Monday, May 2, 2011

the solar system


When my oldest son was about 2 years old, he locked himself in our car. We were parked in front of our former business, an alpine refuge high in the mountains. You can read about our times in the refuge here, where my children grew up with their nonno tending our hens and rabbits, gathering mushrooms and wild blueberries. We had just arrived from the village below with groceries, and somehow my son was still in the backseat of the car, I remember he was holding a popsicle, and he managed to close the door and promptly press down on the door lock, locking all the doors. He then climbed into the front seat and began to beat on the window, and his little foot knocked the gear shift into neutral, so the car began to roll ever so slightly. We were perched on the top of a mountain, and only 15 yards away there was a cliff, a cliff like you only see in the Dolomites, a cliff leading to another cliff, and finally into the abyss below.

In the fashion of a young mother with her first child, I panicked. I screamed and fat tears rolled down my face, all while I was trying to reason with my 2 year old son, telling him to pull up on the lock, pull it up! A quick thinking customer ran to his car and pulled it up against the bumper of mine, so I knew the car would not tumble down the mountainside, and that we would somehow get my son out, but my tears and panic would not abate. My son's face went from mild surprise to fear to full on rage. He threw his popsicle at the windshield. He laid back and beat his feet against the door. He gripped his own hair in his hands and pulled in fury. The expression in his eyes was that of a wild animal caged and fighting. He could not get out. He had lost all reason. He was powerless.

I had a vision of those eyes recently. I was at my desk, looking over my unsustainable work schedule. The schedule I am forced to maintain for now, just to keep up. I glanced at my bills, my older son's ACT study materials and thought of my younger son's generally impossible nature. I wondered when they would somehow become men. I thought of the mini solar system that my life felt like, with me the fulcrum of so much in my orbit. I was the sun, and if I dropped out, the rest of the planets would plunge and crash. I felt like my little son, trapped in a small space, banging my feet and pulling my own hair. Let me out! I want out! The panic rose up in my throat, and the immense, enormous, monumental responsibility of my family felt like it would drown me.

We got my son out of the car be removing one of the rear windows. Somehow my husband, the guy who can literally do everything and fix anything, removed a car window and replaced it on the top of that mountain, without breaking a shard of glass or making even the tiniest scratch on that car. My sons heaving sobs turned into bouncing joy and then a heavy snore as he passed out in my arms, and he forgot the entire incident. I never forgot the look in his eyes, though, and the terror he felt at being trapped. I just need to remember that he got out. He was rescued without a scratch. My husband saved him. And sometimes he is also the only thing that saves me, from feeling like I am the creator and sustainer of all this gravity.

We forget the hair pulling and kicking when it is over. We only remember the joy of being saved.