The back of my head touched shoulder blades as I squinted into the sun, up the ladder rungs to the sky. One, two, three, four, five, six — nope, too high, back down again — five, four, three, two, one.
I wanted to get to the top of the shiny metal slide, but not if it meant my chubby legs in anklet socks had to climb twelve rungs to God.
Teary with frustration, I rammed a scuffy Mary Jane into the cement-sunk post, backed away, and let the kids in line behind me take their turns. As though twelve steps were nothing, they monkeyed up the rungs to the clouds, sat their polyester shorts onto the hot silver, and scooted down the chute.
My turn to try again.
One foot up, then the next, going for a third when my kneecaps went soft.
The height of the thing oofed my breath.
Then there she was, there she so often was — my sister, five to my three, a professional at heights.
“I’ll come up with you,” she said, “I’m good at holding the railing.” Her tummy against my back, she braced me. We counted together, our feet in mirrored parallel
To the top, wheeee
She was one the first time I climbed the lazily stretching staircase, needing two steps to cover each broad riser, and settled myself at the peak of the green plastic platform.
It had been 25 years since I’d been down a slide, but our baby girl, drawing upon all the force of toppling-sideways body language, was insisting. She wanted the ride.
I settled my hips into the trough, spreading legs to make a bucket for her body. As he handed her up, she reached into my outspread arms, her white onesie crumpling into rolls of pudge. I tucked her into a leg embrace, and we launched
From the top, wheeee
Even at four months, he presented like an accountant itching for the excitement of a new necktie. He couldn’t roll over yet, but he considered himself a full three-year-old, twin to his big sister.
His eyes told us: I want to do that.
The glittery red shoes that went tap-tap-tap all over the hardwood floors at home were full of playground sand when she clapped them together and made her legs into a sled. Slowly, gripping the sides, she ruh-rumpfed her rear end halfway down the slide, two feet from the bottom, and announced, “I will hold him so tight, Mom. Brudder will be laughing with me!”
Shaping her arms into a stiff elliptical, she received the gift of him with awe. I held her hips; she cradled his body. Slowly, inching down the plastic, they shared the delight
Of a sheltered wheeee
Their voices filtered through the floor, words indistinct, murmured sentences of tones, the punctuation laughs and silence.
Belly down, I lay on the floor next to Byron, our mats parallel as we propped ourselves on forearms in Sphinx Pose. The intended tension was between floor and torso; the realized tension leaked from my eyes.
He looked over to me and said, “Aw, listen to her up there, in his room.”
Leak turned to flood. “I know. I was glad you were asleep during Bananasana because the tears filling my ears were ridiculous. She totally invaded his space and now listen — she’s talking and talking into his silence.”
The big sister with cradling arms is not always a talker.
Pushing elbows into the ground to increase the compression in my lower back, I added, “He came home, said the rejection is no biggie, and went to his room. His vibe was all ‘It’s fine; moving on,’ but when I hear her in there now, it cracks me open. She’s not letting him be alone with it.”
We lowered our heads, relaxing foreheads onto knuckles in Crocodile.
And through the floorboards, we heard the smile in his voice arcing
Into a carefree wheeee
He came downstairs at midnight, his face a beam, laptop in hand.
“Madre. Can I show you something?”
The answer would never be no.
“Leggy and I made a list. Here are the colleges I’m interested in now — it’s kind of a relief, really, to feel like I can find the right place for me. We brainstormed earlier. She typed it into these two categories. Do you want to see?”
Sensing the conversation, she wandered down the stairs to look over our shoulders as he explained. Eventually, he said, “Okay, before I can narrow these options, I need more information — acceptance rates, application fees, areas of specialty, the spirit of the place…”
She interrupted, her thought an extension.
“Give me an hour, and I’ll have a spreadsheet for you.”
Fifty minutes later, he and I sat hip to hip on the couch, clutching our bellies with laughter as we watched cells on the live document fill with summaries of various colleges.
“Rich, white, cliquey.”
“Bougie teens in the outdoors.”
“Very academic, no social skills.”
“STEM culture, but not nerdy.”
“Cold air, warm hearts.”
“Allegedly the best dining hall food.”
“Spanish architecture. Conquistador vibes.”
“Really small, so don’t make any enemies.”
When she came back downstairs to continue strategizing, we were wiping our eyes. Together, we talked essays; we talked planning. We said “Conquistador vibes” at least six times.
His neck relaxed, head tipping to shoulder blades as he looked up at her perched on the back of the couch. He started a thought, she stepped in,
and they were off — catching each other as they ascended
To a dazzling wheeee