You are startled with this thought in the kitchen. It is 9:37am. There is spit-up on the floor and the baby has crawled into it, trailing her fingers through and soaking the sleeves of her once-clean shirt. Your boys are fighting over the markers and have colored so hard on their papers that they are now coloring the counter. It is, thankfully, black. Your sink is filled with dirty dishes, the dishwasher with clean ones, and there are three loads of laundry to be put away.
Just yesterday someone said to you as you left church, “Before you know it, they’ll be gone and you will be missing them!” You know this is true and you already miss them even thinking about it. And yet…the dishes and the laundry and the cereal that has become glued down to the floor and the fighting, always the fighting. The baby is now eating a leaf.
You think of your early twenties, how they spread wide-open before you with one thing: possibility. You had written nothing in stone and made no commitments that can’t be broken. No vows. You try to think: if not this, what were your dreams?
And you can’t remember them.
This is the thing that steals away your breath, even for a moment as you are scooping up the baby and resolving Markergate and ignoring the dishes and the laundry. You had dreams, you know you did. They were large and they were wild and they propelled you forward with unabashed hope. But now they have vanished and what you have is this ordinary room in this ordinary house that seems, for now, to be closing in around you.
Whatever those dreams were, they were certainly not this.
The thought is heavy, saturated with guilt. The feeding baby flutters a hand up to stroke and then squeeze your cheek. Her eyes are not your eyes, but there is something of you in them as she stares up. She doesn’t see the laundry or dishes or spit-up on her sleeve. She doesn’t blink at another boy-argument, but simply looks at you. Right at you. You think of the book Are You My Mother? and how that baby bird knows when he sees his mother, even for the first time. He just knows. That is the look in your baby’s eyes. YOUR BABY. You had a baby. Three of them.
This is no small dream, even if it wasn’t one you envisioned as a small girl. (When you played with GI Joes instead of Barbie.) This is a wild dream, even if not one you hoped for in the floating free days of your twenties. (When you searched Petfinder for a great dog rather than Pinterest for nursery ideas.) This is no small dream, even when your life feels small and closed in by laundry and messes and chaos.
You wish you could remember the wide-open dreams. But it is an impossible thing, really, to compare dreams to one another, or even dreams to reality. That’s like saying green is better than the letter Q.
Later, maybe, you will try to wind back the thread of your thoughts or the straight and sure handwriting in your journals to remember your old dreams. Just to know. For now, you trace your baby’s cheek until her dimple appears. When your fingertip touches that tiny, perfect place, it has smoothed completely away like it was never there at all.
I am linking up with my own linky party. THAT’S RIGHT. I can do that kind of thing. If you want to grow and work on your craft and build community with other writers, join in! The prompt this week is daily life.