image via brianjmatis
My grandmother had one of those clocks in her kitchen (and yours probably did, too) with the rolodex-ish flip flap numbers keeping time. I know they made a sound as they flipped, though I can’t hear it in my memory, but I remember staring at the seam between the cards and watching the borders of each white number against the black ground. If you watched in just the right place the white verticals of the numbers appeared to make the numbers themselves, rather than the cards, fly up and land again. The top-half verticals of the 9 landed in just the same place as the verticals of the 0 and the lone right-justified vertical of the 1 and the top-half of the 2. Time changed and cards changed but those white columns were eternal. Beneath, the bottom-half vertical of the 9 rose to meet its 0 counterparts and the right-sided 1 and left-sided 2. In the middle was the void, and if time is a construct in a box, there are vertical millimeters where the bridge between white column and white column will always gape.
The edge of everything changing falls exactly between the parts you know best.
Or it falls today. L’s birthday is tomorrow, which kicks off the season of nothing’s the same, two months of vertigo, eight weeks of Robin feels disoriented. All three kids’ birthdays fall between now and mid-February. And there’s my birthday in there, and the whole calendar flip-flaps a new number.
Today our kids are 2, 4, and 6. I’m 35 and it’s 2012. None of that will be true in two months. Time moves faster in these two months than in the other ten. They’ll be 3, 5, and 7, which is entirely different in the meaning it conveys from “2, 4, and 6.” And I’ll be 36, and there’ll be a 3 in the new calendar on the wall. Those are a lot of invisible bridges.
So time marches forward, this we know, but when those white-on-black ghosts flip-flap tonight from 11:59 to 12:00 it’s a double-time beat until I catch my breath in February. This is our flip-flap season.
We were out last evening and G was tired. He had skipped his nap and lay his head on my shoulder. (When did he become old enough to skip naps?) He reached for my earlobe and squeezed it between thumb and index finger. Good job, Mommy! he praised. You took your earrings out! The word sounds like wee-wings on his tongue, and the wee-wings, they’d been missing from my ears since the night before when he wanted my snuggles and not his daddy’s for bed. He squeezed my earlobe and the moved to tuck the back of my ear between his third and fourth fingers.
He still reaches for ears when he needs comfort, and I don't know why ears are his touchstone, but I'm glad he can still be so quickly comforted by touch.
It's something I think about. Time speeds up now and so does my brain, fitting in more thinking in the same number of hours, ruminating on their births and growth and dreams, their needs and hopes and quirks. Their comfort. I'm comforted by touch but not like they are, melting away, settling against me.
Last night the lovely husband was downstairs late, a frenzy of businessman-superdaddy multitasking, emails at the laptop and three-kid-lunch prep at the stovetop. L came down the stairs looking for comfort. Her toe hurt her and I never figured out the toe problem, but she asked to climb in our bed and asked me to hold her and all the world's troubles and toe aches evaporated. She was asleep in less than a minute.
Not long after, E climbed in, too. She had had a bad dream. She told it to me in detail, breathless, whimpery. And then she leaned against my other shoulder and was also asleep within a dozen breaths. I lay there awake, considering foot pains and insecurities that find voice in night shadows and all manner of Things Adults Think About while they slept, both girls, bookending my clavicles with their warm sleeping heads. They needed touch and they were sated. They were at peace.
So tomorrow we all begin to flip the family clock. They're growing, as they should do. I'm aging here, as will happen when you lie in the dark cradling two wild heads gone calm. I don't know how long they'll feel little enough to find solace in their mama's snuggle so I hold them, measuring my thoughts against the tempo of their breathing, and feel glad to offer them what I have to give.
I know those three, they won't always reach for me.