It’s early morning, or what passes for early in this house of late risers. I’m bustling about, making mental lists of things that need to be done, waiting on the water to boil for Cream of Wheat, drooling over the scent of fresh-brewed coffee, groaning over a new and painful kink in my back, when I spot a baby blanket lying in the hallway.
We have no babies in this house. My only child will be seven in a week. It’s been a long time since he needed this soft swaddle blankie, but when I see it, I can smell the fresh baby head and feel his downy little fuzz on my cheek.
Never mind that my baby is four feet tall now and has a head full of thick blonde hair and smells vaguely of dog. Never mind that I joke about how I can’t imagine going back to babies after not wiping butts for a few years now. Never mind that the only being I’ve rocked to sleep lately is my cat. For a few seconds, I’m cuddling my teensy baby against my chest, dancing around the room, singing “Windfall” over and over until he slips off to sleep.
The cats had pulled that blanket out of a box I’d planned on getting rid of this week. We don’t have any babies in this house. But I want to hold on to that blankie, that memory, that feeling just a little bit longer.
February is a month of birthdays for me, and so it’s a month of reminders. My great-grandmother turned 99. My oldest and best childhood friend turned 33. My kid will turn 7. The person I depended on most is now completely dependent on others, and the person that depends on me the most is more and more independent every day. And there we are, the ones in our thirties, forties, fifties, in the middle, being pulled toward and pushed away all at the same time. It’s a wonder we don’t split in two.
But we don’t. We sway and strain and moan, but we don’t break, if we’re lucky, and sometimes the difference between bending and breaking is just that- only luck. Sometimes it’s a function of being able to let go a little- or a lot- of memories and hopes and dreams about the way things were or could have or should have been, so that our stranglehold on the past doesn’t rip our arms off when the future comes to carry us along, and it will, and it won’t be gentle.
So here’s to those of us that are stuck in the middle, yanked this way and that way, bending or even sometimes breaking. All we can do is loosen our grip and try to be flexible.