We are rubber bands, linked. Elastic. Pliable. Changing. I can see how we stretch and contract, hold on and let go, over and over again.
I can see it in the way that Maddie rolls her eyes skyward and snips a response to push me away when I ask her a question she deems silly, then five minutes later wedges herself into my personal space desperate for contact. This space, the space of me, is ever shrinking in its ability to accommodate her dimensions, and it makes her frantic as she squirms and stretches to fit the contours she is outgrowing. I cling to her body, however askew it may land, and let her know that I’ll hold her as tightly as she needs.
I can see it in the way that Chloe begs me to sit with her while she takes her bath, something she hasn’t done in about a year. She sits among bubbles and figurines, but hesitates when I offer to play. How long has it been since I played with her? Really played, without distraction or interruption? Her eyelashes cling together in wet, darkened wisps and frame her eyes just as in infancy, and suddenly I remember kneeling in that same space and cradling her head, wiping bubbles from her rosy cheeks. It takes my breath away. Now her limbs stretch long and lean, her toes bumping against the very end of the tub that used to seem dangerously far away. She holds me close with her smile. “Just sit with me, Momma,” she says.
I can see it in the way that Ben asks me for privacy when I happen upon him in the bathroom, his cheeks reddened and voice quiet. “I wish there was a curtain we could pull around the toilet bowl,” he mutters. “Well, there’s always the door,” I suggest. He responds by gently nudging the door closed with his foot after I leave the room. I swear yesterday he still pulled his potty into the living room for company while he went.
I can see it in me, as most nights I want to grab them and pull them to me, grip them tight and not let go, will time to stop and even move backward. But then some nights I swear the band is pulled to breaking point, stretched thin around so much life and love, and I can’t help but crave freedom, the ability to stretch my self and feel unencumbered, even for just a little while. Those nights I retreat to my pillows and blankets, overwhelmed and searching for solitude.
We are rubber bands, linked.