Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Tick of the Clock

By Andrew Peterson

There is something terrible in the futility of trying to love them well as even as you lose them a little more with each swing of the pendulum. The curse of time.

A quiet wind moves the loose strands of hair that have escaped from her bows, and she smiles at you, holding out her hand to give you a drawing on orange construction paper in several crooked folds. You tell yourself to remember this. You know, even as the moment passes, that the moment is more precious than you could imagine, but even as you think to appreciate it, you realize that in trying to appreciate it something is lost. She turns and skips away, and you grieve as you tuck the folded drawing into your coat pocket, wishing you'd just watched her, loved her with your smile, wishing you'd stopped trying so hard to soak up the beauty and had instead reflected it back.

The moon is waxing, a few days from full bloom. He was giggling, hitting your rear end, coaxing you into a carpet burn wrestling match on the living room floor if only you'd put down the dishes you were clearing from the table. You roar like a bear and spin around. He squeals and you lift him over your head, telling him that he has to sleep on the back deck tonight. He thrashes and laughs, and you tug open the back door, wondering when your little boy got to be so much to handle. He used to sleep on you, his whole body the length of your forearm, and now he's kicking hard enough to make you wince. You make it out into the snap of cold air on the shadowy deck with his giggling, wriggling body, covered in fleece footie pajamas. You happen to look up and you see a moon ring. The wrestling stops because young fathers and little boys both know that a moon ring is even more wondrous than a good tickle. The rest of the family comes out, bunching up their shoulders in the wintry air. They squint up at the bright moon and see it, a giant lunar halo, quiet and electric, staring down at us like the glowing eye of God. The cold sinks in and a moment passes. The screen door whips shut behind you, the deadbolt thunks into place. The great eye still watches.

The house is asleep. You sit upstairs and try to wrestle down a few thoughts. You see each of their faces in slow motion, wish that you had the tools to harness the light and warmth that fills you whenever you look at them. You feel that you're watching a river of good things gurgle past you, that you're supposed to catch the water but you can't remember how. You reach in with timid hands, feel the water skate through your fingers, feel a pain between your heart and your stomach because the water is moving past you too quickly; the water you just tried to catch is already tumbling downstream, no longer a moment but a memory. You feel that you've been given inadequate tools for the task set before you, that you've been thrust into a new school but haven't been told where to go or what to do.

And yet. And yet it is all worth it just to dip your fingers in the quick river. That moment in the light of love changes everything; it is enough to make a sad past the prologue and a dark future the promise.

The blessing of time.

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