Reach

by Jennifer on November 23, 2010

Silver bowls sit beside each place at the table. They are old – that much I know. Monogrammed, too, and I somehow divine that they’re meant for soup. A detail that makes no sense, but then what do I know about old, fine things? Edith Wharton, I am not.

Nothing on the table matches anything else. It’s a collection of lovely things that have little more than their beauty in common. For this, I love the setting all the more.

photo credit: BlakJakDavy, flickr.com

I wasn’t invited to this party; I know that much, too. I showed up at the house of an old friend in the window of time just before company arrives, when the last little things get done. The flowers, over there. Count the chairs. Enough? Turn off the flame under the soup. Uncork the wine.

It doesn’t bother me that my name isn’t on the guest list. I’m welcome in the house for now, and for now it’s enough. I am left to wander through a home that’s old and lived-in and comfortable. One room is lined with bookshelves, the room that explains my friend more than any other.

I leave before the party starts.

(A dream, is all. In life, I would have called first, of course. I like to think I would have made the guest list.)

*****

My dreams lately are of things that feel out of my reach, and I awake to a sense that I’ve missed something, as though I’ve come within a breath’s space of a kiss (you know the feeling).

I could guess at the reasons for them: All of the pretty things laid out on a table? Well, those are my things still packed in boxes. The dinner party could mean that I miss my friends. Or that, as wrong as I may be to think this is how it is, I see their settled lives cleave time in steady, familiar patterns and wish for the same.

The other dreams are a grab bag of people, places, things. My hand falls to my side when I cannot touch what’s in front of me.

*****

I’ve made the call to the school. My youngest, with her sick tummy, will stay home for the day. She wears her misery on every part of her physical self. Her bedhead curls tumble and frizz about her face. Her shirt doesn’t match the pajama bottoms that ride high on her ankles (when did she grow?). Pale skin, paler still against a red pout. As much as she still can, she fits herself onto my lap. Her feet are almost as big as mine now and her legs stretch out across the sofa.

It occurs to me that no one taught me this, how to comfort and snuggle a sick child. I don’t have a single memory of being held this way. All I can think is: some of us know how to do this and some of us don’t. It suddenly feels like an enormous, small thing. (You know the feeling.)

There should be a place for this on a résumé, don’t you think?

She pulls my gray sweatshirt from where I left it on the sofa. “Is this yours?” she asks.

I say yes.

She tugs it over her head until she’s inside it. It’s big on me, but on her, it’s a tent. Sleeves and hem fall past her knees. If I hadn’t already forgiven her every slammed door or stuck-out tongue or I hate you, the sight of her would have absolved her of it all.

She wears it all day.

To this day, I belong. What I can reach is mine. What is mine is enough and it fills me.

And yet. Yet. I know know know myself. And I know that, on another day not so far off, or in my unquiet sleep, I will still (always, ever?) find myself reaching.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn @ Juggling Life November 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I adore that picture of your daughter; yes, a real mother just knows.

yogurt November 24, 2010 at 12:13 am

“I see their settled lives cleave time in steady, familiar patterns and wish for the same.”

Your writing is so moving. And my favorite kind of writing, where, yes, I know that feeling.

Veronica November 24, 2010 at 6:23 am

Was thinking last night about the “enormous, small things” of parenting, above all, the gift of just being there, mentally and physically for your children, “cleaving time in steady, familiar patterns” for them. It’s such a gift. Another blogging friend (who was abused as a child and grew up to be a social worker and therapist) wrote that a happy childhood is a gift that keeps giving throughout a person’s life, a touchstone a person will return to for strength consciously and unconsciously throughout life.

Daryl November 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

Wishing you a wonderful thanksgiving … xo

Heather November 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

Beautiful. I cannot get enough of your beautiful words!

Suzanne November 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Jennifer, hope you get to spend it with the ones you love!

anymommy November 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Your beautiful words are always a gift.

heidi November 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

This is beautiful. I do know the feeling…

the mama bird diaries December 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm

You always choose such beautiful words.

JCK (Motherscribe) January 7, 2011 at 1:00 am

Beautiful and thoughtful as always. I wonder how you are. And where.

Sending wonderful wishes for a great year for you in 2011! I know 2010 was tough. Here’s to good things! Happy New Year, my friend.

Kate Mohler January 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

I am new to your blog, and happy to be here. This post was very heartwarming. :-) You’re a good writer!

Nancy Wurtzel April 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm

What a lovely post. Your description of your daughter home from school reminds me of my own daughter when she was a bit younger. Very touching and thoughtful.

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