It would be tough to keep up that intensity. The kind where you cup your hands and imagine that all the things you’re grateful for in life are right there, floating in your palms and you breathe in deeply. It’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever smelled. It would be tough to keep up that intensity, which is why I think these feelings ebb and flow. So they don’t completely exhaust you.
When your kid comes frighteningly close to being hit by a car, you might find yourself in a moment just like that. In a palm-smelling moment.
I couldn’t stand it after a while, that feeling I get when my love for my kids overwhelms me. After that eventful day, when the kids were asleep and after I’d kissed both of their little heads a thousand times and smothered them until they said “Mom, we can’t breathe,” I went into the bathroom. I closed the door behind me and knelt down in the dark, leaning over the cold, plastic toilet seat cover. Thank you, thank you, thank you for protecting him. I said it to God (I believe in God, by the way) and to my grandmother (whom I talk to almost daily) and to anyone else who may, in their spare time in the afterlife, be watching my life unfold – when they’re not floating on clouds, drinking wine that never gives you a hangover or makes you too drunk, and eating paté and cheese that only makes you healthier and more beautiful with every bite. Or whatever else people do after they pass on.
Do most people feel a rush of gratefulness while resting their head on a toilet?
The problem is that I don’t remember what happened. It all happened so fast is what people usually say after they experience a stressful or dangerous situation. They say that, it turns out, because it’s true. The brain short circuits, maybe? Shuts down for a second or two to avoid a fucking stroke? I was already across the street chatting with our friends who we’d come to visit. Michael was leaning into the car to get Madeleine from her car seat and Luke took it upon himself to unbuckle his seat belt. He was so excited to spend the day with his friend. And as kids do he began to run across the street just as a car briskly made a turn toward him.
I don’t remember why I turned around at that moment. Maybe it’s that mom thing moms do. Eyes in the back of the head. I shrieked and shouted and put my arms out shouting No! No! No! Wait! but for some reason I can’t remember (there’s just plenty I don’t remember) if my legs moved or why they didn’t. Seconds later I thought how I’d wished for my body to have been between that car and my boy, but I couldn’t get there in time. The car stopped and Luke is fine and we’re all fine and everything is fine. Fine, fine, fine. What I’m left with now is that feeling only a parent can have when you let out that breath of relief, like poking a tiny hole at the base of a great, big balloon and hearing the shhhhh of air escaping and the balloon shrinking down to a flimsy, rubber squirt.
“Luke will always remember now,” Michael said.
“Because I freaked out?” I asked.
“Because of how you reacted. You reacted like a mother.”
“I didn’t want to say something or shout something, I wanted to move,” I said. “I don’t understand why I couldn’t get there fast enough.”
Michael said, “He’s fine.”
I am so relieved. I’m also the shrunken piece of rubber with the hole in it.