I cannot believe I’ve landed here. In this half of a house which is not even set up to receive the people who call it home. No one fits in this place. No one is well. No one is happy. No one is comforted. I feel the disappointment of a fool who knows better and still has not learned. Homecomings are usually this way. Harder, much harder than staying gone.
Every little fantasy I have carefully grown over the past few months slips away to die in the corners of this cold room. Warmth and welcome and time to be quiet and comfy with my favorite people on the planet- all of these fantasies turn into a drizzle which quenches nothing but smears all of my hopes anyway. Between my shoulder blades an ache sends up the first signaling spiral. This tension is the only thing that will survive in this place-in my body, in my head- until I can leave again.
I know better than to display my troubles in a place where everyone has more trouble than they can stand. There is no need to throw my bucket into the waterfall. Who would see it? Who would even know? I carry my own water. There is no relief. From their pain or my own. I am beginning to drown in this half of a house.
And then I hear him. He is crying up those stairs. And I am running- really running- three, even four steps at a time. Thanking God for long legs. Thanking God for the one completely beautiful part of every day here. In this place.
It is early in the evening but already nearly dark here in the Ohio winter. I do not need lights. My heart sees him through the heavy, closed door. Awoken from sleep, he is alone. And he knows it. Sadness and fear are in his voice. A voice which does not yet make words. But he is speaking to me.
And I have run to answer him.
When I push the door open, my heart stumbles. He does not know who is coming toward him in the dark. He is silent for a moment. His vulnerability in this attic room is one truth. My intentions toward him are another. I could bring anything to him now. Anyone in my place could bring anything to him now. I shake under the weight of that thought. I cannot stand that he does not have defenses against evil should it ever choose to approach him. In the dark.
I speak to him. And as soon as the sound is out of me, he laughs. Weary, nearly crying still from the tiredness of reprieve. When I stand at the side of his crib, he turns his reddened face up to me. Eyes wide, straining to see back over his shoulder in the low light from the doorway. Tears cross his cheeks like ribbons. He is giving me that smile. That laugh of real joy. Pure relief. He is not alone.
I bend my head and my neck and my back- all still aching from sadness and tension. But when I put my arms around him and lift him to me all is calm. All is bright.
I stand quietly and feel the winter world spin around me. The universe settles into order.
I lift him with one arm until his head rests of its own accord on my shoulder. One of his arms curls softly around mine. And the other falls against my chest. Without judgment. Without desire. He sighs against my neck. And rests.
From the tender bones still closing on the top of his head all the way down to the unarticulated arches of his feet, he is safe. There is nothing but warmth and welcome. Nothing but time. Time to be quiet. And comfy.
And I know with a certainty that almost snaps my heart into pieces that I would do anything for him. I place one hand on his back and move toward the door. Knowing I would give him anything I have. More than I have. I would give him anything he needs.
Everything that I know. Everything that I am. Everything that I could possibly bring to his life, I would. I would. Every good thing.
And it is my loyalty to him, my love for him, which comforts me most. He does not know that I cannot find this loyalty- this love- for myself. I am ashamed that I cannot find it. Cannot inspire it. Cannot keep it. And this loneliness- this grief- is the foundation of my daily life. There is no home. There is no home.
There is no home for me.
There is nowhere to land. No one will run to comfort me. No arms will hold me. No voice will stop my tears. I am not safe. I cannot rest. I am alone. And I am shamed by this ragged grief.
Still, as I carry his mind and his heart and his body carefully down the stairs, I am at peace. I have stopped here. With him. And my whole soul is making a promise to this little one. I feel suddenly that this promise exists in the entire universe. That this promise exists maybe even for me. And then I know.
My love is living proof.