Tuesday, May 4, 2010
on moving and standing still
Our days are about repetition, Bean and I. I roll through an empty bed with Chip gone on business. In the early morning hours, I listen to Bean engage in a toddlerese conversation with Elmo and her other stuffed friends over the monitor. She shifts and changes position, the crib mattress whispering. Later as she is calling for me, I walk down the hall to retrieve her. We start our day with a cup of pretzels and sleepy eyes.
Later, after Bean is dressed, I lace my shoes and exercise. When she says it, it's ESS-SER-SIZE!!!, always CAPS, always exclamation points. I move through my workout, cursing and sweating and generally loving every second of it. Most days we climb upstairs so I can run on the treadmill while Bean stages herself in various locations throughout the bedroom. She watches Sesame Street. I listen to music.
Usually a mix of songs on my ipod--- a group of songs that I put together a month ago, songs that struck me as useful for this specific point in my life.
A few listens in and I realized that a good majority of the songs have a similar line--- something about the whole world moving while I'm standing still. It's a recurring thought I have, wondering and worrying over the building and moving and changes occuring around me while I stand static and quiet in their midst. I contemplate this while pushing my body forward on the treadmill. I watch the numbers click by. I track my progress on a piece of paper, writing down the miles as they grow in the smallest barely recognizeable increments.
After cleaning up and getting dressed, we head back downstairs. Maybe there are errands to run or we squeeze in a visit to the park. Sometimes we hang out in our yard, pulling weeds. I walk along the side of the house, noting the small green shoots of new grass. They push through wet soil, their tips a thrilling shade of green I can't replicate in paint. It surprises me how quiet the yard appears, yet how busy it gets in the microcosm of a small 6-inch square of ground. Bean likes to pull bits of gravel from the dirt, throw clods of it against the fence.
We eat lunch together. Her usual chicken nuggets and some fruit. She pushes them around her plate, smacks her lips. I eat a cup of soup, some pretzels. Bean likes to comment on my lunch, pointing to my bowl. SOUP! she says, smiling. When I offer her some, she shakes her head.
During Bean's nap, I pace the house. I clean up the living room, the kitchen. Load the dishwasher. I can't sit still. As I listen to her soft snoring, I head to my studio to contemplate the latest project (wedding invitations for my very good friend Danielle).
And then it's late afternoon. Bean is awake and snacking on wheat Chex and raisins. She is hoping for some chocolate (MILKIES? she asks, a devilish pleasure twinkling in her eyes). We now both stand in the studio. I walk the length of my table, putting different shades of paper together, noting the texture differences and wondering what Danielle is going to like best. Bean eats Chex and scribbles furiously on paper. Her entire arm is alive with transporting the crayon across the page: over, across, over, over, over, up, down. The line creates a mass of blue, covering the other lines previously made: red, yellow, orange. She holds up her creation, ITSA RAIN-BOW, MOMMY! RAIN-BOW!
Evening gathers quickly in the corners of the house. We notice it in the the longer shadows, the sound of dogs barking in the yard next door. Before dinner, we walk to the mailbox. Bean runs alongside me, her legs working furiously. She likes to veer wildly onto the grass parkway. She wants to gather flowers. I want to focus on the task at hand; grab mail and get back inside for dinner. Every step is a compromise.
During Bean's dinner, I empty the dishwasher. I gather plates and bowls and spoons to put in their proper places. I circle the kitchen, keeping time with the steady clink of dish on dish. We walk upstairs together after dinner, counting each step. Bean lifts herself on steady legs. I can't believe how much she's grown. She counts as we pass the landing-- TEN! ELEVEN! TWELVE! TURTEEN! FOURTEEN! FI-TEEN!
At bathtime the water swirls around Bean's midsection. She likes to pour it from one cup to another. I rush around the bathroom to gather her towel, a washcloth, her toothbrush.
Bean lays warm and wet, wrapped in her pink towel post-bath. She stares at her bedroom ceiling while I race to get her ready for bed. Pajamas, lotion, diaper, cream. We sing the same songs in the same order and talk about the same quiet bedtime topics. We pray for daddy's welfare and ask that we all have good dreams. When I kiss her goodnight, she reaches into my hair. She tells me, PRETTY MOMMY, SO PRETTY.
This is when the quiet of the house seeps into my bones. I drift through the rooms, my body slowing as the dark descends. I finish cleaning up the child detritus in the living room. I pick bowls off the kitchen floor and think about Bean. Just two days ago she couldn't count past thirteen, and today I heard her get up to seventeen. The miles claim us as we move through them. They gather in our minds as knowledge and on our bones as muscle. We pick up subtle new wrinkles and new bits of green like I pick cups off the floor.
I put the ipod on, play the music as background to my cleaning rituals. There is another line that comes to me---
And all of this life moves around you, for all that you claim you're standing still-- you are moving too.