Friday, August 12, 2005

Brave Little Wanderer 

A walk with Willow before bed tonight, just a quick trip down the dirt road and back on a whim. It was dusk, a light rain having cleared the humidity out of the air: we picked butter and sugar flowers, clovertops, queen anne's lace, avoided poison ivy (is that poison ivy, daddy?), and, at the corner, took a long walk through the green corn, kid on my shoulders, touching each cornsilk like it was a talisman. On the way back, she waved proudly at each passing car -- so they'll see us, Daddy!

I love my daughter more than anything, of course. More, though, I admire her. Bright, intuitive, socially adept, she's a brave little kid, one whose curiosity about where the wasps go when they disappear between the porchcracks easily overwhelms her obvious concern for their sting.

Which makes it all the more heartbreaking to hear her say that she doesn’t want me to ever go anywhere without her, ever ever ever.

Something she says a dozen times a day.

How many three year olds won’t let you run to the car for another set of groceries without full-blown leg-clinging, on the brink of an anxiety attack, and a loud insistence that she will go, absolutely has to go with you, until you have no choice but to bring her out, bare feet and all, to cut her toes on the gravel driveway? And the worst part it, I can’t say no, because I wouldn’t want me to go, either, if I were three and about to sleep in my sixth bed in as many weeks.

For all its freedom, there are times when this gypsy life feels less like an adventure and more like a terrifying ride on a runaway raft, the family clinging together in the spray. No address, no phone number, my dress shirts still in storage – I can live with this, in the name of necessity and true Zen-loving chutzpah. Though it gets scary and exhausting at times, it makes me stronger, and sometimes, I even thrive on it.

But Willow is no seasoned wanderer. She’s three. And though most of the time she's a cheerful tomboy trooper, in peripheral moments it becomes clear that Willow bears no small stress for our unsettled lives.

Most of the time, in the midst of all this, my daughter is a gem. She feeds off our optimism, and -- one hopes -- benefits from our carefully cultivated spirits of adventure; in turn, we prime the pump by asking her to consider what a good new house should have (swings, daddy!). She’s resilient, and will surely recover from this, our now-to-be-extended summer ungrounded; by the time she’s a teenager, I expect this will hardly rate mention among a thousand other transgressions, be they real or hyperbolicized.

But, though it’s hard for the three-year-old mind to understand, this rollercoaster has a long way to go before it comes to rest. Today we planned a Monday-Wednesday camping trip down to Wilbraham to look for houses early next week, hit a bank to confirm we were looking in the right price range, but we're told closing takes sixty to ninety days: it's become quite clear that we'll not make it into our new home, whichever one that is, until long after my job begins.

And we can’t commute from here to there. Yesterday Darcie sent out an email introduction to UU meeting houses and multifaith Synagogues in the area; if there's no response by next week, we'll have to pursue short-term rentals in earnest.

If Willow thinks it’s hard living in her grandparent’s house, just wait ‘til there’s four of us in a temporary bed, miles from the rest of the family, waiting out a houseclosing in a still-strange town.

Oh, how hard it is, sometimes, to realize that we’re not yet halfway home in even the best scenarios, and to not have the words to tell her.

How I wish, for her sake, that we were finally there. How I wish I just snap my fingers and make it all better. How I wish I could assure her, once and for all, that I’d always come home, and know that we both had the same picture of home in our minds when I said it.

Sleep tight, my brave little wanderer. Daddy’s here. Close your eyes and dream with me.

It won't be long now. I promise.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:31 PM |

This post almost made me cry with the poignancy of it. Though I'm not wandering, I know that stretched thin feeling of wanting to reach out and protect--to be settled not for your sake, but theirs. These little people, that love us, we are so much their geography, their world. And it's a weighty responsibility. But I do also believe, that they bring some type of certainty with them. You'll find a place. Things will settle. And soon enough you'll have a yard with some wildflowers or grass, steps to sit on with watermelon, floors to roll marbles on. Trust in that.
What a beautiful post. Thank you for this window into your life, y'all's lives, the way things are.

Willow's a lucky kid to have a father who understands so well what she's wrestling with. That's more important even than roots, if you ask me -- or maybe what I really mean is, the roots you have in each other are the really important ones. Having a physical place to call your own will be good, when it comes, but she's got what she really needs.
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