Ordinary Love Stories

couch

Yesterday the fourth little traveller was home with a “funny tummy”. He was perched on the ailment fence, one leg on the slightly unwell side, the other leg dangling on the probably good enough to go to school. It was his fast talking and the conviction in his voice over the long term psychological scars that would follow an “accident,” that had me agreeing to a day at home. We negotiated him spending the day in bed with a book, math to be done on the computer, and homework to be collected by siblings. He clutched at his stomach, winced and slowly walked back to his bed.

Within the hour he was out of bed, had eaten 2 bowls of Cherrios, and when he squealed with excitement during our 4th game of Word Search I realized I’d been played.

“You seem to be much better?”

He immediately clutched at his stomach with a wince again and said with a pained expression “it comes and goes”.

We decided to watch a movie. With my laptop open, we both lay on the bed cheek to cheek. I could see his reflection in the screen, the features I’d studied when he was born, it had taken me so long to place him. I couldn’t work out who he was going to look like. Sure, he was uniquely him, but I couldn’t see into the future, him as a boy. And now here he was, 7 years old and the spitting image of me. We played together the entire day, at one point I asked for 20 minutes.

“Can I just have a go at writing something”

“Oh sure, I’ll just sit here” he said as he perched himself on a chair next to me.

I’d been writing for about 4 minutes when he asked if he could smell my breath.

“Why?”

“I just want to see what it smells like?”

“It smells of coffee.”

“Okay, can I smell it. Just blow. Just blow on my nose so I can smell.”

“I’m not going to get any work done am I?”

“Probably not Mummy, probably not. Now c’mon, just let me put my nose in your mouth”

We played 4 more games of Word Search.

This morning it was the first traveler’s turn. There was no need for a performance, I’ve watched her cold get worse over the past couple of days. After I’d dropped the others off we sat together over breakfast, just us. A luxury for a family of six. The conversation somehow moved from American History to Economics and Universities in Australia. We speak to each other differently now, I have to constantly remind myself to listen more, less opinions, more conversation. I find myself gazing at her face, losing track of our conversation, she is exquisitely beautiful, bee stung lips and eyes like a cupie doll. I see her as my baby, my three year old, and then regain focus to hear her ask if it would be better to go to University in Melbourne or Adelaide? She is 13, marching onwards.

It occurred to me yesterday that our relationships with our children have the blind intensity of young love, a fresh romance. They begin with the same explosion, an acute and heightened sensory overload. While we talk about our heart, chemical reactions are igniting in our brain.

Our love begins like any romance: little tiny fingers, eyes locking, intense gazing, nights spent listening to or maybe for a faint breath laying next to us. We discover the things we both like to do, what makes us happy, what we can’t bear.

As time goes by, we sing together in the car, have our first goodbyes, give big hugs and promise to come right back. We hold hands and touch noses.

And like any great romance, there are fights. The standoffs, the tantrums, the lies we tell each other. The last chocolate biscuit that was eaten, the smirk that was caught. The unfinished homework, the bed that wasn’t made. The irrational arguments.

And as the relationship matures you realize there’s a space. You are cheek to cheek less often. You begin to consider the impossible. An empty bed, a spare seat at the table.

Not yet, but one day you will have to let go. Perhaps finger by finger, but one day you will have to let go.

Blind intensity, hearts exploding.

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