Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cold Winter Mornings

On cold winter mornings, when the windows were etched with ice doilies, I got to lie in bed five more minutes as Daddy spun the thermostat and the deep-bellied sigh of the floor furnace came up through the floor.

On cold winter mornings, when the light outside was the clear navy blue of just-dawn, I left the bed and let the warm air of the furnace billow up my pajama legs and arms before I jumped into my Buster Brown turtleneck and plaid pleated skirt and knee socks.

On cold winter mornings, when the wind whistled around the corners of the house like a freight train, I got a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast -- thick slices of bright orange hoop cheese melted onto soft white Sunbeam bread -- while Mama warmed my shoes on the open door of the oven.

On cold winter mornings, when the ground was hard and the ruts from the latest rain had stiffened into the fluted edge of a pie crust, Daddy went outside to warm up the car and came back in rubbing his ungloved hands together to stand patiently while we gathered our books and put on our coats.

On cold winter mornings, I first became conscious of the small, tender acts of love that parents perform for their children.

Children, of course, are oblivious. They have no awareness of the inequity of the relationship. And they should be. They have no means to do anything of significance for those who feed and clothe and house them. They are without any capacity for reciprocity. Except, of course, that what is true in the literal food-clothing-shelter sense, is completely false in all the ways that matter. Children, anyone who has ever kissed the back of one's neck knows, offer back to the adults in their lives magic and wonder and laughter.

Children give us an excuse to read aloud and say words like, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You" and "He brought everything back, all the food for the feast. And he, he himself, the Grinch, carved the roast beast." They give us an excuse to do the Hokey-Pokey and ride the carousel and make construction paper turkeys out of hand-prints.

Just after Christmas I took Aden, who is now six and in kindergarten, to see "The Tale of Despereaux." Aden's sister Azlan and five other adults went with us, but it was really just about the two of us. Aden knows about my fear of mice and all the stories of my encounters with the rodents (He has heard them so many times that he could probably tell them himself.), so he understood what it took for me to voluntarily agree to sit and watch Despereaux (admittedly cute, admittedly animated, but still a mouse) and all his friends and family cavort on the big screen for an hour and a half. As we got out of the cars and headed to the ticket office, Aden took my hand and said, "Aunt Kap, I think you are very brave."

Ah, yes. That is why we – the grown-ups, the authorities, the ones who convince ourselves that we are in control – do what we do. Get up early to turn up the heat, make grilled cheese sandwiches, read the same book over and over and over, watch movies about mice who talk. Work hard and sleep less than we should. Because if we are lucky, a very wise towhead with chocolate eyes will one day look up at us and say, "I think you are very brave."

Copyright 2009

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I think you are very brave too for more reasons than watching a movie. That said, it would take one cute kid for me to watch an animated movie about an alligator.