I’ve had the undeniable pleasure of this girls company lately.
My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.
We spent a lot of time in the sand together doing the only thing she ever asks of me: to swim with her.
She could ask me to write her poetry, to read to her, she could ask that I take her shopping, out for ice cream. She could ask that I listen to her friend drama, or she could ask me to hold her secrets. Instead, she asks only this of me: to swim with her.
To brave the bathing suit and the less-than-hot-tub temperatures, she asks me to freely accept the invitation to submerge with her into the only world that makes sense: floating. Under water, blood shot eyes, and red shoulders – she wants me beside her exploring the unknown. She wants the weightless companion of my body next to hers while she swims beneath the surface searching for shells and rocks and the mystery the water holds.
Earlier this summer I tried on my bathing suit, the one I bought for Spain last year (gasp! It’s a two piece) and she walked in my bedroom as I surveyed the reflection. She gasped, and I readied myself for criticism. She pulled her hand away from her mouth and told me how beautiful I was.
I started to cry.
I wore that bathing suit to the beach that day, in public, where people I knew were going to see me. But I didn’t swim with her.
A few weeks passed and we had this glorious opening in our summer schedule. Oliver was at camp, it was just her and I. We run away every year together. It started when she was 5.
And the only thing that made sense to me was to get in the water with her.
Over and over again. To respond to the call of her heart. To play frisbee in the water and watch her dive and teach her how to body surf and let her laugh hysterically at my constant “beaching” in the bed of rocks. The faces she made, pure joy. The feelings I felt, pure love.
It started when Oliver was only 3 weeks old – we were up north at a family cottage for Memorial Day weekend and Jessica had taken to being a big sister so well. I was so excited to have another baby, but I watched Aaron take her on an adventure and I was stuck on the shore feeding this helpless gift in my arms and I was angry at this baby. This stranger in my arms for docking me on land while my familiar love went on without me: on the water.
Who I am to my children is as different to each of them as it is to me. I can’t balance the roles they need me to play equally when we’re all together, at least, I haven’t figured it out very well. So when we’re all three of us together, I’m constantly worried about meeting each of their needs. I know Oliver’s love language is X and Jessica’s is Y. But I’m still the parent and trying to teach them how to behave and love and act and respond to different things at different times and I’m always caught in the middle.
Running away with Jessica is like going home for Christmas. The anticipation of the plans ahead are intoxicating. Will we bake Grandma’s cinnamon rolls? Am I going to wake up to the smell of coffee and orange juice and bacon? Will I get to sleep in my old room and did mom save that teddy bear I used to sleep with? Will I see my old friends? I wonder if our favorite restaurant is still open Christmas Eve, can we order pies?
You pack your favorite sweatshirt and pajama’s knowing the time you’ll spend in front of a fire will be 1,000 times more enjoyable in fleece. And you never forget your slippers.
Being alone with Jessica is easier than being in a group of people with Jessica. We connect and converse without even knowing it. She feeds the part of me that needs to remember the love and I think I feed the part of her that is love.
And all it ever takes is getting in the water.
There’s a reason my first painting was of her as a mermaid.
Because it completely delights her and reminds me.