Last week was one of those killer weeks, where I rushed from obligation to obligation…or shall I say opportunity to opportunity, and hardly breathed between them. It was an intense week of songwriting, recording, tending, cooking for company, cleaning for company (there is a difference between general cooking and cleaning and doing the same for company), lesson planning and teaching, with a number of unexpected opportunities thrown in for good measure. I actually pray gratitude prayers for each of those things I got to do, but stacking them on top of each other was so wearying I’ve ended up a wee bit grumpy. The kind of grump a good wad of caramel corn, chunk of chocolate or nice bowl of ice cream usually counterbalances, but alas…I am on the D.D. (d#@!* Diet) and I cannot even drown my sorrows. So the grump prevails, I am sorry to say.
But I digress.
One of the sweet things about last week was that I got to spend Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sunday with grandchildren, in differing places under varying circumstances. I am grateful that our children trust me with their kids, trust that I will love and nurture them, that I have the long term picture of them in the back of my head when we interact, and that when they have obligations that take them from their children they know they can call on us. Thursdays I tend the Merrill and Connors children from 8-4:30 then leave immediately to teach guitar classes. It’s a long day. But with a recording deadline last Thursday night the kids ended up spending most of their day with Auntie Libby and Auntie Sherry and Gumpa, after his trial cancelled. Friday, however, I got Calvin all to myself. Calvin has those soft velvety cheeks that I cannot resist kissing and I find, when I have time, I like to hold him just because I have kisses that have been waiting to be spent. He’s a funny little guy who likes to see what’s going on around him and would rather face out when you hold him than snuggle down and fall asleep.
It was time for his nap. He’s taken lately to liking the spot in the entry hall between the old mirrored hall tree and the leaded glass of the side light windows by the front door. So I fed him a bottle of milk Annie had left for him then I held him upright to let the air rise as we visited our spot in the entry hall. We waved at each other in the mirror, then took a few steps over to the doorway and he looked through the glass, the bevels bending the light and changing the pictures we saw out there in the wild: the clusters of trees and the car in the neighbors driveway, the sculpted cherubs in the flower garden and the birds flitting from branch to feeder to branch again. We talked about what we saw. Well, I guess I talked. He listened. I want him to know words; to love them like I do; to sense how they feel when they are strung together nicely. So I talk to him even though he doesn’t talk back. Finally, his breathing slowed to the point I knew it was time for his nap. I usually put him in his crib and turn on his musical mobile. For some reason though, I sat with him there by his crib in Gumpa’s study. Sat in Gumpa’s big office chair and rocked back and forth, Calvin facing out. I could not resist burying my nose in the soft warm folds of his neck and kissing those irresistible cheeks, so I turned him around and our eyes caught each other. He looked in mine, and I gazed into his and the moment hovered hummingbird-like as I tried to hold still enough to not distract him. Finally I laid his head in my elbow, drew him up and my head down until my lips met his ear and I started to sing. Since I was hit in January with a nasty bug, I have had rather distressed vocal cords and singing softly and sweetly has not been in the cards for me. But miraculously there were little lullabies in the right key that let themselves eek out and into his ear.
When I was a young mother there was a sweet spot where my newly nourished babies rested their heads after nursing. There between the breast and the neck, to the right of the chin. After my babies grew it became the lonely spot. It was precisely there that Calvin graced me with his breath. His whisper of breath, exhaled from the satisfied place deep in his newly fed belly. It smelled of mother’s milk, fresh and undigested, warmed and steamy passing through his luscious little lips. His breath laid against my skin soft and weightless, but profoundly present, like the lighting of a ladybug. He let me snuggle him and sing to him until he fell asleep. I used all my strength to hold his sleeping weight there until my throat gave out and arms became painfully weary and my droopy eyes spoke to my responsible brain saying “You’d better put him safely in his crib before you drop him.”
I laid him carefully in his crib and returned to the chair, drifting off to a dreamy place for a few minutes. In my dreams I went back to the place where I was small, maybe eight years old, and we had recently moved into our home on Old Clairton Road in Pleasant Hills PA. The back yard was multi layered, full of flora on the edges, with patches of soft green grass spread out between the bushes and trees. Playing back there one humid summer day I remember my first encounter with a ladybug. I found her on the leaf of a flower. I laid my fingers gently against the leaf, my fingers must have looked to her like a giant step stool. She crawled right on, making her way to my wrist and up the soft sensitive skin of my forearm. I remember being conscious of the sensation. I knew she was there, and yet I could hardly feel her. If my eyes had not told my brain there was a tiny red polka dotted creature walking across my flesh I might not have known it, though I could somehow feel her energy creating some sort of electrical reaction with my own energy. That weightless walk was the tiptoeing of angels and it was magical to me. I have looked for and loved ladybugs since. The folklore that ladybugs bring luck and prosperity when they are found only enhances their charm.
Calvin’s breath on my lonely spot was a ladybug moment.
Spinning deeper back in my memory bank I find myself sitting in the green leather recliner in the TV room, my legs useless and electric with the busyness of nerve against nerve causing them to jerk sporadically, my body worn out from the labor of healing from Guillain Barre Syndrome. There was so little I could do. Every ounce of me was worn down. I was not myself. In fact, looking back on it, I wonder if I have ever completely become myself again since then. I’d gone from very active, purposeful, demanding daily life to day after day healing in my bed and my chair. My sense of self plummeted. I felt useless and downhearted. The timing in my life made it all the more distressing as my youngest child was in her senior year of high school and would soon be flying the nest. I was to have travelled with her and the other Viewmont Madrigals on a trip to New York City that April. They traveled without me.
Healing was slow and frustrating and I began to succumb to apathy. Until Timothy came. Sarah laid the little newborn body of my first grandchild in my arms and as the months passed while I sat there in that healing chair, Timothy’s baby breath brushed daily against my lonely spot. Ladybug moments repeating until my nerves regrew and my energy began to renew. Sarah had just completed her first year of medical school. Timo would need to be held, and I needed to hold him. Our heartbeats became perfectly aligned. My heart beats still with his.
God, I decided, even in all our hectic busy lives, whispers to us in ladybug moments. I wonder if he yearns for our breath to brush against his chest like I yearn to be held in his familiar arms?
The other day as I was rubbing lotion on my legs after my morning shower, I looked down at the red solo cup one of the kids had used as a bath toy, sitting on the edge of our tub. There, making her way around the rim of the cup, was a shiny red enamel polka dotted creature. Slow and steady she went round and round. An unexpected reminder on an unlikely winters day.
A whisper from heaven.
He gives me ladybug moments.