We would wake up early and stay up as late as possible.
Me, my little brother, and kids in our neighborhood. Summer days were full of long hours at the community pool playing an eternal game of Marco Polo then when we got tired it would be back-float competitions and our own version of synchronized swimming. We would burn, then peel, and quickly turn a dark brown with the outline of our swimsuits tattooed in our winter flesh color onto our shoulder and backs.
Sometimes bikes would be our mode of adventure and we would ride to another neighborhood lying to our parents about how many Popsicles or cans of Coke we bought throughout the day. We’d come home covered in sticky messes and the truth would literally be etched on our faces with remnants of the forbidden left behind despite our efforts to clean it up with water from a garden hose. Probably, the major sugar crash gave it away.
It didn’t matter. We didn’t have a care in the world.
When it was just me and my brother and we were too little to go out we would spend hours in the backyard searching for grasshoppers to keep as pets in old jam jars. We’d cram handfuls of grass in there as makeshift nests to assuage any guilt of trapping these helpless creatures. Of course, it was the least we should do to be as hospitable as possible while they struggled and jumped against the glass trying to make sense of the shimmering sun through the walls of their prisons.
And my brother and I would run and run up the hill to the back of our yard to the fence and then back down. Laps over and over again chasing butterflies and birds and clouds trying to forget that there was a fence around us – to protect us – while the rest of the world spun on.
I was up late with Baby Oz one night last week. He was unusually fussy and inconsolable even at my breast. Though maybe common for most babies – certainly with the twins – it felt strange with him since because he loves to sleep. When his wailing turned into two, and then three hours of crying we decided to take him into the ER.
We got there and filled out paperwork almost immediately. As soon as we went in to see the nurse he was…Quiet. Observant. And even cheerful. He was not the screaming baby of 20-minutes-ago. Andy and I looked at each other in exasperation. We would have to wait another two hours before getting discharged at 630 am and come to sleep for a couple hours while my parents watched the twins before heading back home.
I didn’t fall asleep right away. I watched him sleeping next to me. I tried to push out of my mind the what-if pictures of him in the hospital all the time with tubes snaking in and out of his little body. We are fortunate. Blessed, I guess, would be one word. All I want to do in that moment for all three of the babies is to build huge fences around them. To shut out diseases and guns and drugs and eating disorders and bullies. Even if it means shutting out the butterflies and birds and clouds.
Blessed. Blessings. Favor. Joel Osteen has made me hate both those words with his favor-mindedness and bull-shit prosperity gospel. Because it dilutes those tragedies that need to be told in its full-body-ness. I need more.
I can’t shake the George Zimmerman infraction. And all the other stories surfacing in Chicago and NY with not only teenage boys but children and women on whom the sewage of injustice is being poured out on. It makes me seize up with anger. Where and when will that arc bend towards justice? It isn’t just about my babies and wondering what they will face on the future but my neighbor’s babies, those who are black and brown (though almost invisible here in Bloomington I know they exist). And I think of the absurdity. The absurdity of my children with all their blessings and privilege. They are so privileged. No fears, no hunger, no loss, no cold. I’m wracked with guilt some days. And I’m so deeply grateful on most. Still. It’s not enough to build fences for and around them. I need to tear them down. I need to be a part of building something. Something more.
Redemption comes in strange place, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are
And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside…-Sara Groves