"Did the pink in the sky happen yet, mommy?" Did it happen yet, he asks it like the washing of color over the vastness of air was holding out for him. The pink just brimming over the top crust of morning grey sky, holding, holding, holding back, and waiting for him before erupting. Is Ronnie here yet, the sky asks, I've waited as long as I can.
He is talking about the sunrise and he is 5. My oldest of three boys. I have to tell him, "Yes, dear," as I look out of the large picture window in the back of our house, "the sun already came up today." He shrugs it off and becomes lost in the couch cushion and a computer game.
I move a little more slowly after that, because sometimes the way my children see the world numbs the crispy corners of my anxious adult life. I have never asked anyone if the pink in the sky has happened yet, and now I wonder why.
The morning is a cold one. Single-digit cold. I have to drag all three boys to school to drop Ronnie off at kindergarten and all of our exposed skin begs us not to. Ronnie won't let me drop him off in the carpool lane, the minivan mayhem I call it in my head; he wants me to walk him to the front door. At school I pile the little guys into the double stroller and forge ahead, pushing it like a semi. My nostrils sting and threaten to freeze shut. Ronnie gallops along beside me, trying to keep up, while his coat flaps angrily behind him. Tomorrow I will remember to zip him up, I chastise myself. I get him all the way to the corner of his monstrous school and the vicious cold and cries from the younger boys become too much.
"It's cold, buddy," I say, "just give me a hug and I'll watch you walk to the door." His face folds into a crinkled map of despair; his eyes look moist, but I'm not sure if it's from the cold. "Just go, I'll watch you," and I wrap him in a warm hug, tousle his hair and give him an absentminded push forward. Just go.
He takes a few strides, but I can see the uncertainty in his gait. He struggles back to me, his eyes now pink and filled to the rim with tears. Brimming over. He's holding, holding, holding back. He squeezes me hard as I give him one last confident heave forward and he tries it again. A mom in a minivan rolls down her window next to me and shouts over two yappy puppies in the passenger seat, "He came back to you for a hug -- that is so sweet!" I shout back to her with my hand clutching my heart and explain how I just want to be able to drop him off in the mornings and how cold I am... but I start to babble.
He's wilting into the sidewalk by now, kids whizzing past him because the bell has already rung. So we cut a path through the icy wind together, little brother wails and all, all the way to the front door of the school. I can feel a furrowedness in my forehead as I wipe away his lukewarm tears with the underside of my thumbs and I ache for his aching. "I packed you a great lunch today," I hug him hard, "have an awesome day!" He trots into school and I retreat with the stroller, the wind at our back now.
I think that all of motherhood is like that. A delicate dance in bitterness, the wind at your back, the wind at your front, knowing when to push. It's catching all of the brimming when it's teeming over. It's wiping lukewarm tears. Sometimes shivering. It's cutting a path together, a furrowed forehead, and "Just go, I'll watch you." A lot of the time it's hugging hard and trying again tomorrow.
And sometimes motherhood is just babbling with your hand clutching your heart.
A delicate, delicate dance.
That evening with Ronnie back at home, lost again in that same couch cushion with that same computer game, I gasp a little and get his attention. "Look, baby, there's that pink in the sky." The pink in the sky is happening, but this time through the front windows. It's sinking. The sun is holding, holding, holding until the time is just the right one and then bleeding through a small fissure of something plain and boring, filling it with goodness. It's brimming up with this brilliance, and, just as that plain boring fissure of horizon is about to gobble up the last of our day, the sun flares freely with its sunset. The pinks and mellow oranges, the hues of our entire day wrapped up, erupting everywhere.
The pink in the sky is happening.
Ronnie "oohs" a little, his baby brother reaches up and grabs his toes and they both giggle. I go back to making supper.
We'll dance again tomorrow. Sometimes with the pink in the sky at our fronts, sometimes with it at our backs. And the same goes for the wind. It's a delicate, delicate dance, this mothering. A delicate dance.