the butterfly effect

Last night as we slept I was vaguely aware of my son rolling and moaning in his sleep. In the morning he arises crying with a fever (101), his body hot to the touch, cheeks flushed, a very sad little guy.

I am grounded at home. My plans canceled, priorities shifted.

My husband removed pizza dough from the freezer last night to thaw. After Nels falls back into a fitful sleep in the early afternoon, I decide to use the dough to make a veggie calzone. Sophie grates cheese and cuts broccoli; I blanch the latter with the handful of green beans Nels chose at the market the other day.

My daughter ventures out into the sunlight to choose the herbs for the pastry. As she snips with kitchen scissors she gets very excited about herbs – specifically, gifting and selling them. She begins to cut them (we have a lot) and arrange beautiful bouquets in canning jars and glass dishes. I tell her to stop, wait – we have to figure out who these will go to. She decides to give them, along with tender broccoli shoots, to my mother (who will visit later in the day) and our friends who live a few blocks away. The rest she will put in packets to sell at the Public Market.

I tell her I can’t go with her to distribute greenery while Nels sleeps – but I ask if she thinks she can walk down to our friends’ house on her own. She thinks she can. I know Sophie, and I know she is the perfect authority on her own limitations. So we talk a bit about the trip – she tells me to come looking for her in ten minutes if she’s not back, which I find very sensible. She runs off and emerges dressed in her new robot t-shirt and an old-fashioned ankle-length skirt, both items I’ve sewn for her on a whim. I feel a moment of gladness she still loves the clothes I make for her. She leaves, glancing at the meter-reader as she floats down the walk, her braid down the back of her shirt, the herbs bursting out of the glass. I wash dishes for a bit, half-lazily, then take a fresh glass of water upstairs for my son who will wake soon. I watch out the window down the alley my oldest has ventured upon and I wonder at how quickly things change – the asparagus in full stalks out of the bed in the garden, the azalea in full bloom. A child who goes off on her own with confidence and gladness.

Being a parent sometimes means, for me, watching my job description change – and ultimately vanish. My daughter embarked on a series of projects with confidence; not needing me, getting phone calls, making phone calls, going on walks, commerce, setting up a sleepover with my mom and walking out the door all packed with nary a look over her shoulder. This means I’m doing my duty right, I suppose. It half feels like pride in a job well done, half feels like vanishing.

So later today I don’t mind to spend a good part of the day holding my son’s hot, dry little body in our sun-washed loft.

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