I stare at the dining room table, at the detritus of the night before which was Christmas 2016.
An open Boggle board game, its lid askew, the tiny hourglass long since expired. Empty coke cans, empty cracker wrappers, mismatched notepads, pens, pencils. Inexplicable books and remote controls.
I pass the table and hear the ghosts, the small giggles, the yells, the loud guffaws, as if on a different plane.
But I am not really recalling last night.
I am recalling, aching even, for the times when last night was not a special occasion, when last night was not something planned or orchestrated and pleaded and bargained for in order to get my two adult birds back home to the nest for a visit.
I pine for the times when I woke up and sighed, distraught at the morning of cleaning ahead of me and went about my work, never giving a second through to the fact that these occasions would grow further and further between. I even miss stepping on Legos.
But for today, and today alone, I wake up and breathe in the smell of my children at home. All parts of my whole complete.
My ex-husband and I created them, raised them together for 18 years, taught them a secret language that only we four will know, and then released them into the world, not realizing that once they left, we would forever feel a part was missing. As they were grew up, talking to my kids in this cryptic language of music lyrics and movie quotes that we all memorized, I never imagined that eventually I would be left alone, the sole spokesman of a dead language. This language surfaces two to three times per year when we are together. How long until it fades into oblivion? The laughter forgotten; the love forgotten, replaced by vague, “I’m fine.”
Two to three times per year the planets align and they both come home. No sound can describe it. No film can capture it. It’s the sound, smell, feel of parts coming together again and forming a whole, a healing of a fracture I occasionally am able to forget exists.
If you’re a young mom, drowning in laundry and stepping on Legos, remember that this too will one day stop. Along with it will stop the holding hands at road crossings. Along with it will stop your child wanting to stay up late with you more than any other person in the world. Video game tournaments with the guys will replace family Scrabble and Bobble nights.
I know you’ve heard the advice before: hold on now because they let go so quickly. I’d push even a little farther, appreciate those messes just a little longer. They are the sign of a joyful house.
Leave the games out a little longer; they’re a reminder that family is fun.
Except maybe the Legos. They’re parental kryptonite and much in need of destruction.
Jennifer Gregory is a former teacher and school librarian who lives in rural Texas. She’s the mother to two adult children and the grandmother to one perfect grandson. She shares her home with one needy Dogue de Bordeaux.
not when a street puddle
brims with clouds and girl –
before I can stop her
she bends to meet them
dips her forehead and
rises grinning, forever
crowned in grit and sky.
Elizabeth Kuelbs holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She writes and teaches around mothering three children and saving unattended bagels from her Bernese Mountain Dog. Her poetry appears in The Timberline Review, Cricket, Canary, The Children’s Writers Guild, The Hawaii Women’s Journal, and elsewhere.
You left behind a piece of you
with a piece of me
split and split and
until the bundle of cells began
its journey north
to settle in my
It clung, these pieces of ourselves
to the red walls of the deepest
part of me,
and it grew.
With hands and arms and tadpole
tail, it grew, with legs and toes and see-through skin,
It grew until my skin began
to stretch to accommodate my guest, and
still it grew, until it was no longer it but she, and
still she grew until she had a name, “Adelia,” and
still she grew.
I lie awake at night and feel
this little piece of us
kicking and squirming and waving
tiny hands in a dark pool.
She has invaded every aspect of me–my
body, my soul.
With every breath, she takes in
She is a beautiful parasite,
a being more intimate with me
than any other human.
She is sapping all I have and I
give it all without question, willing her to
only grow and live to see beyond
the confines of my body.
Sarah Burton is mother to five-month-old Adelia, wife to Kevin, and playmate to a dog named Roo. She is a freelance editor living in Tallahassee, Florida, and enjoys making nonsensical sounds with her daughter, eating good food (that she hasn’t had to cook), and exploring historical sites.
When you were small, you
cried out some nights in
the voice of a trapped bird and
I ran to release you.
But the crying went on as
you flapped your wings against
a cage I couldn’t see.
Eyes wide open you
were caught between waking and
sleep and to sleep would return
if I let you be. So when next I heard
your sharp bird-cry, I tethered myself
to my bed, straining against my
mother-will, until you were
still and I heard the rustling
of the leaves outside my window.
Leah Johnson is a poet, writer, teacher, and musician. She was a full-time professor in the Writing Studies Program at American University in Washington, DC. for twenty-years and is a member of The Surrey Street Poets. Her work has been published in Green Mountains Review Online, The Healing Muse, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The Ekphrastic Review. In previous incarnations, she has been a journalist, co-founder and artistic director of Georgetown’s Dumbarton Concerts, and a piano teacher.