Early yesterday morning, we went for a walk over to the helicopter pad. Aviva ran all around with Bobo before suggesting we all play tag. She taught us a version they play at school called Everlasting Tag. The name reminded me of the Everlasting Gobstopper from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It reminded me of Everlasting Life, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. (Sorry, can’t help it, just free associating here folks.)
Everlasting it was. In this game, everyone is “it.” If you get tagged, you have to squat in place until the person who tagged you gets tagged, at which point you can get up. It goes on like this, indefinitely, until all of the players are squealing breathlessly. After maybe five or ten minutes, I went horizontal on the warm pavement, eyes closed, feeling like I could melt like old crusty snow.
Greg and Pearl saw some little purple flowers this weekend up by the hospital. Crocuses, maybe? This morning, Aviva wanted to ride her bike to school. The rest of us walked. I was actually warm wearing a coat.
The shadows dance longer and later each day. On Saturday, we drove to Montreal. It was spur of the moment and we were lucky they let us out of (and back into) the country as we didn’t have any id for the girls. Lesson learned. We walked around a little park and then went to the Marché Jean Talon, where we ate nutella-filled crepes for lunch and gelato after that and the most amazing tomatoes, poked into shops filled with cheeses, oils, spices, fresh pasta, seafood, meats I’d never heard of. The abundance of colors and flavors and faces was so refreshing, so visually gorgeous, so filling-up to be around; I never wanted to leave. I wanted the day to be everlasting.
As we drove home late in the afternoon, old U2 on the ipod, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror. Behind me, my beautiful daughters in the backseat of the car, asleep. Behind me, the day, the market, the thrill of someplace new. Behind me, ten thousand days and more, countless unrepeatable moments, an everlasting highway of choices, intersections, years overlaid in a menagerie of memories, nothing as real as this now, this setting sun, this unending cycle of days, seasons, this illusion of forward movement. You can get all trippy, you know, thinking about time. And yet. It just is. Everyone is “it.” No tagger, no tag-ee.
Watching Aviva half a block ahead of us this morning, her pink backpack bulging behind her, her strong little legs pedaling as fast as they could down the hill, I felt a combination of love and loss and pride, that sense of a moment, precious, uncontainable, her freedom, her speed, her autonomy made real before our eyes as we walked behind, unable to keep up with her. Once, we thought she’d be three forever, then four and five and six and seven.
I’ve never been big on regret. How could I, or you or anyone, be anywhere but here? But I’ve had waves of it lately, intense moments of questioning, aware of what could be, what isn’t, where my choices have led. Then I wonder: Where did we get so pounded with this notion of forward movement? What’s the difference between staying still and being stuck? Between failure and learning? Between adventure and escape?
I hand Lucy a nickle and she gives me a tweak on the nose in return. This is your life, you dummy. Hey! She called me a dummy. “That’s name calling,” says Pearl. Thanks, Pearl. Always alert to slights and injustices.
Sometimes I’ve imagined setting up a Lucy booth on Church Street here in Burlington, a kind of “penny for your thoughts” spot for people to sit and share a little. The days, weeks, months, seasons, years – this perpetual forward motion of time, illusion or not – can leave little room it seems for getting a grip. Lately, my girls are my rock, their realness, their here-now-ness, their skin, the latest bruises and lost teeth and fairy notes, the bickering and the bantering and the funny pee songs in the bathroom and the middle of the night talking in their sleep lip smacking goodness of their aliveness. The days are games of everlasting tag, and I don’t even know who’s “it.” Must be me, must be you, squat stand run catch fall do your best love yourself. Was that me crying over the laundry basket this morning?
When I can’t make sense of a thing, I make pie crust, drink another cup of coffee, roll out the yoga mat and remember how real the breath always is, always and no matter what. I say “yes” when they ask can you read another book can I sit in your lap can you snuggle? The shadows dance and change and the road turns and then there’s our exit and we think this is it, this is our life, dummy. And it is. It is, and it’s all frothy like the surface of the sea, like the foam on my latte, and that stillness I long for eludes me until I drop, stop running, stop chasing, stop tagging and tackling. Let my heartbeat slow. And then wait, wait for some delicious little lips to kiss my nose, all sweetness for a moment. Everlasting, no. But worth at least a nickel.