Dedicated with all my heart to
Ezekiel Yergenson Clark, born 6.11.08, 9 pounds 7 ounces and 21 inches long
Malachi William Clark, born 1.18.1o, 9 pounds even and 23 inches long
Motherhood is an honor, an event, an occupation, a passion, a joy, a journey, and a song. And above all else, it is something I would never have experienced without you.
My fingers rest on ivory keys, and I freeze in doubt. I was a lazy piano player at best when I learned, and now over a decade has come and gone like so many old songs forgotten. I never could get that second hand to do what it was supposed to. But I did learn a bit, so I sit in the rare and precious quiet and try to remember.
I gingerly push down one key...hesitate...and then the next. I know if I can just get one note right, and then the next, and then the one after that soon I will be playing.
Motherhood has taught me many things, but I think that is at the forefront of all. Because motherhood, too, is a song. It has its rhythms, its repeating refrains, its harmonies, and yes, even its dissonance.
And sometimes your fingers fly across the keys. Everything seems easy. Every note hits true and your voice rises in song.
I stand squinting in the bright, late afternoon, sun. A chorus of little boy giggles joyfully interrupting the steady rhythm of my arms hanging laundry to dry. They run past the line- one steady on his feet, the other not so much but somehow keeping up all the same. I swoop down to pick up my youngest, laughing and flipping him over to kiss his belly. The dog starts to bark, dancing around us, and my older son is yelling "Now me, momma, now me!"
We all run crazy circles in the yard.
But other times the cadence slips.
I stand now, in perfect morning melody, stirring oatmeal. The kitchen is cold with that pervading morning coldness, but it's one of those rare winter days when we have a sun. Shafts of golden light fall on me, on the cat gingerly sitting amidst the dirty dishes, on the tuppaware strewn across the floor that I can only assume was a plaything the night before. It is quiet and beautiful.
But then a baby wails in the other room and his diaper is in an emergency state. The toddler runs in, he needs help putting on his coat but no, its THIS arm first! and he must zip it himself, clumsy fingers struggling with the small metal clasp. The oatmeal burns black, smoke and an acrid smell rising.
We eat the top 1/3.
And sometimes the music is so achingly beautiful it draws the breath right out of your chest.
I'm laying this time. I probably couldn't stand even if I wanted. My stomach is suddenly and somehow strangly deflated, and a baby boy, new as any sunrise, is placed into my shaking arms. We make eye contact and he roots for my breast.
But other times all sound seems to stop.
A different hospital room, and I try to keep my eyes from the top right corner of the medical sheet. Multipara 5-2, it will read. 5 verified pregnancies. 2 live births. I cry salt tears surrounded as I am by all the dirty diapers and bright plastic that has become so much background noise in this song and mourn a child that will never join his voice to mine.
Yet my heart still beats its rythm, though it is now the only one in my body.
The next note has to be struck.
And the song will start again. Maybe haltingly, but it will swell into another crecendo and bring new verses, new harmonies.
In the beginning I imagined it as my own tune. Me, the one in front, back to the audience and waving my arms wildly, trying to keep this crazy chorus together. As the boys grow, though, they find their own notes, their own melodies. I find myself harmonizing more and more often, matching my pitch to theirs, and just trying to follow along. I know that they won't always let me. That someday, perhaps sooner than I would like to imagine, I will be delegated to the crowd.
My fingers will twitch, against my own will. As if by silently following along I can save them from their own inevitable slips of the finger.
But I can teach them what they first taught me. One note. And then the next. And then the one after that. And soon they will be playing.