J and I were out walking too early on Saturday morning, the sidewalk empty, when we suddenly passed a woman about my age with tears in her eyes—her sorrow surprising me, jerking me into heaviness, memories of when I have walked like that, crying so quiet.
“I’m a happy little beetle,” J says after eating a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. Almost every weekend he shouts, “It’s a holiday!” and says things like, “socks are gloves for your feet” and “a Band-Aid is a little cast.” Sometimes, his sweetness is so genuine it leaves me chocked up and disoriented—like the time he peered over the grocery list I was furiously scribbling and said in a very serious tone, “I like your work, mama.”
He learns a song that goes, “See what it is, you might feel better. Once you can see what is there, you might not be so afraid.” He talks about “the monster who went to the grocery store to get Gruffalo crumble. Inside it is nuts. Inside the nuts are sugar and seaweed. Inside the seaweed is cereal and milk.” He announces one evening, “My nose can reach to the ceiling because I’m a mosquito.”
He becomes furious when it is time to take a nap, when it is time to take a bath, when it is time to get out of the bath, when mama gives him a cereal bowl without “big milk” and dada does not cut his bagel right, when he demands “snacks” but all he is given is dinner, when the setting sun slices through the windshield of the car and mama, despite her best attempts with the dashboard visor, cannot manage to “turn that light off!”
He cries when he skins his knee, when a relative says goodbye, when a playdate is over, when mommy has to work—his frustrations and sorrows whittling away little holes that cannot be filled in no matter how hard I try, adding to the little broken spaces I already have in my heart from my own life lived, the ones that make me cry sometimes when I am walking alone. But eventually, incredibly, somehow, joy relentlessly bursts through—and like imagining cereal and milk inside a piece of seaweed, it makes absolutely no sense—but shines through anyway, creating beauty and harmony and unimaginable strength out of all those spaces.