I can remember rocking Cohen as an infant in his room in our old house. The yellow glow of the streetlight dimly illumined the outline of the blue curtains his great grandmother had stitched in preparation for his arrival. A small CD player crooned lullabies, and our first board books lay shiny and new in neat stacks on a sturdy bookshelf that is now broken to pieces. I held him close with my nose to his cheeks and I imagined how he– this infant– would take care of me as an old woman. I saw him carrying me up the stairs, my arms draped over his strong, broad shoulders, my legs too weak to carry the vessel that would be my body. In my mind, he carries me the way my mom carried my grandpa in the weeks before his death– our bodies frail, rested, and fully reliant. The tiny life I held in my arms that night would one day hold me. Past and future blurred. This baby holds me.
It is an odd thing, to recall a vision of the future within a memory. What was and what will be blur together in this present moment– this Now in which I write. This now is– as all the great mystics have said–the only reality. This now holds eternity within it.
This Now holds a six year old Sophie awake in her bed, spinning yards and yards of stories, words tumbling from her rosebud mouth; words that were once indecipherable have become inextricably linked with meaning. Through her smudged, purple glasses– she no longer sees just pictures, but now understands the words that will one day– and I see this future– bring her to life.
This Now in which I type holds the softly breathing, three-year old Ellie. Bruised knees, orange toenails, hair uneven from too much twirling. She’s in our bed, comforted by my sheets and my presence. She is dreaming of the joy she has brought and will bring.
This Now in which I type holds the eight year old Cohen writing at his new, black desk by the light of a lamp that belonged to me as a kid. He scribes thank you notes for his birthday, testing out loopy and unfamiliar cursive letters. He wears ninja-turtle footy-pajamas and his tongue sticks just slightly out of his mouth as he concentrates. He takes the time to write out the word “sorry!” to the respondent whenever he makes a mistake.
This Now holds a sleeping, open-mouthed Mae, her belly full and content, her skin shiny and smooth and covered in soft pajamas now faded from her sisters’ wear. Everett fell asleep a while ago, “finally” content to sleep in his own bed after weeks of only sleeping in our arms. A few nights ago we had to let him cry; it was necessary and so awful. I know this “finally” that I type will one day only be fleeting, and I hope the future me will show the current me some tenderness, will tell her it’s all right that we did this. I believe she will speak tenderly to her past. This future me whispers what she knows from experience and what I know from advice: that it’s all fleeting. I cannot seem to shake myself of the gravity of this truth. And perhaps I cannot shake myself from this truth because even now I hold this future wisdom. By grace there are glimpses of eternity. The baby I hold, holds me.
Within me lies the woman I will become– and perhaps it is she who whispers to me these truths I cannot shake. All is well, she whispers gently, all is well because all will be well.
It is true we contain multitudes, for within us lies both past and future. Within us lies the eternal Now.
“I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
“…And then I turned again to that other world I had taught myself to know, the world that is neither past nor to come, the present world where we are alive together and love keeps us.” – Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter
” In every cell of our body, in every trait of our face, in every movement of our soul, our past is the present.”- Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now