I have a new friend. Well, relatively new, in the scope of things. Kara, a fellow foster mom, has a load of kids, just like me, and it seems we are connected on enough levels that there is no explanation necessary during a long pause. I am pretty sure, though, that there are not many long pauses, if any at all. I would wipe the snotty nose of any of her children, and I am guessing she would do the same for mine, even the teenagers.
Spontaneous meetups are the best. Arranged play dates are often disastrous, and “bookstore gatherings” are something of the distant past. It’s best to meet at a park, and to call such a meeting when little people are already strapped in strollers and the bike riders are ready to roll. It’s day by day, and one moment before the next. I am peaceful and comfortable sitting (for a few seconds, maybe) on the park bench with Joy. In a foggy and distant way, I feel like I am at the Chocolate Moon with my precious Elmhurst mama friends, where we did sit for hours, and our babies stayed within a six foot radius and smiled the whole time while we drank vanilla lattes and ate lemon knots.
We were probably talking about someone smashing something valuable when I looked up and noticed a tiny child dangling by the knees from a considerably high playground perch. Distracted enough from the conversation by this miniature acrobat, I remember thinking that I was glad this was not my kid engaged in such an unsettling and dangerous maneuver. But it was, indeed, at second glance, my child. My thirty pound four-year-old wonder was flaunting circus skills that were, for the first time, revealed to me. And he was okay.
A couple of decades ago, terror would have caused me to spring to the rescue. Now, my knees are crunchy, and I no longer “spring.” I think I am, out of necessity and with Kara’s help when I need it, learning, instead, to breathe. We had a family trip last week; we spent time at Lake Michigan with all of our children to open the gates of summer. Looking back, it was a good time. As we were still unloading the car and sorting through our sandy beach bag, our foster daughter was gathering her belongings, ready to move on to a new home. She couldn’t say precisely why, but we all felt the many reasons through the angst and emotion. A little time has passed, and though it is not easier to understand, we learn to take ourselves out of the equation. We learn to accept that the burdens that have come before, and the jaw-dropping surprises, good and bad, are far removed from our control. These days are not what I may have written, but they are mine and ours, and there is so much good.
We sat in the “cry room” at church when Elliott was a toddler, in case he coughed or made a peep of some sort. Once another mom (three children, all eating pretzels) offered a snack to Elliott. I politely declined, because my child was not going to eat junk food during church. Now, I am pretty sure I would let them eat the pretzel crumbs that they found on the floor of the “cry room.” But we wouldn’t likely be sitting in the “cry room.” My younger set might be hanging on various monuments around the church, and I can only hope that I would notice.
Kara was a newborn baby when I was in high school. From her, though, I have learned much. There are some things that are out of our control, but when we confront and embrace the fears that we face, we might grow and learn to love more freely and deeply. To cherish others for who they truly are, and to celebrate and learn from each little circus performer: this will remain my task. And I have lots of jobs to do.