by Jennifer Moore People always smile at me when I am with all three girls. A baby on my right hip and the two older girls both holding part of my left hand. They say nice things. They say, in a kind way, "You have your hands full." I smile back. I look into their eyes and I feel like I can see them thinking . . . of Back When or of Some Day. I feel blessed and I feel like I never want this time to pass.
I let the girls play outside in the mud and the wet grass and puddles, between rain showers Saturday afternoon. I opened the kitchen window to converse with them while I was making dinner. Elizabeth, my five year old, showed me it was raining again, her tongue stuck out to catch the drops. Maren, my toddler, ate sliced cheese from an ice cream bowl and then left it by the birdbath, her jacket out front by the wilted petunias.
Tonight, with the older two mostly in bed, I sat in the rocking chair with baby Vivie. She fell asleep in my arms. I had been up since 6:22 am. I had cleaned numerous potty training tinkle puddles, run last minute errands, managed a timely birthday party drop off and pick up with all three, coordinated most of 3 meals for 4 or 5 mouths, searched for unicorns and unicorn crowns and horse reins and American Girl hairbrushes, soothed tears and even discussed, a bit, where lightening comes from.
We sat in the rocking chair, baby Vivie and I, in that green grey light of 8:42 pm on May 26th and the birds were chirping still, a bit too loud, as if their mother would be shaking her head, "Girls, girls, it's quiet time, let's slow down, no flying, no singing . . ." I decided not to get down on myself for that basket of clean laundry still sitting in the corner. Instead, I focused on her breathing, the rhythm of her little baby sweaty chest against mine. The thumb in her mouth made that sweet sucking noise and her other fingers stroked the ridge of my collarbone from time to time, little reflex nudges checking to make sure I was there.
Fifteen minutes later I got up, put the baby in her crib. I grabbed the five pairs of "da da da da Dora" underpants the toddler had worked through from the hamper, hand washed them in the bathroom sink. From her bedroom, Maren screamed, "I have an orange thing on my arm!" It was the skinned elbow from the other day in the park, on the play date, on which she wore a dress and her big sister's rain boots on the wrong feet and she fell on the paved path, running with half a peanut butter sandwich, which, when I went to rescue her, had asphalt rocks mixed into it. The scab looked dark orange in the almost dark room. I fetched a Band Aid and after I put it on her, she clutched my hand so hard, loving, like she was holding a baby bunny, and in her wonderful, trademark, scratchy voice, "Mom, your hands cold, you okay?" She didn't let go, concern. "Oh Bug, it's just from the water, Mommy washed your underpants. It's okay." And then I felt tears welling up---the happy sad kind. "It's okay, Mommy." Oh my perceptive one. "Thank you, Bug. I love you." "I love you, too, Mommy." The sweetest sleepy smile, her Great Grandma Zora gap front teeth peeping through.
Yes, I have my hands full. Heart, too.
(Image: Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, 1890)