My daughter is the fire tender. She is thirteen and more capable already than I am at so many things. She is comfortable with a hatchet and doesn’t even need matches to spark a flame (but she prefers matches if they’re around, and she doesn’t flinch and worry when she strikes them like I did when I was her age). Because it’s finally getting somewhat cold here and because I’m reluctant to turn on our heaters (our 1958 house has the quirkiest -MOST DANGEROUS FOR BABIES!!- heaters I’ve ever seen) we’ve lit up the old fireplace already, not for cozy ambience but for practical warmth. I’ll admit that I have a reputation around here as being, um, difficult about the heaters and whether we need them on at all or not. Are you wearing socks? A sweater? No? Then don’t tell me you’re cold! But fires ARE cozy and The Baby DOES have difficulty keeping his feet covered, so when my girl asked if she could, please, make a fire the other day, I said Yes.
And, just like that, life slows and warms and expands. What are you doing that’s too busy to sit with the ones you love, feeling full and loved? I know everything these days is all about going and doing. But I feel awfully blessed when I can concentrate on just the sitting and being warm, when I don’t think about anything else. My kids drag out books and blankets and we start living by the hearth and it is so good. I might not love the wood mess, but I do love the sweetness, the way gathering near a fire emphasizes what’s really important, and what’s not.
I took the following three quick candid iphone shots on our first fire of Fall, though there have been several more since. Notice the colorful, felted mat kind of thing that my children are sitting on. I picked up an old crunchy blanket at my favorite thrift for just three dollars a few weeks ago. I came home, tossed it in the wash, and it came out, like that. I would have bet money that it was acrylic. But apparently, it was wool. So much for having a seasonal splash of granny squares across the back of my couch. . .
When I was making dinner tonight I sliced a big, fleshy chunk out of my left index finger, and while it’s a minor pain because having a bandaged, throbbing finger slows my typing down, mostly I’ve been thinking about this: what must it feel like to have your legs cut off? Oh, Ulysses. I want to take all of his hurt away. When my daughter, the teenager, was a baby, I felt like a superhero. Her hurts were small enough that I could make them all better. And the older your kids get, the more any parent learns how you can’t always do that, how you can’t always do enough, be enough. But you want to believe that any parent is enough for their own baby. I can’t be enough for a baby who needs complicated surgeries and doctors involved to thrive. I anticipate him hurting and I feel sick and weak. “He’ll never know anything else” people say, but is that better? Is it better that he’s too little to understand? We are giving our consent to a painful, serious procedure and I wish there was another way. So many dumb things are reminders of how so many things we think matter a lot actually do not matter at all. For example, I wish no pain on anyone, but if an otherwise healthy, able-bodied person lost a finger, one measly finger, in an accident, I wouldn’t think it was very unfortunate at all. Look at me, one finger out of commission and only typing the tiniest bit slower. Humans are resilient. We are all brilliant and full of potential. Ulysses isn’t any more fortunate because his surgery is happening soon, at almost one, than he would be if he were two or three or ten or thirty. I really believe that. I really believe in the resiliency of humankind and I don’t believe that babies are more resilient, I think that babies just complain a whole lot less, and tend to make the best of what they’ve been given. We should all be so focused on being our best.