He stands perched on the top step of the hallway staircase and hurtles his soft, round body into space, trusting with full faith that my arms will find him.
His father reprimands him for toying with a fragile keyboard. Ashamed, he approaches me with his head hanging low, face contorted into a silent pre-cry. He burrows his flushed cheeks in the space beneath my chin. He fits perfectly there—the crook of my neck still his chosen retreat when the world comes crashing down on him.
We take a walk on a rare morning alone together. Sometimes I keep pace beside him; sometimes I fall back, letting him lead. To see what he can see. A toss of the head, a hand in his pocket, a glimpse of adolescence.
Now he asks that I not stand in the open doorway as he boards the kindergarten bus. I acquiesce, while secretly looking on through the side window as he walks the concrete path.
He falls one morning, scraping his knees. Instinctively, I run to him, giving myself away. When I reach him, he’s already lifted himself off the ground. Yet still he takes the hand I offer. This time, we walk together the rest of the way.
Wordlessly, he climbs aboard to be gone for the balance of the day. Are you ok? I call after him, needing more. Squinting in the early morning light, I catch a thumbs up from the school bus window. Enough.
A shift, as subtle as it is certain. As unsettling as it is reassuring. We sway, unmoored, tossed about in time’s turbulence—our heads wind-whipped, cheeks chapped. Our feet seeking steady ground. And always weighing. When to catch them. When to let them fall.