Tuesday, February 18

on the periphery of another world

This post was originally written for a monthly community writing project I do with a group of friends.  The challenge for the month was to write about "Another World" that we each experience apart from the rest of the community.  After sharing it with those friends, I thought I might also share it here with these (you) friends as well!
With routine days spent in such proximity, my daughter and I live in a unique world where a toddler and an adult inhabit the same space.  At times I’m overtaken by my connection to her- my firstborn.  Even though our contact is constant and overwhelming, I still want her close.  At night, when I wake scared (When despair for the world grows in me/and I wake in the night at the least sound/in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be –Wendell Berry), my first thought is to check on her in her bed, cuddle close, imbibe the rhythm of her nighttime breath, and whisper thanks over and over and over for the moments I’ve had with her.  And I beg for more, for as many moments as we can have.  Sometimes I imagine absorbing her back inside me so that my body might again be her safe place where she is closer to me, and a bit more removed from that ‘outside’ world I find so hard to trust.She dances around the house creating her own small worlds from blankets, discarded papers, stacked books and any old thing she imagines life into.  She talks through her every thought and I have to guess nothing about her ideas, fears, hopes or intentions.  I listen to her soliloquies and notice how she will weave in such little details of the day.  When I listen, I can hear what she’s learned and how she absorbs it all through play:
  • Once, when I fix her toy with glue she pretends to break and repair household objects for several hours thereafter. 
  • After a trip to the hospital and the pharmacy she carefully explains to a throng of dolls and stuffed animals that they should be sure to drink lots of water and juice so that they can feel better.
  • I drop my phone in frustration grunting, “What the heck?!”  A few hours later she tells me in snotty frustration, “Mom, I have boogs.  What the heck?!”
  • I can hear her arguing with Luke in the dining room and he tells her she’s ‘unbelievable’.  So she climbs the steps to the second floor to report, “Mom, I’m undeliebable”.

Always learning, repeating, asking, refining, testing.

Exasperating and illogical as her toddler world may be, I feel privileged to spend my days in and out of its periphery.  I can feel- it’s palpable- that in her world there is no pretense or hatred or dishonesty.  In her transparent curiosity, she is light to me.  She is love and hope and every good thing I long for in the adult world I generally inhabit.  She and her 30 lb ilk are beyond precious.  There is no word for it.  Sometimes I just think that if every person in the world would look a toddler in the eyes and listen and hear – Oh, how could they do any of the ungodly things that we do?  How could anyone do an ounce of evil to threaten all the shiny, hopeful, unblemished goodness of a tiny human who’s just piecing it all together?

There’s no war in those eyes.  No rape.  No industrial mayhem.  No slavery.  It’s a world of possibility.  I teach her, of course.  But it’s no clich√© to say that perhaps she is the true teacher here.

And yet daily I find myself faced with the task of letting her go (because surely she belongs to no one, not even me), of walking near her, but not an obstacle to her growth, independence or strength.  And worst (scariest, hardest?) of all, I must find some way to loose her into a world I do not trust with her.  Obviously she’ll meet countless loving, wonderful, art-ful others who will feed her soul and buoy her.  But what about that one or two or three who might mean her harm, or see her as a means to an end?

Oh world, let her live fully here.  Let her be free in as many ways that there are.  And let her shine through whatever darknesses lurk on her path.  Help her know herself, trust herself, love herself deeply.  Give her clarity and assurance.  Let her and her peers teach us all, for we need to inhabit their curious world more than we’ll ever acknowledge.

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