There are moments in life that intersect the idea of who you are, who you were, and who you’ve wanted to be. They come together and touch one another like the four corners, you can stand on the border of Colorado and step just one foot into Arizona. You can see the other places, sense the invisible lines in which they brush up against one another and overlap, becoming in a single instance. We are one thing and yet, we are the other. I’ve said this, but I mean it in a new way. We are never just one thing.
In this moment, I am sitting on the floor of the SFO airport, something I have done too many times in my life to count as too many versions of myself to remember. You find food, you find a quiet corner, you make a tiny shelter for yourself and find a moment of peace in travel. This time I have my son. I tell him everything we are doing as I wear him on my chest. I narrate the world for him so he is never without language to make sense of things. He is taking in the world in a way he never has before. It’s our first flight, just the two of us, and we take it on as we have everything since we became we. We’re focused and calm even in the eye of the storm, even in delayed flights and missed connections. I tell him, this is what we do, and I find us a corner near an empty gate and we collect ourselves.
I am feeding him and with one hand feeding myself with the other. He laughs. I laugh. I know how horribly this could go but it doesn’t, we stay afloat, we compromise, we calm down. He knows how badly I need this, how I need to show the both of us that we can. There is a buzz around us, that buzz you can only get by being in a new place. I watch him in awe at how resilient he is, how every light and person and sound and smell is something entirely new. I tell him everything. He is never without my voice in his ear. He hugs my shirt and buries his face in my chest if something startles him. He laughs at the flight attendant. He falls asleep flush cheeked in my lap and I do not move an inch for an entire hour even when my foot falls asleep and my hips ache and my face itches. When the impossibly small commuter plane takes a dip in the air and my stomach is in my throat I do not quicken my breath or change my composure. He opens his eyes and I am there, calm for him. He falls back asleep. He is my anchor in the storm.
Sometimes mothering feels like being a girl scout. I collect these badges of honor along the way. These tiny wins of things I know I can do. I collect them like little power sources to remind myself later how capable him and I are together. Air travel badge, check.
While I watch him sleep on the flight I have the overwhelming fear that I have missed something, anything, forgotten to remember a moment, any moment of the past seven months. Have I done enough? Have I been present enough? Have I moved from one accomplishment of mothering to the next. Do I ever savor? Do I savor enough? Should I wait longer to work again? To write again? Is there too much space between us or not enough? Does he know I love him? Did I already fuck up? But then he wakes and opens his eyes and sees my face before anything else and he smiles at me, like there you are, there you always are. No matter where we are. There you are.
Eventually, like everything, the traveling ends and we arrive at where we were always headed. The thing is over and another moment has passed between us. I have a clear vision of myself caught in the window reflection, and this I will keep: sitting on the airport floor feeding my son between flights, neither there nor there, just here.