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Show Me Family

By Amanda Magee

ColoringI’m sitting upstairs in bed; back propped up with pillows, feet enveloped in ridiculously thick winter socks, and the loving directive from my husband ringing in my ears, “Just go take some time.” He’d started a movie for the girls and they’d curled up like kittens to watch. Jimmy Fallon’s voice popping in and out, every so often followed by the girls’ laughter, tinkley layers of giggles peppered with shrieked guffaws.

I’ve been wishing to carve out more time to write about our life. The conflict of loving them and needing time away from them makes my cheeks burn and my heart ache. Beyond the screen of my laptop I can see the hallway, a picture hangs there, canvas stretched taut over a wooden frame, in it Finley runs, arms outstretched into the impossibly magnificent sunset on the beach. Can I really love them if sitting in the quiet of my own room brings me such pleasure?

The doubt that took root the moment I first became pregnant, the one that keeps a tally of my triumphs and always seems to measure them as being less frequent than my foibles, whispers to me, “Shouldn’t you be down there? If you love her so much, if this photo is so magical, why aren’t you cutting craft paper and making holiday decorations with her? Why do you always say maybe or later?”

The cursor blinks like foot tapping, what am I doing? The whine of a power tool thrums outside the window, a dog barks, and there is singing. I sit up and realize that I can no longer hear the movie. I wonder what they are doing and begin to set my laptop aside. I swing my legs off the bed and just before my feet touch the floor I hear them.

Avery is singing, I strain to hear the words, “Cause all I know is we said hello.” She trails off and Finley chimes in, “Your eyes look like coming home.” They go quiet and then they both build up from a mumble into, “You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.” They keep going, alone, then together.

“I just wanna know you better, know you better, know yoooooou better now.”

I’m smiling and it hurts. Music has always been a part of their playing. When Briar was four she would croon Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” into a lavender Ariel microphone while Avery would pound on the keys of the piano and bop her head. Five years later Briar’s voice is every bit as sweet, but the way she carries the tune, sounding more like a teenager than a toddler, is sobering.

“All I know since yesterday is everything has changed.” 

My feet follow along, gently swaying to their absentminded singing. They sing the chorus together, their voices layering in ways that they unwittingly picked up listening to Sean’s band. There is no rivalry, no jockeying for lead, they just sing, all the while they are coloring.

I am feeling less conflicted. As much as I judge myself for not being present or engaged at all times, it is in the space that I leave empty that they find ways to be gentler with one another. No one is hurt because they don’t get to sit next to mom, their activities adjust to suit their taste, with Finley coloring, Briar tracing, and Avery cutting shapes.

I have an idea, a story that I want to write. I type ideas, sentences to prompt my memory, it flows easily reminding me of my earliest days as a mom, sitting at the computer before dawn pumping milk. My fingers dance over the keys and my spirit lifts with the certainty that I am where I should be. I’m not sure how much time passes before I finish. I save a draft and close my laptop.

As I walk downstairs the girls are singing a Beyonce song, when they see me they giggle and scatter. I wait and before long they walk in step together and grin at me as they sing Ho! Hey! wearing sunglasses and scarves.

Ho! I’ve been trying to do it right
Hey! I’ve been living a lonely life
Ho! I’ve been sleeping here instead
Hey! I’ve been sleeping in my bed,
Ho! I’ve been sleeping in my bed

I chime in, “Hey! Ho!”

They beam and we parade through the house singing together.

Ho! So show me family…

This is our family; together and alone, singing and laughing, writing and wishing, and on this Saturday morning it feels absolutely perfect.

Amanda Magee lives in the Adirondacks of Upstate, New York, where she owns an advertising agency. She and her husband are raising their three daughters to be kind hearted, rough and tumble spirits. Amanda has been featured on BlogHer and is a contributing blogger on the Huffington Post with features on their Parents and Women sections.

Read Amanda Magee’s essay in This is Childhood, a book and journal on the first ten years of motherhood.

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