Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maren, Holding On

I watched my sister take one step over Skype the other day.

I've been talking to my mother obsessively,
and she sits in front of the screen,
glowing in the bright Californian sun and holding the baby.
I'm somewhere in London, where it's dark at four and cloudy all day,
And I'm in my pajamas until something pulls me out of the house.
So I call her and sit alone in the hall, wearing boxers and a T-shirt,
and she asks me whether I've eaten yet that day.

My sister is ten months old, a smiling miracle.

No, really.

She sits in my mom's lap, mostly wriggling around,
and if I say her name in a high pitch and smile,
She remembers me, (maybe only as the girl in the computer)
And she hits the keys with that one arm she's always waving around,
And she smiles as big as I'm smiling,
Our Scandinavian eyes winking with joy.

She can't smile big enough, so she opens her mouth and laughs.

My mom sometimes walks around the room as she talks to me.
She's warming oatmeal and mixing in applesauce,
coaxing my sister into every biteful of solid food.
She was sitting in a chair a few meters away when my sister took a step.
I think my dad was talking with me at the time,
and he cranked the camera toward my sister.

"She took a step!" said my mom, and I looked at her again.
She was holding my sister under her tiny arms,
where she had just fallen into my mothers' hands and knees.

Maren is afraid of falling.

When my mom walks her around,
(her fists wrapped around my mother's index fingers)
she's started carrying herself on her own,
but when my mom lets go of her, she stops, afraid of falling.

She doesn't know she can do it alone.
She doesn't realize that walking is an act of continuous falling,
That each step is a forward fall being caught by the next foot, and the next,
alternating fall after fall, catch after catch.

What she doesn't realize is that life is a great fall,
a great fall, and a catch,
And every moment after she learns to walk will be about falling and hitting the ground,
hopefully always on her feet.

And this poem wasn't actually going to be about me specifically,
but I fell on my face the other day,
After this boy I was in love with proved he wasn't what I thought he was,
and broke me,

Me who was finally, really in love, for the first time,
Finally there, my face pressed to the concrete, dry heaving on the ground,
Finally realizing why it is that some people are so wary of falling in love,
because falling in love,
most certainly,

And having hit, 
like Maren topples on the kitchen tile sometimes,
I'm terrified and shocked.
I don't want to get up again.

Wouldn't I rather reach, wailing and tearful,
For my mother's arms, safe from everything and anyone?
Wouldn't I rather stay here in bed, down, asleep,
Rocked slowly by the temporal turning of the world?

But what Maren doesn't realize is that life is a fall and a catch,
and what I hadn't realized is that much of what I catch, I eventually get over.

And what my mother knew is that the trick is to let us fall first,
until we learn to stop before head-over-heels hitting ground,
until we learn to catch ourselves with our feet.


  1. This is exquisite and sad. And I love you and miss you lots and lots.