Andy’s alarm goes off for a full minute. It takes him a while to reach his phone to turn off the chirping because he threw his back out. He moves slowly, forcing inhales through the pain. I offer to help and he declines. The rain taps the metal roof just above our dry heads as we lay under down and linen in the dark. The furnace kicks on.
He gets up first, he always does. I hear the click of our espresso machine button. I feel around the floor for the hoodie I took off last night. I walk gently down the hall, avoiding the three floorboards that creak. Andy tunes the radio to NPR. Another terrorist attack. In Brussels, he says.
The familiar words reach our ears. I hate that they are familiar. Isis. Extremist. Suicide bomber. 26 dead. 30 dead. Retaliation. War. Terror. Terrorist. Terrorism.
The rain lets up. I feel the wetness in my bones. The heaviness of rain sinking into soil. Washing the streets clean, adding volume to rivers, feeding gardens. Relentlessly nourishing. Pure love. Steadfast. The cool, clear, generous liquid that gives everything life. Water is the antonym to Terror.
Our daughters are still asleep. Andy leaves for work, kissing me on the forehead with a sigh. Be sure to change the radio station when the kids get up, he says. I nod. He climbs into his old work van and drives away.
I wake the girls, as I often do on school mornings. I spoon their warm, alive bodies. My fingers trace their faces. I coo and hum. I kiss their eyelids and ear lobes. For a moment I forget that moms are wailing 4753 miles away because their daughters were murdered. Just for a moment — and then that information pushes on my chest and my eyes fill with tears. Water pooling, spilling.
They shuffle down the hall, landing on all three squeaky boards. I make egg burritos while they check their hardboiled eggs that have been immersed in dye overnight. We all agree the yellow onion skin and red cabbage leaf dyes are superior. We decide we should dye more eggs. Ten thousand eggs! Piles of beautiful, colorful eggs!
I wonder what our world would look like without guns or bombs. I wish I could sit down and talk with a suicide bomber who believes killing people is his god’s will. I want to understand. How else will this change? I fantasize about a group of moms who conduct a terrorist intervention. Does that sound silly? What’s your idea? When we arrest terrorists they kill more people. When we bomb them back, they bomb more. What is this pushing us toward? What next?
Let’s go swimming. Naked bodies of every skin color and faith, floating in the cool current. We’d realize how little control we have. How beautiful it is to not know what happens when we die. To feel buoyant and blissed out. We’d inhale a deep breath and submerge and hear all the gods of all the religions telling us stop trying to dam the ancient canyons of another’s heart. They’d sing a lullaby about a great flood that sweeps us all up and sets us down on a mountain top to dry. The great flood sunk all the weapons and all the hate to the bottom of the deep, new sea. We are left with only each other. We listen and learn and love, unarmed.
Laying in bed with Ruby last night, she told me she missed being a baby. She feels sad when remembering nursing and being held all the time. She didn’t blink when she told me this, her eyes steady and serious. Like, if she concentrated on her words enough, if I understood enough — we could rewind time. I’d hold her tiny body to mine and she’d gulp milk from my body as she fell asleep.
I think about keeping my kids home from school today. If they even suggest it, I am ready to abandon work and spend our day playing memory and baking bread. If this life is to be so painful and short and so stunning and expansive, maybe I ought to do this differently. I daydream about walking deep into the woods with my family and living an intimate life, holding hands with the season’s quiver. I like that daydream and I know I am meant to do more. Maybe.
But my kids are excited for school. Margot ties her hair in low pigtails – one with a crooked black bow – and wears her favorite black leggings and talks about plans to finish the story she is writing about the dog named Ranger who is lost in China. She tucks her lunchbox into her polka dot backpack and jumps rope in the kitchen. Ruby is excited to get a new library book and to hand out clementines for snack. She wiggles her loose tooth with her tongue as she tries to master the double knot on her new sneakers.
The house is quiet after my daughters leave. I watch two magpies build a nest out our living room window. The male and female take turns flying away and returning with a single twig to tuck into their home. They’ve been at it for weeks. Driven by instinct and survival, they just keep building the nest as strong and warm and secure as they possibly can, tucked deep into the high branches of a blue spruce. They see the raccoons and hawks and me. They build it anyway.