I am stopped at a light with Eliza and Zoe in the backseat. A man, maybe 50 years old, starts to cross the street in front of us, carrying several bags. His clothing and hair and skin are varying shades of greasy gray and dirt brown. He mutters to himself.
I immediately imagine him as an floppy infant, trusting, in his mother's arms. I paint a whole picture for myself, his mother smiling, his skin porcelain smooth, his mouth and eyes open, searching.
What did he find when he entered this world? What lead him here, now? Whose perfect baby was he?
I pull over to cry for a minute, telling Zoe that I have something in my eye.
There is an article in the paper about a young girl with schizophrenia.
There is a pivotal moment in the book I'm reading when a boy loses his father.
I am drawn to these stories. I am terrified of these stories. (F YOU VERY MUCH "My Sister's Keeper" kid-with-cancer movie. No, I will not be seeing you EVER.)
I can barely read these stories without breaking down. I focus on the words, avoid extrapolations, try not to think about all the possible demons and dragons that lurk in the shadows of every child's life.
Zoe's Nana and Papa are visiting, excited to see the baby. Zoe wanders over to where I sit with Eliza who is propped up on the boppy on the floor. She kisses her feet, squeezes her hands, smiling. We all remark on what a kind big sister she is.
She starts to try to climb on top of her and I stop her. "I just want to crawl over her" Zoe says and I tell her it's not safe to crawl over little babies, she can show us her crawl NEXT to the baby and she protests loudly. Next, she wants to sit on the boppy, too close and too rambunctious for my comfort and I stop her. A full blown tantrum greets me this time.
In Zoe's eyes I see a storm of conflicting emotions, especially when we have company: she loves Eliza, she wants to squash her, she wants to kiss her, she wants to bite her, she wants to sit with her, she wants to sit ON her.
The affection and aggression sometimes mix together in ways that confuse us all.
I peel Eliza's face off my chest and glance at her face where the red welting line of my bra strap is emblazoned on her cheek. The mark takes my breath away even as it quickly disappears.
By tomorrow, the angry streak of pimples, now a major constellation on her forehead, will be entirely rearranged or will have exploded to cover her whole face or will disappear entirely.
Her eyes flutter open and struggle to focus on my face. Her smile appears out of nowhere and consumes her whole body and as she wriggles her greeting, I cannot help but do the same.
Within minutes the storm clouds gather and her wriggling takes a new form, knees up to her chest, her belly contorting in digestive discomfort, her forehead wrinkling in consternation. A fussy "ehhnnn. EHHHNNNN." progresses to outright crying.
I put her to my chest again for another round of pats and shushes and indentations on her soft cheek.