I’m not sure if it was the gentle breeze through the bedroom window or the loud “thunk” against the upstairs wall that woke me this morning. I rolled over to face the alarm clock and thought “damn, up already”. I lay there as if remaining motionless would somehow urge her back to sleep, then a second “thud” of a fist against wall plaster. A second muttering of “damn” and then another motionless moment.
You try not to start the morning on such a sour note, but the gravity of the next few hours lies as heavy on your heart as the lead shot-filled blanket that we use to calm her does on your chest. Mornings are particularly rough, she has no more interest in being readied for the day than we do readying her and she decides to fight every step of the way.
As it turns out, this morning was different. I’d gone upstairs to open the half-height door we installed in her bedroom so she could come down, and she just lay there – still, quiet, staring at the ceiling fan as it’s lazy circular motion slowly died. When she’s calm and awake in the morning it usually means one of two things: you’re in for an emotional storm very soon, or she’ll have a wonderful morning. The latter is so rare that we don’t even give the thought of having two options much daylight. We simply automate the process and hope for as much efficiency as possible. Aim for an 8:45am bus departure, narrow the focus and run with it.
Once we managed to get through the routine of face washing, hair brushing, eye drops and a healthy dose of applesauce-slathered medications – you get a chance to see the actual “face of the day”. Will it be pleasant, terse, agreeable? You never can tell. Today however, she simply put her arms around my waist and buried that big mop of hair against my chest and squeezed. She wanted to be hugged and held close. No punching, no pinching, no obsessions, just a brief interlude of intimacy. I found the action so surprising and heart warming that I nearly began to cry. She held close to me and laughed when I said a few things about being a “crazy Korean”. She somehow finds humor in the intonation of the statement.
Moments like this are precious, even to the point of me looking forward to seeing her at the end of her school day. I held on to that thought all day – a loving, gentle daughter that really just wanted to be with me. Its those huge emotional swings that exhaust me. Going from bitter anger and disappointment to elation, back down to melancholy, then a brief infusion of hope. I envy people who can stay steady though all these changing tides. I imagine them as being so confident and competent that they can hold to one spot and weather the storm like a lighthouse. I realize that in truth, they’re probably simply emotionally numb; dumbfounded like a robin that just flew into a closed window.
As for me, I need to learn that life can be full of pleasant surprises even when you’re confident that none will appear. Surprises like a warm, loving hug when you least anticipate it. Lesson learned.