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LJI9 - Week 2 - My Mind's Gap

This is my entry for this week of LJ Idol, Season 9. Please check out the entries of my fellow competitors and consider joining the therealljidol community. This week's topic was "The Missing Stair."

Floating Stairs
A red-carpeted staircase floating in a starry sky

"What's wrong with your hand?" he asks in his 3-year-old lilt, his tone one of concern mixed with curiosity.

I stretch my dry fingers out, dotted with shiny spots where I've painted the multiple cuts and tears with the medical-grade super-glue that's marketed as liquid bandage. As I age, my skin loses its resilience. This extended weather has turned my right hand into bleeding tissue paper.

Shrugging, I tell him, "My skin gets dry and the skin cracks. I put some liquid bandage on it, which makes it shiny." I don't mention the part about aging, don't tell him how I worry about the myriad ways my body may begin to fail me. Then, as he gently grabs my hand to examine it closer, I weakly add, "It's OK."

The familiar wending and winding. Up, ever up. And soon -- always -- my way becomes fractured with the threat of falling. The stairway, whipping back on itself in sick turns, drops out from underneath. I face a precipitous gap, venture onward anyway. Always.

In the midst of playing, he freezes suddenly, his body rigid. "I think I have to pee," he says, his voice a cross of wonder and desperation.

I usher him over to the little plastic toddler potty, but he wants to go to the "big-boy potty" upstairs. Carrying him up the steps, I make a siren noise: "Wee-oh, wee-oh, pee emergency! Make way for the pee emergency!" He giggles.

We have just enough time to place the step stool and pull down his pants before he sits and sighs in relief. We made it! I cheer for him afterward, give him a high five and reward him with a sticker for his sticker chart. I don't tell him how I worry if he'll be able to make it through the half-day in preschool tomorrow, his first day moving up to the older class, where underwear is required.

Sometimes the stairs are sunk in darkness, a starry sky outside a tower of gold-flecked stone. Other people may begin the journey with me, but I always wind up alone, pondering how to bridge that terrifying gap, to continue my climb. The way up, though challenging, is too important to turn back. I never look down. I never stop. But still, I am afraid.

Much as I love him, he is driving me crazy. I am blogging at the author and book sites I've been neglecting, promoting the video contest that, if I won the audience prize, could fund his preschool tuition for the rest of the year. Curled up next to my left arm, declaring himself a "hamster baby," he plays a color game on his LeapPad, which was a Christmas gift from his grandfather. The scene, from a step away, is cozy: two dark-blonde figures with the same nose, the same chin, one 40 years younger and a third the size of the other, both intent on their "work." From my perspective, though, it feels cramped, as he kicks me absent-mindedly with his perpetually moving foot.

I ask him to please slide over a bit, knowing that even if he moves, he will soon be mashed up against me again. "You're just a cuddle bear today," I tell him. I don't tell him there are times I just want to push him away, and times when I can't bear to imagine a future with him as a teenager who no longer wants to hug, or a grown man who's moved across the country.

This time, it is different. My son -- who sails unbidden into my lotus lands these days -- accompanies me. He bounces along, unmindful of the danger. I scoop him up and ford the gap with newfound bravery. Courage burns into my limbs. I will not fall. I cannot fall, for he needs me.

ETA: KFP's home-game entry is now up, The Crab Thief. It's short and fun, so check it out. Just don't go in the closet!

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( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 24th, 2014 05:27 am (UTC)
"I cannot fall, for he needs me."
This... I have to keep going no matter what, because they need me to. Love this piece!
Mar. 24th, 2014 06:38 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really did have that interesting variation on my recurring dream lately, which amazed me. We do need to stay strong for them, even when we doubt ourselves.
Mar. 24th, 2014 08:20 am (UTC)
You know I relate to this!
Mar. 25th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
I figured it would. One of life's necessities that you overlook once you learn it, never contemplating how difficult it is to learn!
Mar. 24th, 2014 09:24 am (UTC)
I love how these sections are interwoven, the metaphors are beautifully written and I love how it all comes together.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I thought doing it as vignettes would better show what I was trying to discuss than to simply summarize.
Mar. 24th, 2014 11:14 am (UTC)
I like how you blended everything together in this. :) It was very bittersweet.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. Bittersweet is a great word for what I was hoping to achieve.
Mar. 24th, 2014 12:00 pm (UTC)
You did a good job blending the different sections together. :)
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
Thank you! I was hoping the vignettes would work together.
Mar. 24th, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC)
He bounces along, unmindful of the danger.
I am sandwiched between not-so-young adult children and elderly parental units, driving myself into a frenzy because I see the dangers and they either do not see or choose to ignore the oncoming dangers!
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:46 am (UTC)
And it's hard not to start to see them everywhere, right? This afternoon, he wanted to pick our table while I was paying for our coffee. Next thing I know, he's running up to me with a woman following, who wanted to apologize for talking to him, because apparently it freaked him out. First of all, way to go, KFP! Secondly, this is why I make him hold my hand EVERYWHERE when we're out.

