Tell Me Again

We’ve begun our second year of life in Australia, and it’s going by faster than the first.

I remember the tedious days of January last year, when everything was an uncomfortable first: walks through the summer heat to different locations (typically, the gym, the bakery, and the wine store). The first day of school for The Kid and childcare for Little Brother. Our first time at church. First time on the ferry. First mental breakdown at IKEA.

Now, we’re circling back. But things can still feel new the second time around.

LB is meant to start a new preschool next week. In true helicopter mom fashion, I’ve arranged for him to remain at his current location also until I’m sure he likes his new gig. Which will come in handy when it turns out that LB School, The Sequel may not accept our doctor (not government)-provided immunisation form. Which I have to get signed by a justice of the peace. Which has to happen by tomorrow.

TK starts school next week: Year One, aka first grade. He’ll have a different shadow therapist this year, which I’m still crying about, and new people along with old friends in his class. We’ll walk the same path to both a new and different experience, one that beckons and looms, that leaves me hopeful and anxious.

We’re swimming this summer, every day, and The Husband turned to me last night from the pool and asked, “Could you have imagined last year that they’d be this far along now?” The question resonates across the facets of our life, these boys becoming seasoned travellers, students, friends, toilet users, nonstop talkers, and for over a month every waking moment (and some half-asleep ones) of my days have been consumed by them: their demands, their questions, their laughter, their fighting, their tears. No, I couldn’t have imagined where we’d be now, with LB leaping from the side of the pool and TK shooting underwater without floats attached, these boys who had to be carried around in water a year ago.

I could never have imagined it.

We have visitors, the Yankee Mom and Dad, and as we show them our city–our home–we revisit so many places we’ve shown other people, and places we frequent ourselves: favourite restaurants, the Opera House, our beaches. We see these sites through year-old eyes and new ones, knowing them and learning them all over again.

And these damn kids, man: as the summer rolls to an end, at least the non-school part of it, I want to hang on to what is beautiful about it even as I don’t have a square inch (centimetre) of mental or physical or emotional space to myself. I stifle screams when I’m asked to tell another of the same stories: James eats all the toys in the world and goes to jail; Will eats only junk food and becomes like the guys in WALL-E. The same narratives over and over, and I tell them to ears that know the ending but still need to hear it anyway.

Yesterday, when I was at a breaking point, I left LB with our guests and took TK to therapy and ventured out to a branch of my gym near his centre, one that I’d never visited. It was gloriously empty but for one or two others, and after my workout I wandered to the women’s locker room, which held signs pointing to a relaxation area. I hesitantly pushed the door open and inhaled the scent of eucalyptus and the sound of silence, and though I couldn’t stay, I was renewed.

Later, after a day full of joy and regret, patience and seething, I approached the boys as they sat on the couch. “Hi, Mom,” TK greeted me. “Sit by me,” said LB. And I sat by them, these two people who always welcome me back home to the same stories, reminding me of all the ground we keep covering and the grace that keeps meeting us there.

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