May 10, 2011
I sit in the hot tub, nude, the only way I like it. It is dark. I look up at the houses on the ridge. A kitchen light goes off downstairs. A bedroom light goes on upstairs, and then the bathroom light goes on and off. It is not long before that house is dark. From another, the eerie science fiction flicker of a big screen tv seeps out into the night from every downstairs window. Next door, on either side, the neighbors’ blinds are drawn. The world around is oblivious to me.
Looking up I see a shooting star. Counting the number of stars in the Big Dipper, I count seven. Starting at the tip of the ladle, I stop at each one and think of something to be grateful for. This night of clear India ink stained midnight sky. That I am writing. That my life is rich with friends, both old and new. That there are children in my life teaching me innocence, laughter again. That I love the work I do. That I have found a way to open my life and heart to Steve, and he has found his way to me.
Then I remember when you were barely 5.
I picked you up from daycare after finishing my afternoon classes at the
. In June I would graduate. In September I would start my first day of class at University of Washington . You would start your first day of kindergarten. In summer we would move from the shores of one ocean to another. I had been talking to you about this, trying to prepare you. I asked you how your day was. Harvard Law School
You took my hand, balanced, skipped, danced with me leading. “Guess what mom.”
“We are learning about the earth.”
“You are? How exciting!”
“And all the planets. Mommy where is
“I can show you later on a map of the earth. But it is far, far away from here. We will have to take a plane to get there.”
“Oh.” you said. I could tell by the tone of your voice you were making connections. “A plane we are going on a plane?”
“Yes we are.”
For a few seconds there is silence. “Well, you know mom,” you started, then hesitated for emphasis. “At least we will still be here on earth.”
You were so serious. Though I wanted to, I could not laugh. I got in front of you – then kneeled down and hugged you. “You are absolutely right – at least we will still be here on earth.”
That night, the fluid black sky shone clear, its air rinsed by our
Pacific Northwest rain, punctuated by a crisp white linen moon. Before I took you upstairs to tuck you into the twin bed you and I shared, I took you out into the field beyond our patio where it was darkest. I got down on my knees, wrapped my arms around your warm pajama clad body, pulled you into the curve of my stomach. “Look.” I said letting go with one arm and pointing to the Big Dipper. “There it is, the Big Dipper. You can always find your way home if you can find that constellation. Look off the handle, you'll find the North Star. You can always navigate from there.”
“What is a constellation?” you asked.
“It is a collection of stars that form a shape. There are lions, and bears, and women in the night sky.” I tell you.
“There are?” You lay the back of your head on my left shoulder. I feel your hair brushing against my neck. I breathe in the smell of you. “Can you show me the lions, and bears and women?” you ask.
“Another night.” I told you. The truth is, I only knew the shape of the Big Dipper.
You smiled. I took your hand, traced the shape of the Big Dipper until I knew you learned it. Then I moved my finger over yours until we found the North Star and I could feel you know it. I wrapped both arms around you again, held you close as you memorized the sky with me.
I nuzzled my lips into your ear and whispered “We will always live together on this planet. We can always find our way home again navigating from these stars.” I kissed your cheek. We left the field, headed for the lamplight shining from our living room window.
Lifting myself from the warm hot tub, I feel cold air breathe on hot skin. I look up to the sky, acknowledge the North Star. I see light from the lamp on my bedside table shining through sheer white curtains on the second floor above me. I am ready for sleep.