In our best days, the people around us are witnesses to our lives. Yesterday, I sat on the backyard swing with Eliana, while Asher ran in the neighbor’s yard, flush-cheeked and happy. Shaya was asleep in his crib.
My daughter walked barefoot in the wet grass. I found a dead bird buried amid the green. Shoveled it up to be taken out with the trash, wondering how it got there, what happened, how I had missed it.
The backyard is summer-height green. Come August, it will harden, grass like pinpricks in the incessant heat. But yesterday, with all this rain come and come again, I couldn’t let the kids run in the sprinkler. Too much water can kill a living thing, too.
The night before, Shaya awoke in the early hours and asked to be taken to my bed. Most parents try everything in their power to remove their children from their beds, but since he went into a crib Shaya has not been the kind of baby who would nestle in next to me and sleep with his little body arched into the curve of mine.
He did that Friday night. And though I was unconsciously pushed to the edge of the huge bed, I didn’t mind it, for the feel of his soft skin, his pudgy legs, his sweet breath against me. I awoke in smiles to see him there, holding his light-blue “blankie” in one hand, his other reaching out for me.
W.S. Merwin wrote:
I want to tell what the forests
I will have to speak
in a forgotten language
(poem called “Witness,” from the book The Rain In The Trees)
These basic elemental items from the every day, those are the forgotten language. How many people live so close to the bone? How many of us can banish the voices of the to-do list to revel in the little things, like a baby’s even breathing in the brown-dark of night or a daughter’s tomboyish pull to wrestle through the grass in bare feet?
Friday night, Asher pulled on his Superman costume and ran around the house. Shaya called, “I want to be Super Baby!” And so his brother outfitted him in the first Superman costume, the little-boy one that fit Shaya perfectly, and the brothers paraded through the house and the yard in the gloaming, proudly outfitted as superheroes.
Yesterday, Asher told me, “All I need are parents. That’s all I need. And family. Parents and family, that’s all I need.”
I tried to explain to him about love and all its complexities. How people need various kinds of love from different people. He nodded, but I could see the vacancy in his eyes. Love is love, he was telling me. You either have it or you don’t.
The birds are awake now and so are my children. We are heading to the forest today, to walk among the trees and learn the language of their bark. Last time, we saw a snake near the swamp. Maybe today. Maybe I will carry the baby up the hill and maybe we will stop to notice the flowers.
In any case, it is the sweet breath of morning that I am in search of, and the innocence of love to blanket the forest floor, to be wrapped in the scent of pine.