I stepped outside tonight to feel the wind upon my feet. Today, January 28, it was 73 degrees in Kansas City. Winter will return in a few days, with cold and snow, but tonight, tonight! I heard a barn owl amidst the wind rustling through the branches in my backyard. Something small and furry lives under my deck. I heard it turning in its bed.
I remember sitting on my best friend's graduate school balcony in February 1997. It was a miraculous 70 degrees. I was living in Chicago at the time. I thought Kansas City must surely be a magic place, so close to my parents but yet so mysteriously warm.
I moved here in 1998.
I'm not sure I could live somewhere completely without seasons. I'm not sure I could appreciate the wonder of a 70-degree January day if my skin weren't acclimated to zero degrees.
Everywhere I went today, I saw people baring winter skin in shorts: jogging, popping into the grocery store, playing in yards. We all smiled at each other, because we know what is coming. That this is a respite from a normal Midwestern January. We got a gift we weren't supposed to have.
Fifteen minutes ago, I cradled my daughter's head in my arms as she drifted off to sleep.
"Never leave," she said.
"No," I said. I didn't promise, because I can't promise. The only thing assured of all of us is that we will eventually leave.
"Not yet," I thought, instead, to myself.
I thought about the pictures I saw online recently of children climbing across broken bridges and up precarious ladders to get to school. I thought about the conversation I had with the woman who cuts my hair about how when I was a girl they didn't even have seat belts in the back of cars, let alone five-point harnesses and rules about snowsuits and car seats. And yet, even then, parents were promising their children they would never leave.
That we persist, that we survive, is a gift of chance and in my mind, God.
As I felt my daughter's head grow heavier, I said thank you.
As I felt the wind on my feet to the background of the owl's rough song, I said thank you.
Heart beats fast, colors and promises.
How to be brave
How can I love when I'm afraid
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt
Suddenly goes away somehow.
"Never leave," she said.
And from the scary parts of life, from the boring parts, from the hard parts ...
being her mother is a reprieve. She is a 70-degree January day. She is my heart on the outside of my body.
She is my life's work.