EDIT: I had coffee, he had milk. :)

Edited at 2014-03-26 01:46 am (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2014 02:44 am (UTC)
This is full of sweetness, and captures so well that feeling of worry that just seems too underlie all of parenting. As someone with a 15 year old who still gives (great) hugs, I will tell you, they will surprise you - there will be days they will pick you up and carry you across that gap.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:18 am (UTC)
You have such a way with words. I love that idea! He is a sweet little guy, so I could see that happening. It's good that your 15-year-old still hugs you.
Mar. 25th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
A lovely touching entry, well done.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad I could touch even the Grim Reaper's soul. :) Really, that icon is stunning.
Mar. 25th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
Beautifully written. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
Thank you! That balance was something I hoped I could achieve without tipping over into sentimentality.
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:04 am (UTC)
The "hamster baby" thing is beyond adorable. :)

From my perspective, though, it feels cramped, as he kicks me absent-mindedly with his perpetually moving foot.
I so remember those times, and searching for the patience not to be annoyed or feel pressured to be doing something else-- because that cuddly clinginess is gone all too soon, and you know you will miss it. So bittersweet.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
The hamster thing started after he watched an episode of "Kipper the Dog" where he was playing with a hamster. I think he wanted to declare his own nickname, because I call him everything from monkey to bunny to bear to, yes, even Spanky.

Patience is one of my lifelong challenges, I think. Perhaps I was sent KFP to work on it more.
Mar. 25th, 2014 11:56 am (UTC)
Awww..this is so sweet... i loved the play of words...the inner demons and eventually you conquering them!...kudos!
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I love playing with words and multiple meanings; glad you found that interesting. Recurring dreams have been a great way for me to work out issues over time. It's fun to see how my dreamworld has progressed from just a few years ago.
Mar. 25th, 2014 12:08 pm (UTC)
I like this very much.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:21 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad to hear it.
Mar. 25th, 2014 12:49 pm (UTC)
This is so sweet. I miss the days when my girls were little and cuddly, but they can still be lovey enough. I'm lucky that the older one only lives 50 miles away. We can make holidays, etc. AW
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:20 am (UTC)
You're lucky! I'm hoping he'll stick close enough for visits. He's a very social little guy right now, so hopefully that won't change.
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
As someone who works from home a good portion of the time, I totally get this. Owen starts preschool in September, and I am both looking forward to it and dreading it.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
Good luck to Owen! KFP did very well the first two days in the older class, and we just got a very long note from the teacher telling us how well-behaved and smart he is. :)
Mar. 25th, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
Aww I loved this :D
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:18 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad.
Mar. 25th, 2014 08:01 pm (UTC)
Lovely lovely writing. Honest and hopeful at the same time.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:15 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad I waited to write it until I figured out the best approach.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:01 pm (UTC)
Okay, now that's the SECOND time today I'm had Zeppelin get stuck in my head unexpectedly, thanks to that image. Which, of course, is not all that terribly relevant, just a side note, but, with that aside, I am glad you found your courage for his sake, and, I think, perhaps, you might even be able to help others to find theirs, as well.
Mar. 25th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, you're right about that. I should have tried harder to find a staircase that resembled my dreams or leave it out altogether. That staircase was one I photographed last year, which made it easily accessible for making the graphic. I hope you didn't find it too distracting.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:50 am (UTC)
As always, this was very well-written.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! That's great to hear. I'm pretty happy with this one.
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
I don't tell him there are times I just want to push him away, and times when I can't bear to imagine a future with him as a teenager who no longer wants to hug, or a grown man who's moved across the country.

I know this feeling so well. Both of mine decided to come climb in our bed and I ended up kicking them out eventually but at the same time I'll miss it when they're too old to even consider coming in.
Dec. 14th, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
I don't mind it except when he reaches over and pulls my hair in his sleep. He seems to find it comforting.
Mar. 26th, 2014 04:51 am (UTC)
Great! I'm not a parent myself, sadly, but one of my friends is going to become a grandmother in August.
Dec. 14th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
Good luck to her! I imagine it's a lot like being an aunt: getting to hold the baby and have fun with her/him and then getting to give her/him back when it's time for a change.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, I so identify with this. I often spend the time they're napping doing other things (shopping, jogging, housework) and then foolishly try to write when they get up. FOOLISHLY. Because it never works.

I hope KFP did well at his new preschool!
Dec. 14th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
He is doing really well! In fact, he went to two parties with his preschool buddies yesterday, and it warmed my heart to see how much they seem to like him.
Mar. 26th, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC)
You capture the joy and hassle and love and irritation of parenting so well here. Have you read "All Joy And No Fun"? it's a book about parenting trends that might interest you.
Dec. 14th, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC)
You know, I haven't read it yet, but I did read a review in a parenting magazine. While I'd like to think that, after being cut from LJ Idol, I'll have more time to read it, the reality is that I'm going to throw myself into a couple other projects right now. But I may get a chance to read that soon.

BTW, thanks for the tip you gave me ages to go about Literary Mama. Even though they didn't publish my piece, they did apparently give a shout out to my lit mag, because I subsequently got a submission from someone who claimed she'd heard about me there.
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )

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