The leash was tangled around my ankle, his hat full of snow.
There was the frozen ball of gum left on the driver’s seat, warmed by the 50 minute car ride to the soccer game, turning into second layer skin, pink denim, just where the seam meets the pocket.
There was the puddle of conditioner left on the shower’s tiled floor. And this toe finding it in the numb morning light, and the trajectory slide into shower door walls.
There was the red face held in one wooden church pew. The warm tear rise inside his small eyes. He may or may not have used the word a-s-s, spelled out in small voice shake. Or maybe it was ASH or perhaps it was ASK. No, it was ASS. As in Jack and sometimes, well, sometimes, when the day is ripe with stubbed toes and disregarded turn signals, there is the other. He said ass, and no one was talking about donkeys or burrows or the necessity for brown furry animals who carry large packs on long journeys. Ass.
Head in hands.
The slapping sting of recollection, the dropped heart sigh of regret, the word still caught at the red light missed, his seven year old ears wide empty cups.
So we ran to the forest, to the place where mistakes grow like wet moss, the iridescent green shine of growth.
The broken root caught my boot just as my heel lifted, catching my foot in the snarl of frustration, pulling my knees to the snow, hands full of frozen leaves and shed bark.
So when the air met my face, I cried a little.
There was the tear that swells, “Help.”
And the day that has been given so many start overs it seems the page was never written at all, left blank to keep scratching out the words still tripping over themselves.
And if we can just find the birds again, the ones hiding deep in the open holes, asleep in winter, if we can stretch our legs and plant our feet in the footprints of others, in the places they have rendered once hard, now soft.
My steps are fallen, shaky and wide. There were tears and soft caught smiles I smeared onto faces, sometimes with my feeble hands lifting each corner, until my heart finally falls hard enough to see these eyes staring back at me wishing for their own strength against the hard steps.
“I can do this.”
This hand, the one I need to hold is pushed away. Because the steps for them are easy, the mad dash to the top while I lean back and trip again over my attempts to hold onto small boys growing tall past dunes and soft blue skies, majestic evenings and shadows longer than this one open day.
And the reminding, the churning, the untying of knots caught in roots and loose shoelace stumbles.
And it must be what I want, for these small smiles to find their own opening, the furrowed brow to find its own bend, the tear to find its own eye in its own time and the empty bucket hold of bad days, the trips and the way we sometimes pull each other over on the way down.
And I keep searching for the secret door, the one that leads out of this day, but I keep walking past it, past the low vibration of apology, tenderness, honesty. Hope.
Maybe somewhere I’ll find his smile again, the wayward eye will come home, the hand will find mine again, we’ll share a story or two of his miraculous journey towards 14, and I will stand and hold the map, turning it upside down, then right, then left and wonder how we ever got so lost.
And a raised voice can feel like a quill, the fine tip imprint of hurt, the ink bleeding into eyes and hearts and hands that need the soft stroke of reassurances. I am sorry.
Let’s just hold on a minute longer and the hand that reaches to lift up, to pull the broken leg, the unraveled rope around bound hearts and ankles, the fears, the climb.
And his smile, held up by his own heart, his own love and acceptance of a mama turned sideways by her own doing. And the grace these small smiles give even when the leash gets tangled, when my thinking finds it’s way around me, the white knuckle hold, by leashes of control and force.
Let go. Just let go.
Let the mountain hold you. Because you will never get your hands around the vast enormity of its strength, its heart, its need to lift us, to bring us closer to the sun when these feet grow cold.
Just set me free.
Arms spread over hills, fingers touching tops of trees, the lift over our miniscule world, the tiny roofed home, the furniture placed by hands squeezing inside three walls, too small. These mini houses filled with stories of open lids spilled, entire boxes of tissue stuffed into pockets turning dryers into snow globes.
And I want to shake it off, this day, this hour, when all the cracks are showing, when the thin veneer of I’ve-got-it-all-togetherness snaps, like frozen twigs, when the shine is dulled, like the icy melt of frost on an oily feathered wing.
The temperature dropped. Locked arms and the sky, a sherbet orange, the last sweet taste of pale honesty.
When does the start over begin?
Ready, set, go.
Amend. Embrace. Skin torn. And healed.
The sun followed us home, lining a path where cobwebs had grown over time. And how can one day be so good and so bad all at once. And how can a heart be so sure and yet wrapped in the fine paper of doubt that burns brightest when the air is chilled.
He swung my hand even though I didn’t deserve it.
And sometimes I just don’t get it right. Most times. Almost all the time.
And then I do. And the day feels warmer, the trees hung lower, the birds much closer. His eyes wider and I walk through each door inside his open heart and wait to meet him there. Boots off, fire lit and the welcome mat of homemade hot chocolate and the sweet banana bread from a friend’s warm oven.
And just when we find the trail back to the car, there will be another snowball down his back, the cry for revenge.
And the soft hued sting of cold feet.