I believe this was the first snowman he ever really helped me build. Birds and rabbits feasted on the vegetables only hours after we turned them into eyes, mouth, nose and hair. Lil E thought it was hilarious. It was snowy but not too cold, sunny but still crisp. We were living with my parents, already four months into an open-ended living arrangement that I couldn't map out when I packed up laundry baskets full of his little leggings and jeans and Pull-Ups and favorite stuffed animals. I have no idea what I took of my own, just that most things made their way bag by bag to my parents' house that winter.
I was working hard, fighting hard, thinking hard. I was barely sleeping, and when I did, my dreams were full of anxiety. It was my first month of full-time employment in several years, and well into the many visits to the courtroom.Lil E was at his same old preschool co-op, but now the only child with two homes. He was safe and loved and nurtured there. But some of the teachers couldn't listen to the magnamity of the situation and other mothers said horrible, judgmental things to me for leaving, for getting by in crisis in the best way I could at the time.My parents were out of town that month and I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled their walks. I sweat underneath my down coat, cried tears of frustration in the bitter cold. I don't every detail of that February, but I can feel the emotion of that time well up even as I type where we lived and what we were doing. It was a sad and scary time. But there was a stillness in my heart that I remember vividly. I heard a voice from deep within that told me to keep on. Eventually everything would bloom.
It's why I love this photo and this face -- because it says, Look what we made together.
Sometimes I think back on those days and weeks and months...and hell, years...and I want to cry. Other times, something happens or someone appears in my life and all that trauma is triggered and I get all protective and worried and can't sleep. But most of the time, I look back on these photos, remember these moments and I think that it stopped being sad a long, long time ago. I think how happy I am to be right here. To be working from my desk in my own place. To see the snow fall outside and not worry whether we will have a chance to play in it or how much work it will make for me. To know that we have everything we need to get through, to build something up out of whatever we have at home, around us -- to make a statue of snow with arms outstretched and leaves reaching up to the uncharacteristic winter sun.
I look back on this February and I think how grateful I am that I cleared that path, that the little footsteps behind me are now running freely ahead.