Real is a Thing That Happens To You

It’s the weekend – Saturday to be exact. I’m in a quiet house, curtains closed tightly against the afternoon sunshine. Body splayed awkwardly on top of our bed without having bothered to pull back the duvet. My head is aching again. This time it feels like someone has wrapped their hands around my temple, applying pressure and squeezing from all sides. I’m waiting for an Advil to kick in and take the pain away. 

I hear a good-natured knocking on the front door. A noisy entrance and typical toddler tears about leaving all of the fun behind. Henry and Brian come back inside. There’s a quick recovery at the mention of a snack. Lively chatter. Henry’s new baby garden gnome from Home Depot was waving. The big gnome broke last week. Watering the flowers. Garbage truck picks up garbage at the end of the driveway. Biking in the yard. Sidewalk chalk. Baby Shark sunglasses. Bad guy takes Elmo’s blanket in the helicopter. Itsy Bitsy Spider. 

Laughter. 

Singing. 

Joy.

Then, the sound of water running, hands scrubbing, a stool scraping across the floor. Covid hygiene routines are second nature now. 

“Where’s Peter Rabbit? Where’s mom?”

Henry. Running into the bedroom. Tiny, frantic footsteps. Always inquisitive. Always curious. Always learning. Asking a million questions. Trying to understand everything he can about the world. 

“Why?”

“Why?”

“Why?”

There’s so much to learn.

His little face pops up beside mine. With his feet on the floor, our eyes are level. His most current and pressing question: “You have a belly button mom?”

Oversized t-shirt pulled up. Pointing to my own belly. Soft. Jiggly. Full of stretch marks. Puckered. Scarred. “Of course I do. See?”

Always enthusiastic. Always genuine.  Full of love. “Ohhh! Nice belly button Mom!”

And that’s that. Tiny footsteps running out of the bedroom. Speeding off to a new adventure. Another room. Another question. 

 

But I stay put. It’s the weekend – Saturday to be exact. I’m in a noisy house, curtains closed tightly against the afternoon sunshine. Body splayed awkwardly on top of our bed without having bothered to pull back the duvet. Head still aching. Heart near bursting. 

His words remind me of the quote about the Velveteen Rabbit, and about the beauty of becoming: of being soft. Jiggly. Full of stretch marks. Puckered. Scarred. It goes something like this: “Real . . is a thing that happens to you. . . ‘Does it hurt’ asked the Rabbit? ‘Sometimes said the Skinhorse, for he was always truthful. [but] ‘When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”

A belly that’s soft. Jiggly. Full of stretch marks. Puckered. Scarred. A belly that’s all of those things tells a story of discomfort, pain and even frustration, but I don’t mind. It’s all part of love smoothing down my sharp edges, of taking the shine off, leaving just the most important parts behind. 

My head may be aching again. It may feel like someone has wrapped their hands around my temple, applying pressure and squeezing from all sides. I might be waiting for an Advil to kick in and take the pain away, but oh do I feel Real. Oh do I know what it is to be loved. 

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