School Tears

I enter the room and hear the thundering chatter
of 20 preschoolers, sitting in a circle.
Several shoelaces untied, tiny heads of unkempt hair
a casualty of the playground, slick with sweat,
Straining to stay in their assigned positions.

Eagerly watching the door for someone who is theirs
their signal to bolt, their piece of home
at last, a hand to hold, a familiar voice to hear
a chance to relay an afternoon of adventure.

They eagerly wait, hefty backpacks in place,
anchoring them to the ground
I see you.
Legs crossed, centered on the giant letter N embroidered in the carpet.
Something is wrong.

You are slumped forward, eyes to the floor
You look up as I enter the room.
Urgently, you spring to your feet
and I watch your face transform as
it crumbles beneath a wall of tears
You melt to the ground and I melt with you
You cling to me.
Long brown curls become entangled in my arms —
protective, steadfast strong but soft
(the markings of a mother).

I bend down to ask what is wrong
Should we talk to your teacher?
“No,” you say. “I will tell you in the car.”

We walk out to a receiving line
of concerned looks and sympathetic smiles.

I close the car doors.
All is quiet and safe.
You hop up front and collapse in the passenger seat,
and confide in me.

You stammer, struggling to sputter words between
an unwavering rhythm of sobs.
I hold you close and listen.

The world is big, sweet girl.

So big.

sometimes we crumble

under piles,of to-dos, dirty clothes, outbursts, and questions
Need to breath

in for five seconds,
out for seven.

my life is fulfilling
how can I feel so much love?
yet struggle?
chasing memories, of fleeting moments
that soon pass
senses are flooded
by deafening wines and disapproving frowns

try to remember
remember to breathe
remember the moments

the peaceful, the joyful
the expressions, the funny lines
the sweet faces
those moments
they are fleeting
and the messes are never ending
the pain, doubt
seeking grace
forever seeking
trying to remember

In for five seconds,
out for seven.

breathe and remember.

Do You Love Mama?

“Do you love Mama?”
As I ask I feel a smile sneak though my lips
no longer pursed to reflect the serious tone and expression.
But you knew I was teasing, anyway.
And respond with glee.
You toss your head back,
flashing your toothy grin.
We lean in
lock eyes
you say “Dada”
Defiantly, jubilantly
You toss your head back again
wanting more

so we lean in
participants in the same silly dance, a game
you plant a soft kiss on my cheek
squeeze my neck
fingernails sharp, digging

I don’t mind.

Later I will be surprised when I see the red marks. One they they will not regenerate. There will be no more bruises on my legs — the markings of both a human jungle gym and safe haven.
My scalp will be free of all soreness from grabbing and yanking. Hugs will be a little loser, and fewer.

you smile
“Who is my baby?”
You say “Isla”
“Who do you love?”
You pause, already of master of anticipation.