Here's a confession: I got lazy in the last few days of packing up our house. My brain was numb from sorting and wrapping and nestling ALL THE THINGS that I stopped being specific with the labels. Instead, I just scribbled the word "FRAGILE" on every box. Books? Fragile. Pillows? Sure, why not. (Sidenote: every time I wrote the word, I thought of the scene with the dad from A Christmas Story: "FRUH-GEE-LAY....must be some Italian word." If you have no clue what I'm referring to, I'm sorry, but we can't be friends. 2. There are 18 more Wednesdays until Christmas. You're welcome).
A couple of weeks ago, I had just scribbled on approximately the 11th box in our dining room when I got a text from my mom. "I'm at MCV. Your dad's been in a motorcycle accident."
Sometimes a word is just a word. Until it's not.
I used to think life was about either/or's. So much of my anxiety in my early twenties was driven by the myth that fragility and strength were mutually exclusive. And yet, I found them together that afternoon in the trauma unit, heard them in the rhythmic beeps and drips of room 128. Six broken ribs. A broken collarbone. The relief and sobering reality. I watched them in the waiting room- fear and fortitude clutching clammy hands across stiff, vinyl chairs. And I was reminded that the tension between those two always exists. I think I've known this for a while, in my head. It's easy to speak it and it looks good on paper, but all it takes one text, one phone call, one sudden stop in an intersection.... to remind you how truly fragile- and also resilient- you are.
A few days later, I sat upstairs in Ollie's new room and began to try to put her crib back together again. It's the original one- the one that Jake spent three tedious hours putting together in that tiny room of our first house more than seven years ago. The one that showcases Milo's teeth marks around the perimeter. The rails of which I had covered with a fresh coat of white paint during that January snowstorm before Olive came. I thought about all of the times it had supported the weight of our weary bodies bending over to retrieve a lost binky or memorize the curves of cheeks. About a year ago, the base had finally cracked under the bounces of our three monkeys when they climbed in together to play. We had repaired it then- rather crudely- with some wood glue and bolts. And that's exactly where I saw that it had broken again- though this time, beyond repair.
It was the first time I had really allowed myself to recognize that something in me had shifted since my dad's accident- the frighteningly finite undercurrent of motherhood and daughterhood finally converging and then erupting into hot tears on that August morning. Sure, it was exhaustion. Probably even some hormones. But I knew those only to be the cracks on the surface of something much deeper.
It's parents who are getting older and children who don't stay young. It's the divine weight we carry as mothers and fathers and children- the broken ribs and broken cribs, and the frightening speed of the years that I had assumed would drag by.
Sometimes we crack. Other times, it's a clean break. And yet, the same love that breaks us open- exposing our worst fears and frailties- is the One that mends.