We are we, less often I, these days.
My daughter’s long five-year old legs tangled around mine in the growing light of dawn, her older brother’s foot reaching long across my bed to nudge me. The rule is that they must go to sleep in their own individual beds each night, and may only crawl into mine in the morning. They adore the cat, who sleeps on the end of my bed because he wants to be near me. The cat loathes our new puppy, Layla, who is absolutely fascinated by her, and wastes no chance to chase and stalk him. Layla sleeps in her crate in the living room, ensuring that things are relatively quiet until one of my children lets her out in the morning, and she makes a beeline for the cat. Then it is sheer pandemonium on the bed. But more often these quarantine days, I find myself watching my daughter breathe, her big arm flung possessively across my neck, and I think, This is all I really need to be happy. This We we have become…Or maybe returned to?
The days are long, simple, and exhausting: Get up, get the kids breakfast, kids get dressed, brush their teeth, brush my daughter’s hair, take the dog on a walk, wash the dishes, do the laundry, answer emails, help my son with any math homework that has him simmering, go on a family walk, have lunch, wash the dishes again, answer more emails, maybe write a line or two of something not too terrible, help the kids with violin practice, take them to their dad’s. In the beginning, I was frustrated at how little I could get done. Now I have accepted that this is the price of We: Slower movement. Less (outward) accomplishment. More and less space.
I do miss my parents. I miss hugging them, but I think I miss knowing when I will hug them next more. I put on an old pair of scrubs my mom, a retired nurse, gave me to wear as pajamas after my shower tonight. At the time, it was because I wanted something breathable that would keep me warm, but now I think it was because I wanted to feel close to her. My parents were my first We, and I still return to that child when faced with difficulty.
There are so many types of human touch I miss, but it isn’t all bitter – the longing has a sweet side, in that it makes me feel the limited touch I have now even more. The weekly videocalls with my friends from high school. Endless texting with my girlfriends here. My hand on the small of my daughter’s back the day she decides that this is it, this is the day she will ride without training wheels on her bike, and because her will is insurmountable, and because she is mine and I am hers, she takes off, a miracle of wobbly speed and grace, me behind her shouting, Go! Go! Go!