There are just two of us today in our twelve passenger van making the 5 minute drive to preschool. At 8:20am it is already a day busy with an agenda ready to sweep me away. Hidden two rows back safely buckled into his car seat I hear my 4 year old ask in a way that is so very 4 years old: “Mommy when was it that I didn’t exist?”
I pause not expecting such a profound question amidst my personal push to get him to where he needs to be this morning. I am used to being peppered by him with the likes of “Mommy can I watch Power Rangers again? I really love Power Rangers.” and his most recent ploy to watch more TV, “Mommy electronics are the only thing that will make me smile.”
That little voice in the back seat belonging to my oh so very boy-with-older-brothers-and-desperately-trying-to-keep-up stopped me and my agenda in its tracks. I let his question settle on my soul for a moment.
Trying to remember the exact phrasing of this surprising question for future reference yet wanting to give him an answer, I did the math and got back to him with a very straightforward yet to me somehow unsatisfying “Oh about 5 1/2- 6 years ago.” He then offered up “Yeah, it was a really really long time ago.”
Once he was back from school we spent the afternoon sweetly playing with some newly made play dough. I rolled out the dough spaghetti style and shaped it into the letters of his name, one all upper case, one all lower case, and then his nick name in all lower case per his request. We found the cookie cutters that I often find missing (typically out on the job with Kevin for his after school cooking classes) and he made jaguars that he cut out and dotted using his fingers to dimple each one. One daddy jaguar and then many many baby jaguars that he made using a mini giraffe cookie cutter. We counted them each time he added another baby, honing his new counting skills.
This was not a typical afternoon for us. I usually have to rev myself up after putting his 3 year old and 1 year old brothers in for a nap to play with him. It is at a time of day that I am ready for a little down time. Earlier today though I had made a play dough making promise to distract him from his desire to watch TV. Too many kids have had sick days lately at our house and the TV had been on a lot to appease those poor peaked souls, it was an easy distraction from their ailments and Mr. 4 year old had benefited. It was time to scale back.
So we measured and scooped and cooked our new play dough into existence and for the first time in forever I sat and played with play dough. I remembered being a little girl and my own 4 year old play dough joy and thought: “How is it that I am 44?”.
…It’s been three months since I’ve written anything here. Life has been busy and I just haven’t sat still long enough to capture and draw out my thoughts… I’m taking the time tonight.
There was something just so peaceful about this afternoon. It felt like when I would hang out with my mom, with no real agenda, when we would just be together. It could be over a cup of tea, sitting on the bed in her room, painting our fingernails, cleaning out her closet. Any simple moment when we were side by side. Those moments were like gold. Just like today.
The anniversary of my beautiful moms’ passing was Saturday. It’s been 17 years, forever ago… and yet like yesterday. My love for her will never pass away…
I hear my precious and precocious 4 year old sons’ bright voice asking me: “Mommy when was it that I didn’t exist?” It’s a question I remember thinking about as a young girl and being totally confused by. How could the world exist without me?
Tonight he continued his thoughts from this morning talking about our cat Rosie and how he was sad that she was our cat before he lived and he never got to hold her. Oh how he is slaying me with these thoughts.
“Mommy when was it that I didn’t exist?”
I think my best honest answer to him would be “I can tell you the years, but now that you are here, I can’t imagine there not being a you, even though I remember it, I can’t imagine it.”
Just like my mom, just like me, just like you, the question isn’t when did we not exist, but that we do.
With love from Vermont and this busy house of nine,.