It’s sometimes easier to write these letters when I need a break from you. And let me be clear: I don’t need a break from “you” you – the you that is Bee Loechner, a force of fun and charm and sensitivity and surprise. I need a break from the parts that come with you – the chasing and the second-guessing and the decision-making and the constant finding of that container of Puffs that Bernie stole and hid under his surface of choice. The parts that aren’t really about you at all – they’re about me and my own doubts or insecurities or gosh-darn inability to remember to keep the snacks out of the dog’s reach.
But today is not one of those days. Today, I don’t need a break from you, and I don’t want a break from you. I want you to be with me, crawling into my lap and climbing my shoulders so you can reach the bobby pin hidden in my hair – the gold one with the cheetah face that I’ve been wearing for weeks and you just now spotted. I want you to be yelling “Mamaaaaaaaaaaa!” and pulling toilet paper off the rolls and throwing raspberries onto the white walls. I want you to be causing mayhem, because that means you’re with me and I’m with you and we’re together, running through life with mixing bowls on our heads.
But I’m not. I’m a state away, traveling for work and having a wonderfully creative time, but missing you. It’s odd, being out into the world without you by my side, and lately, I’ve found my body defaulting to the me I am when I’m with you. My hands twitch during meals, feeling vacant of the toys or sippy cups or baby wipes I offer you. My legs get restless, tired of sitting and wondering when you’ll pull me from my chair to show me something marvelous. My eyes begin to dart around the room, subconsciously taking inventory over our surroundings and searching for choking hazards or impromptu toys or wild adventures. You’re the most beautiful distraction, Bee, even when we’re not in the same zip code.
Your favorite word is “Off.” It’s an over-pronounced version (“Offffffffff!”) and you say it when you want down or out or up, dramatically enunciated like someone letting the air out of a bike tire. It’s as if you are so proud of the letter “F” that you can’t help but give it due praise. Like “F” is the best letter in the alphabet and you’d better say it like it is, man.
You’re also very into books, which pretty much marks the beginning of my happiest parenting phase yet. It’s picturesque even, how you sift through a pile of books to find your very favorite and walk over to our laps, climbing into them with vigor and then slowly shifting into the empty space between our crossed legs as we read about dancing pigs and rhyming cities and vibrant colors. Sometimes, you’ll realize you’ve forgotten your sippy cup and your stuffed fox, so you’ll let out an exasperated sigh, pull yourself from our laps with zest and return moments later, hands full of water and playmates.
You’re always doing stuff like that, Bee. Reminding us that life isn’t about the schedules or to do lists or dinner plans, but it’s about the people and the playmates and your stuffed fox. It’s about secret bobby pins and mixing bowl mayhem and sure, throwing raspberries onto white walls.
Because most of the time, the raspberries wash away. And other times they leave a stain, a marked presence of a day that felt frenzied with distractions that were so important we can’t even be bothered to remember what they were in two days, three months, five years. But then you walk through the door, hands full of water and playmates. Water to wash the stains, playmates to make another.
And so it goes. Business trips and time apart and overpronounced F’s. But in the end, we get to reunite. We always get to reunite. Me, you, your father, our playmates and the stuffed fox.