Teeny tiny floppy ears
Summer in Ontario is beautiful. Instead of the unrelenting curtain of North Carolina humidity, we have crisp evenings and temperate mornings. Because thermoregulation is so difficult for my body, I used to spend the hot summer months in North Carolina with the weight of anxiety squeezing my ribs. Every outing was a calculation with ice packs and a pre-cooled car, and the fear that the van might break down or the AC would go out at a doctor’s office or or or.
In 2017, it took 15 minutes in 78 degrees (25C) for me to develop severe heat-related illness that sickened me for weeks. I remember, and my body remembers.
While I still have to miss out on some activities in Ontario, I can show up more often. The other evening, after Khalil had finished his last chicken nugget and the final pile of ketchup, I asked if he wanted to go on a walk. The evening was cloudy with a slight breeze; a neighbor cleaned her car in a sweatshirt.
That morning, Khalil had lost his first tooth, and tooth fairy excitement was bubbling. A perfect excuse to get wiggles out. David helped me unload my wheelchair from our van, and Khalil and I set off. I can’t remember the last time that Khalil and I were out in the world alone together. I don’t drive, and until recently, I haven’t felt confident that Khalil wouldn’t run too fast and too far for me to keep him safe. I wrote years ago about the phases my relationship with Khalil will go through as a disabled person, and here we are, entering another.
We crossed the street to the sidewalk and turned to the right, along the water. In our house, we easily fall into our ruts — repeating the same requests, corrections, and boundary testing. He pushes for more attention, more freedom, and more input. David and I push for more rest, more predictability, more compliance.
But on the walk, just the two of us, we chatted. His little scratchy voice, with feigned nonchalance. He noticed a bald eagle and pointed out some crows blocking our path. I shared that someone once told me that crows remember faces and can hold grudges — that if you do something mean to a crow, it will tell its friends and point you out in the future. Rapt, he reached for my left hand, and we walked on, hand-in-hand.
A block away, some neighbors were outside their house, talking with their grown children and we stopped. Khalil told them about his tooth, and Paul mentioned that the flower Khalil had given him at the park recently was in a miniature vase inside his house. Khalil beamed.
We kept walking and Khalil looked for flowers. He pointed to the right, asking, “Are those peonies or hydrangeas? It’s hard to tell from this far.” At that moment, I wanted to pick him up, squeeze him to my chest, and tell him that he was perfect. I didn’t. He doesn’t like dramatic reactions.
We kept walking, nearing the spot we call Slime Beach when we spotted giant poppies. We crossed the street to look and wondered why they might grow so big. A British woman in her 70s, with her gray hair in a ponytail and a posh accent, stepped out of her house and asked if we were interested in seeing baby bunnies. She said that every evening when she waters her garden, four baby bunnies hop across the yard, no bigger than a palm.
She told us that her husband is quite ill and so she has been stuck inside for months and that her garden has suffered. But she said the baby bunnies have been a bright spot this summer. And just then, they hopped across the yard. Teeny floppy ears. “They are beautiful,” Khalil whispered.
I wasn’t dizzy or nauseated. My vision was steady and I didn’t even consider calling David to rescue us. The weather was safe and our neighbors are lovely and I thought about how some moments really are perfect.
We started home and Khalil asked if he could ride on my lap. He climbed up and held my arms and asked me to go fast. I did. We laughed and hollered and I worried we were disturbing someone’s dinner but I didn’t stop. We screamed, “I LOVE YOU,” over and over and over.
As we approached our house, we saw another neighbor out front, watering her garden. Her 3-year-old ate a popsicle in the yard, post soccer practice, red and blue dripping down her chin. We all talked about the ants and the poppies and how the fall’s apples have already started to grow. Khalil told them about his tooth. Eventually, David came outside and herded us home.
During that first Covid winter, before vaccines and when Canada and its snow were new and numbing, I found my emotions flattened — almost two-dimensional. My therapist said that seeking out one good moment every day was often enough to bring us back to life. And so I did, and it did. My days developed more texture.
Sometimes — when children are murdered at school, and the Supreme Court makes one decision after another that will cost even more lives, and dozens of people are found dead in the back of a truck because they were just trying to find safety, and loved ones get sick, and parenting and adulthood feel like one impossible decision after another — it can be easy to lose sight of the beautiful. I think we need to work for change and pay attention to what is already perfect.
Sometimes, like on my walk with Khalil, gratitude and goodness are impossible to miss.
I want to write about abortion soon. I grieved this week when Roe was overturned. I am angry. But I wouldn’t have always felt this way and I want to share the details of my own evolution. I will, soon.
I also have some writing-related news coming soon and goodness gracious I am excited to announce it. Stay tuned.
Thank you, as always, for reading my newsletter. As my subscriber list grows and I receive more messages from strangers I am awed that I’ve found a job that I can do and that I love.
No poem this month; instead, a quote from Cole Arthur Riley’s stunning book, This Here Flesh.
Wonder, then, is a force of liberation. It makes sense of what our souls inherently know we were meant for. Every mundane glimpse is salve on a wound, instructions for how to set the bone right again.