About Black Holes

I used to be worried about black holes, Bee says as she slices a hard-boiled egg on the kitchen counter, adds pepper.

Well, she smiles… I still kind of am.

And there it is, the thing I fully and finally have in common with my kid, this girl who is a mystery, who is equal parts the age she is and all of the ages she’s been, 5 years with me and a million without.

Me too, lady, is what I say, and what I think is that I am worried every day.

I am worried I’ll lose something trivial, like this morning when the pacifier fell somewhere in the grocery and I desperately scanned the store for a full five minutes, the toddler offering tired shrieks in the pasta aisle, in the toilet paper aisle, in the deli section. When we found it, by the carts, after his shrieks had diminished to hiccups, I worried I didn’t have the wet wipes with me.

I am worried that I’ll lose the important things, too. Her trust, her faith. His sense of security, his lightness. I am worried that the harsh words I lobbed yesterday squelched the hundreds of kind ones I’ve offered for years.

There is a daily influx of the vainglorious worries, too, in which I am worried the toddler eats too much salami, that we don’t get enough fresh air, that I bend too much to his whims, that I don’t bend nearly enough to her whimsy. I worry I’m not doing enough science projects with her, not reading enough to him. If there’s an emergency, does she know our address? Did I order enough outlet covers? Is the trampoline safe? Are we?

I worry for the inevitable and I worry over the already-happened. I worry that when they’re 25 and 29 they won’t come home for Christmas – or worse, that they will but won’t want to.

I worry over keeping them too close, holding them too tight. I worry, of course, over letting them go.

And while I no longer worry about black holes, I do worry on cloudier days that I – the whole I – might always be a shadow to them, fully unknowable, entirely a stranger. Who is my mother?, they will wonder at the woman chopping strawberries in the kitchen, and I worry I will not know, either.

There is little antidote once the fears rush in. But when you’re in the presence of a wise 5-year-old, you give her toast with her egg and you ask her what she does when she starts to get scared about black holes, and she will smash bits of avocado with a fork as she tells you this:

There’s not really anything I do. I just feel it and go play.

sandy foot

Monday offered us an afternoon at the beach. The day was windy and overcast, but we took it anyway. Sand in the car seats, seagulls stealing our sandwiches. Shell-hunting, of course, and when Bee found her first sand dollar and it broke in the plastic bucket, we both nearly cried.

Still, I fed the meter twice, not wanting it all to end.

Later that night, a red moon. Scout and I crept out of bed quietly to take a peek, but the red looked more peach to us both. Either way, it was a sight worth seeing. It looked closer, somehow, and rounder, right there on our own balcony. Big and muddied.

I don’t know what to do about the black holes and my own small worries, but when I think of yesterday’s tide and last night’s sky, I think of how gravity works. Of how the moon can pull an entire ocean, can make it dance in perfect rhythm, in perfect time, in perfect harmony with itself and the sea and the land and us all.

And I think of how sand dollars are formed and broken, of how tides rise and fall. Of how we drive twenty minutes in the hot sun, search fifteen minutes for a parking spot, drop a small fortune into the parking meter, stub our toe on the concrete as we drag the cooler a half mile or so – and we do it even still, over and over, just to bear witness to it all, to testify to the beauty, to prove that we are here amidst the corporal.

To make ourselves known to each other – ourselves and every fear within us.

To feel it and go play.

  • Beautiful!! Worry is such an integral part of motherhood, isn’t it? Instinctual maybe. Inevitable. I’ve been thinking about that lately too – how it peaks when the kids are sick, becomes more of a shadow when life gets busy… But it’s always there. Good that you named it. Lovely piece, and thanks for sharing.

  • “Feel It” is the key. Because no matter how hard we try to squash it in a box for later (or never), it will come back somehow, sometime, and most often when it’s least convenient. Go Bee – I learned this lesson as I approached my 40s; I hope she remembers it all her life. Hugs to you all!

  • This is so incredibly beautiful and telling. I am trying to practice the “feel it and go play” more these days and it makes life so much more beautiful (and light). Thank you for capturing this parenting paradox; it’s magic to us mothers.

  • My husband of 35 years 4 months and 19 days died the day after Christmas of pancreatic cancer. There is such much fear as I go from a life of 2 to a life of 1. The initial grief fog has cleared some, and I find myself feeling the fear for a while, then going to play a little bit. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing until you verbalized it so beautifully. That’s my new mantra! Thanks for sharing.

    • She is such a wise little one…just as you are for taking the moments to listen. Both will want to come home for Christmas and any other opportunity that presents itself, so you can cross that worry off your list. So glad you got to experience the water and sand in January….welcome home!

    • Dear Lynn:

      My deepest condolences. I am so, so terribly sorry, and I can only imagine that within your grief is a real and present fear of what’s to come. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to keep you in my prayers, that you’ll find continuous moments of peace as you feel it, and small slices of joy as you play.

      So much love to you,
      e.

  • Overwhelmed with a mix of happy and sad feelings. Such a beautiful read. Thank you :)

  • Children hold such wisdom in their little minds and hearts. If we could only re-learn how to do just that, feel it and go play. May God help us learn!

  • Oh! I so look forward to reading your posts! You always capture motherhood so beautifully in your words! Thank you!

  • I feel it and the feelings turn to tears. It is scary, beautiful and REAL. Awesome.

  • Your writing is divine, Erin – such sacred bits written so full-heartedly! I’m 3/4 through your book and equally don’t ever want it to end but can’t wait to finish it. It’s one I checked out from the library but will absolutely have to buy for my own to reference again. So many parts of it were relevant to my own experiences, but also eye-opening and new. A new frame and perspective on so many elements of life. Thank you!

  • Thanks so much for your words, Erin. You always encourage me to slow down and reflect. Feeling it is tough sometimes, but so necessary to be able to move on and be present with our sweet babies. Always, always, always learning from you as well as so many other incredible mommas!

  • This is so beautiful I had to read it several times to soak in each beautiful string of words. Thank you for this (+ all your writing!).

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