Kids are like dry ice people, appearing solid and the same from moment to moment but so drastic in their changes if enough moments collect. We protect, clothe, pack school lunches for, and tuck in at night these swirling clouds of transformation spinning around only the tiniest speck of permanence beneath their shifting layers. I look at pictures of Luke from when he was Sam’s age and barely recognize the spark that’s always been the unmoving force under his surface, like the canvas for his passing phases and physical changes. I watch Sam giggle at Luke’s antics today and remember the bouncy, smily baby in the doorway jumper, springing in his feety PJ’s this time 2 years ago. I still fall into the depth of his molasses brown eyes, rich and warm like hot fudge on a sundae, when he looks at me and smiles. “Does he even have pupils?” my mom joked once when Sam was barely 4 months old. I am in awe of his sweetness, and marvel at the way he laughs and plays his way through a day. He moves like a cartoon character. Sometimes he reminds me of a forest creature.
Sam squishes up the English language like clay in his little fists to say what he wants and he gets very frustrated when the person on the other end of the conversation misses his point. The exchanges between Sam and Luke are (almost) always entertaining.
“Sam, you’re hilarious,” Luke said to him once.
“No me he-wear-e-us,” Sam answered. “Me Sam!”
The other day on a drive, Sam suddenly piped up from the backseat.
“Me see wams, Mama” he said.
“No, WAMS!” he said louder.
“I don’t know, Honey. Land?”
“No, wams,” he said again. “Me see seeps!” This time he spoke more slowly, really emphasizing his words.
“Lambs? And Sheep?” I asked, almost as happy as he was to have solved the riddle. His face lit up with a mixture of delight and relief.
“Yeah!” he said.
Then there’s Luke, these days like a disco ball spinning in constant motion, beaming light and humor and spunk and charge in all directions. He never.stops.talking. I have to remind him to take breaths between words and to stand for more than a fleeting 5 seconds in line at the store without bouncing from thing to thing. He is intensely curious. His mind is like a pinball. Tonight we bought spun honey instead of regular honey for some granola bars we baked together. Luke couldn’t get his mind around how different it tasted, and was still asking questions an hour later about how spun honey is made and why it’s so different. He came up with a very elaborate explanation for the stuff as he stood beside me, asking questions and theorizing about the details of its production. Even at his bedroom door, the finish line of our busy day, he announced very randomly, “I really love odd numbers. Do you know why? Because they have a middle. See?” he held up three fingers. “There’s a middle. One and three and two’s the middle.”
Luke sees humor in everything. His exuberance is delightful at times and maddening at others. He’s a kid who lives to the max. He’s extremely kind, extremely inquisitive, extremely silly, extremely loud, and extremely argumentative and stubborn. I’ve been spending extra time each week working on the photo books I’ve neglected every year since Luke was Sam’s age. I can’t help but notice how many pictures there are of Luke like these.
He has always been intensely joyful, beaming with enthusiasm and excitement. I am thankful the world hasn’t yet dimmed any of the spark I see in these photos. I hope, on some level, he keeps this intensity always. Even though I spend a good part of the day wishing he’d calm down and be quiet for longer periods, in the end I’m glad he hasn’t lost any of the sparkle at his essence. Even though on one end of the stick are qualities that test my patience at least several times each hour, on the other end is a kid who pries the world open with inquisitiveness and enthusiastically bounces his way through every hour he’s awake.
Two years ago Luke got very sick with croup. It was the sickest he’s ever been in his life. That week I sampled what it’d be like to have a calm, quiet, less intense version of Luke and I desperately missed his spunky self. It reminded me of the Winnie the Pooh episode where Rabbit decides he “likes the bouncy Tigger best” after Tigger falls into a funk and stops bouncing. As crazy as it drives me sometimes, I love Luke’s intensity.
There’s a particular unchanging quality about both boys, like unmoving boulders in a creek as the water of time sweeps by them. When I really think of it, this essential nature is more like a pebble, a tiny nucleus of permanence around which the rest of them flashes by–a new scene in every moment, a fresh story almost from scratch at every birthday.
Luke will be 7 in a matter of weeks. I took this picture of the back of him recently and noticed how old he looks in it. It surprised me, the way 4:00 feels like only noon on a day you’ve lost track of time. I feel like he should be turning 6 this year–not 7. The 2 years since Sam was born have turned in what seems like one motion. The constant buzz of busyness like white noise in the background leaves me feeling disoriented when I pause long enough to get my bearings. Sometimes it feels like I’ve multitasked our days down to a nub.
Time has this deceptive way of making you feel like the particular spot along the timeline you notice when you stop and check is a permanent location. When Luke was a tantruming two-year-old it felt like we’d always be trapped in a cycle of fits. When Sam didn’t sleep more than a 3 hour stretch at night it felt like I’d never sleep through a night for the rest of my life. In truth, Luke has mellowed out considerably and, while he’s as headstrong and tough minded as I am, he listens to reason and can change course on a whim. And Sam sleeps through the night and past 8:00 most days. The hard parts of former phases have passed like windstorms and I have hardly any recollection of them now.
Seven and 2 now seems like my permanent resting place but I know these notches will zip by as fast as all of the others. While I’m here, I want to jot down everything. I want to remember the way Sam talked at 2, knowing when he’s Luke’s age all of the details of these days will have faded into the fog of a past I’ll barely remember. Running full-speed in the park a few weeks ago, Sam slammed into the side of a picnic table. Today I noticed the red mark on his nose where the scab used to be, and I had to ask Luke to remind me what had happened. It had only been 3 weeks before, but I couldn’t remember the details, only that Sam had been hurt. “How did Sam get that scratch again?” I asked Luke. It was the same feeling as forgetting why you’d walked into a room. Luke remembered.
I want to remember the way Sam said “That yummy in mine tummy” at breakfast this morning, holding his waffle in both hands like a plate. I want to preserve the day he got in trouble for telling me, “Just leave me alone!” in a very sassy tone. I carried him upstairs to his crib for a timeout. “Mama, that makin’ me sad,” he sobbed. It broke my heart to follow through with the consequence. Later, I talked to him about what he’d said and reminded him to talk nicely to me. “No,” he argued very matter-of-factly, defending what he’d said. “I was just trying to get you to stop talkin’.” Chances are, I’ll only remember these things if I write them down and this blog is my favorite way to do it.
I’ve only posted here twice this year. A month ago I decided to stop blogging completely for lack of free time to work on these posts. Writing here hangs over my head with the many to-do’s on a long list that loops in the back of my mind like thoughts on a treadmill. So, I printed every post I’ve written on this platform since 2007 and, 8 rounds of ink cartridges later, I held in my hands the results of years and years of time and effort. I found bits of memories I am so glad I captured. I’ve decided to keep waving the net of these pages around through our days, in hopes I can keep some specks of this magic. Plus, focusing on the magic and the moments that fill me to the brim helps keep the times I want to pull my hair out in perspective. These days are definitely a balancing act, as I walk on a very thin line between both extremes.