many times. She assures me it’s ok. The attendant promises to let me down immediately if I feel sick, staring warily at my stomach. I want to joke with her, tell her don’t worry I won’t sue you, but I don’t. But more than that, I think, I used to be fearless. I loved ferris wheels and of course the me that I know I am would jump on this ride and show my son the view from above.
We slowly swing up, up, up, above the ground, above the aquariaum and the freeway, watching the cars zoom below. It is quiet, and a gentle breeze soothes. This is beautiful. O is still, his grandmother’s blue eyes big and serene, taking it all in. He loves it up here. I relax into this moment. We go down and back up. Then up top. We stop. We are stopped at the very height of the wheel. Swaying back and forth. And it’s still beautiful. But O starts to want to move towards the doors, doors that are barely closed and certainly not secure enough to prevent him from slipping out. I tighten my grip on his hand, pull him close against me. I try to sound firm and calm, not scared, when I insist that he stay still. And we don’t move, we don’t move, we aren’t moving. Why aren’t we moving? My hands start to sweat, I feel something rising in my chest, something persistent that tells me to get the hell off this thing. Now. Yes it is beautiful. And yes, there is death everywhere. The bolts could come unscrewed. The wind could suddenly rise and dump us upside down. There are no seatbelts. Why are there no seatbelts? O could scamper over and try to get out and I have a huge pregnant belly and am oh so slow right now. His father would never forgive me.
I yoga breathe myself back to mild panic. It’s beautiful up here, remember? I look around, remind myself that I am not a fearful person, that there is scary stuff everywhere if you look for it. We are stopped just to load passengers, nothing is wrong and we will soon be on our way. I calm down, but I do not loosen my grip. I step outside myself a bit, and wonder. Why am I so fearful when I was once so fearless? Why the change? I look at the top of O’s head, his translucent hair glowing beneath my palm. It’s because before I had only the world to gain. Now, I have everything to lose.
The pod starts to swing more violently, but it’s just the wheel starting its slow and steady swing back down. Up and down, down and up. We get off, all is fine. I release O, and see my fingertips embedded in his pale skin. I have marked him, and will do it again. Is it my fear that is marking him, teaching him to be afraid? Or is it my protection, so that he feels safe in this world, safe enough to take chances? Two sides to the same coin. Fear. Protection. Beauty. Death. Up. Down. Every coin has two sides. Every move we make is a toss of the coin.
For this boy, for me, the world is oh so beautiful. And oh so dangerous. I wonder sometimes, is the beautiful so much sharper because the thread of danger runs so close beneath?
Today’s post on CHANGE is inspired by Momalom’s Five for Five. Check it out here, and join us.
20 responses to “Five for Five: CHANGE”
Alisa, your writing gave me chills. I could feel every moment. So beautiful my friend. So beautiful.
Thank you. xoxo
Thanks Ru, means a lot coming from you.
I love those limitless days. And this post takes my breath away. Stunning.
This line takes my breath away: “Yes, I am your mother. Yes, I am choking on your beauty, your existence.” xox
Wow, this is stunning. I’m blown away.
Funny thing: I recently went on a ferris wheel with Hubby and my two little boys (3 and 6), and I have NEVER been afraid of heights. My husband is a total daredevil and never worries about anything. And yet, all of a sudden, he and I looked at each other and we realized the stupidest, truest thing: we could plummet to our death right now. Because of a ferris wheel. We looked at the carnies who had put this thing together. We looked at the screws and bolts. We looked at how high we were. The tiny little swinging door with no lock that kept our kids from escaping. And we both nearly panicked. As it went down to the bottom, we asked to be let out. I told the guy in charge I was scared of heights. Go figure.
I know, it’s amazing how having kids exposes all the seams and all of the terrible what-ifs. But I don’t want to not get on the ferris wheel, you know? Thanks for commenting!
This was amazingly well written. I am blown away.
Funny thing: a few weeks ago, we went to a carnival. Huge ferris wheel. I have never been afraid of heights.
At the top we stopped suddenly, and Hubby and I looked around and looked at our little ones (3 and 6). Hubby is a dare devil and never worries about anything. I have never had an issue with a ferris wheel.
We were suddenly super aware of the people we had seen earlier in the day (were they even sober??) who had put this thing together. We were aware of how high we were. We were aware that these two little beings trusted that this was absolutely perfectly safe. And we were aware of the teeny flimsy swinging door that kept us “safe.” And we panicked. Silently, But we saw it in each other’s eyes.
On the way down, I asked to be let out. I told the guy running the thing that I was afraid of heights.
Your writing is so beautiful. I love the imagery and the metaphors but most of all the reality here. Life. Death. It is so daunting and such a privilege to have a child, to mother a child. You capture it, quite literally, beautifully. Thanks so much for linking up!
Thank YOU for the Five for Five challenge and forcing me to write again!
Stunning, all the more so since I know how quickly you wrote this… trust yourself, as both a writer and a mother.
You write beautifully, and I hear a lot of myself in your story. I think writers cannot help but to see the prose in the mundane, and you do. You feel the panic and the mortality in a swaying ferris wheel ride, and the responsibility in walking your child across a parking lot. I’m thankful for momalom and the connections that are happening because of them, and I am especially grateful I found you here. Keep writing.. MMF
I too am thankful for Momalom and thank you!
This is another truly eloquent piece of writing, that captures the moments and the feelings in such tangible ways because of your specificity – and of course, the universality (for mothers?) of these feelings. The ideal combination – specificity + universal themes.
As for what you were describing, it’s truly the dilemma we live with as parents. Our children bring a sort of beauty into our loves we can never quite express, and the other side of the coin is fear – fear that something terrible will happen.
I don’t know a mother who hasn’t felt this; even as they become big kids and teenagers and I assume, adults (though I’m not there yet) – the fear never dissipates entirely. We breathe ourselves back into a moment of awareness that we can only control so much. And that living in joy must outweigh living in fear.
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I see why Momalom credited you with such a beautiful entry! This is amazing. I felt every word. Glad i found you here!
Here from Momalom and I’m so happy I came. This was beautifully written!
Beautiful, and deeply true!
I often find myself struck by this awesome responsibility – how did I become a parent? – and amazed by how much these little people have changed me.
I love this. Sorry I missed it earlier. Beautiful writing.
This is a lovely post–it has such shape to it. I’m overwhelmed by the gift these kids are to me, the chance to hold them and love them and kiss them and shape them; the chance to be with them inside this butterfly net of family. But oh! The fear that comes when we think of losing such beauty, and of the weight of responsibility for these little fireflies? Astounding.
So beautiful! My son was 2.5 when I was deeply pregnant, too, so I know how that feels! (I remember those days fondly.)
(And how can I comment for a WordPress.org account, do you know? I’ve noticed that wordpress.com is giving limited options lately for how to sign in for comments.)