“Where’s James?” the voice carried from the top of the stairs down to where I was sitting, at a table, sparkling wine in front of me and friend to my right on a Friday afternoon. “There he is!” came the reply, and two pairs of legs bounded into a playroom above us, where The Kid and Little Brother were playing, in the home of the girl who found him and the boy who was with her, both classmates of TK’s. The boys and I spent the next couple of hours there, LB doted on by the sisters and egged on by the friend, TK popping onto and off of the trampoline, into and out of conversations. I had a couple of glasses and some conversation of my own, feeling more at home than I could have imagined a year ago. Feeling settled.
I’ve gone from white-knuckling the steering wheel and nearly hitting everything to my left, to relying heavily on GPS to get anywhere other than down the street, to learning backroads and shortcuts like the palm of my hand. And when I think about how I learned the routes, how I found my way, so much of it is owing to paths that came before, that I never would have chosen but that became Our Way, the roadmap for our family engraved through blood, sweat, tears, and, finally, singing.
There is a lot of singing these days. A lot of Moana, specifically.
And a lot of talking. TK did both this week at the speech therapist’s office, a new one closer to our house. New introductions used to be daggers to both of our hearts, the anxiety within each of us fueling the other until we both left the situation besides ourselves…and each other, still, somehow. Now TK walks into a room and gives the stranger The Story of His Life, heavy on the info regarding which car we have and…well, everything, come to think of it, this little fount of knowledge where once there was silence. I had collected him early from school for this appointment and caught him telling the teacher he wanted to pick up the lunch order from the canteen, grinning after a successful gymnastics class, and if you had told me a year ago this would be the scene I was walking into on a Monday afternoon, I would have demanded you sit down and drink the good stuff with me. But at the speech appointment, the therapist could barely get a word in, then as she packed up toward the end he began singing. We’re having conversations about articulation and tongue placement, not coaxing individual sounds out of him, and I am just…in awe.
Both TK and LB have been wanting to hear their birth stories on repeat, and I’ve been telling the blood-free version, though I remember this: that TK’s began with a drop of blood and LB’s with a gush of water, and there was a time between which when I didn’t understand how someone could love their children the same, could avoid having a favourite, could have anything left over once she’d already been through it once. But I think now, after the blood and the water, the therapy and lack of it, the silence and the typical speech development–I think this: what a blessing that it’s all true, that you can love differently yet the same, that the fear your heart won’t expand for the second as much as the first is unfounded and erased.
I think now about how I can lie beside each differently: TK being head to toe with the occasional digging of his hand under my torso for warmth; LB placing his head right next to mine, his breath hot on my cheek. How, after my friend and I spent two hours in a cupcake-decorating class (followed by two even better hours at a wine-tasting festival), I knew from looking at my half-dozen which LB would want and which TK would choose: the brightly-coloured chaotic one stacked high with icing for LB and the shimmery intricate one for TK.
I think about how they each call me the same thing–Mommy–and the word from each can sound so different yet exactly alike.
And these children, these brothers, these paths, are more beautiful for being exactly what they were made to be.
From one therapy appointment to another, I hustled TK into the car he loves to describe to others and consulted GPS for the fastest route. When it refused to work, I just went the way I already knew, the Monday afternoon route. I thought while we drove about last Friday, when in a moment of wine-spritzed calm and clarity I had abandoned my typical worrying and just watched him and LB playing. How LB was right in the mix, loud like a waterfall, and TK was quieter on the outskirts. True to their birth stories. True to themselves. And in the momentary ebb of the anxiety that threatens to rule me, I saw them both in the future, being some version of their now, being right where and among whom they’re meant to be, and something settled within me when I saw the similarities and differences both as beautiful.