Oliver is sitting in the dead grass under a shower of sunshine. Short sleeves and cowboy boots bathing in the rays, exposing baby soft skin that still dimples at the elbows. The weather today showed up like flowers on a doorstep; a gift full of love and beauty and surprise and even at fourteen months old, my boy isn’t immune to its charms. We’re on the front lawn of the elementary school, biding our time in the afternoon sun while we wait for Judah. Annabelle is gathering rocks and Oliver sits beside me. His smile is wide and his movement is rhythmic as he picks up handfuls of the dry, flaky grass. It flutters and falls on the soundwaves of his laughter, landing on the cowboy hat of his toy.
Let me tell you about that toy.
It was his brothers before him. It still is really, but they share it now. All three of them share it. It’s a Woody doll from Toy Story. Judah spent his Christmas money on it when he was two and it was his favorite thing in the world for a time. He slept with it every night and it came with us everywhere. It saw him through scrapes on his knees during summer walks, sleepless nights marked by sheets filled with all the things that his stomach couldn’t hold. It saw him through sunny afternoons in spring and movie nights on the couch. That toy…
Now, that same boy who lovingly bought it is on his way back from a field trip. A field trip that put him on a school bus to the National Western Stock Show with his backpack, lunch, and exactly two snacks per the teacher’s instructions.
There was a time that he would have been elated by all things cowboy there. He would have begged to bring Woody along while he wore his cowboy boots. But now, he’s getting off of the bus, hands on his backpack straps clinging to growing up and independence while his baby brother is ensconced in who he once was.
My boy, my older boy, walks around the corner with the rest of the Kindergartners from his school. I hear another mom behind me say, “There’s my baby! Look at that, he just walked right past me. After the first field trip, he couldn’t get to me fast enough…”
It’s true. They walk past us all, waiting for their teacher to dismiss them. The sight of their moms isn’t enough to make them break ranks. Not anymore.
Eventually, Judah walks over to us. He’s full of new experiences and stories to tell and he smells faintly of livestock and hay. He smells like the cowboy he used to pretend to be.
His brother and sister see him and crowd around, happy to be reunited again. After the long days of togetherness that Christmas Break provided, hours spent apart at school have been long. Annabelle shows her big brother the handful of rocks she collected while she waited for him, quick to point out which were shiny and which weren’t. Oliver ambles his way to them, arms stretched out, stance wide, as he masters the grassy terrain on his newly found gate.
Oliver. He’s wearing Judah’s old clothes and holding his old toy but his smile is all his own. His joy is fresh and new found and he’s as promising, as surprising, as beautiful as this sunny day in January.
“I found your note in my lunch box, Mama,” Judah tells me.
“Oh good, babe! Did you read it?” I ask.
“Yep!” he replies. I knew he would be able to. His mind is growing and he’s becoming, learning and discovering. He’s limitless and hopeful, bounding into his identity.
I scoop up Oliver and Woody and head to the car, Judah and Annabelle walking beside me. Oliver pulls Woody’s string and I hear Tom Hank’s say, “Howdy, Partner! Whatya wanna do today?” for the millionth time. That voice is almost a soundtrack to my motherhood, replaying for a second round with this second boy of mine.
Oliver clings to Woody and Annabelle snuggles her blankie up under her nose. She does it unconsciously at this point, by muscle memory that’s developed over the last three years. It’s her comfort and her joy, the bearer of her tears and love and snuggles. She clings to it and chatters on about her rocks and how a boy in her class told her he liked her dress today. Her blankie personifies the little girl she is. Her story foretells the older one she’s becoming.
I listen and tuck it all away inside my heart trying to remember every second. I try to walk the balance beam of mothers everywhere, the one where you cling to and cherish their littleness but appreciate and marvel at their growth. It’s all there in front of me, in this one ordinary picture.
They are like a sunny day in January. The promise of the season to come glowing down upon us as we sit in the soft, dry grass of today. It’s not really today’s though, is it? That grass… It’s the fruit of days gone by, lying dormant for now. It’s the green days of yesterday, the wind-swept confetti of today, and the hope of tomorrow.
These children of mine are that. A moment of bliss that’s the culmination of what has been and the promise of what’s to come.
They are sunshine in winter and grass in every season and I will bask in it all.