Treading Water

I close my eyes. I hold my breath. I jump.

The water is cold, but bearable.

Suddenly, I am the 10 year old shell of myself, like a fish in the water. Not a care in the world but the temperature of the water and keeping it out of my wind pipe.

I press my arms and hands forward and feel the bigness of the water, its freedom.

In this moment, I release life and focus solely on my destination, on the buoy ahead.

On my breath.

I push the water behind me with each stroke. I feel the coldness of the river rush over me as I inch little by little towards the buoy. I can see it each time I come up for a breath.

Head up, breathe; head down, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Just when it seems like I’m making no progress, like I am merely treading water, I look back and see the dock far behind.

I press forward.

My arms are tired. My legs are burning. My ears ache, for with each breath I submerge deeper and the pressure builds; I long to know there is space for it all, for every ounce of myself; limbs and toes, fear and pain.

Under the water, I hear the roar of the boats. They are miles away, but they ring loud.

I am spent; I have nothing left.

But then I look up and realize I am only two feet away now.

As my hand touches the buoy, I exhale hard to catch my breath and realize I am yelling. I don’t fully know why or how or when I started or when I stopped, but I know that with each shriek I feel release.

I feel free.

I look back at the dock, my starting point; it’s so far away now.

I take one more big breath before heading back.

Breathe, push. Breathe, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Finally, my hand touches the dock.

I’ve made it. It turns out that what felt like treading was not in vain.

And though I am tattered and exhausted, I am thankful to feel. It is in this depth of feeling that I realize I am, in fact, alive.

With every ounce I have left, I pull myself up onto the dock.

Now, I rest.

Now, I am still.

Now, I am whole.

 

Bigger Than the Sky

My Sweet Lucy Girl,

It is your last night of being three. We have been counting down the days all week. Tonight you wanted an extra book for bedtime, and I caved because, well, “It’s your last night of being three.” I tell you this as if to set a precedent, a proper expectation.

But deep down, I don’t mind.

Deep down, I know that there will come a day where I’d give anything to go back to your last night of being three to read you an extra book, to breathe in the smell of your hair (washed all by your big girl self) as you rest your head on my shoulder and listen, thumb in your mouth and bear in your hand.

We go through the bedtime routine, just as we do every night; the book, the song, the back tickles, one last drink of water (tonight, your “last one as a 3 year old”).

And then you ask me for one more snuggle. I say yes. I lay next to you and watch you rest your eyes and try so hard to keep them closed because all you want is to wake up and be four already. On the outside, we are cheering and counting down, for we are only hours away now.

But quietly, I blink back tears.

Quietly, as I watch you rest, I think about you, Lucy, and all the precious ways you are you.

I think about your books, the way you sit with your huge pile and “read” out loud.

About ladybugs, how you love to catch them and let them crawl up your arm.

About Rosie (the flower you planted yourself and named), and how excited you were to have your very own flower in the garden “just like mama.”

About swings, oh, you could swing for hours.

About music, and how much you love it – bonus points if it’s a song you have memorized so you can sing along.

About how you make your sister’s bottles, then stand on a chair at the kitchen sink and wash them, one by one.

About how much you love to help me fold washcloths and hand towels – oh, and your own socks, as of last week.

About how goofy you are – you’ve got yourself quite the sense of humor, and girl, you make us laugh.

About how much you love making cards for people you love, always covered in the same five letters (H, L, I, O, and A) because so far those are the ones you can write all by yourself without tracing.

About how much you love collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, anything from outside, really.

You are growing, girl. So fast. They say the days are long, the years short. As cheesy as it sounds, it could not be more true.

There are so many things I want you to know. So many things I want to tell you.

But for now, little one, I will leave it at this: be free, and be four. Be wild and strong and brave and curious and kind. Keep growing and learning and loving like you do. You inspire me every day with your love of learning and your stubborn spirit – regardless of how we butt heads at times, it is a beautiful thing and I am positive that you will change the world with it.

In the meantime, know that it is my honor to get front row seats to watch it all unfold, to watch you unfold and grow and become more and more you.

Above all, know how much I love you, my big 4 year old – “bigger than the sky.”