On the night I leave for Florida, Aaron almost made me break one of my fundamental rules of communication—never Facebook status update about how great your marriage is. Boyishly, he asked earlier that afternoon what my favorite food is, explaining that he wasn’t sure he knew the answer to a question as important as “what was your favorite Nick-at-Nite show when you were a kid? Patty Duke or Mr. Ed? ”. He’s off to pick up his computer to work at home on Sunday and comes back with a bouquet of flowers, crab legs, shrimp, and a bottle of wine of which I drink and dote over a luscious tablespoon. The dinner concludes with a card and a small gift for my trip—a PEZ candy Valentine’s dispenser. The candy exits through the mouth of a heart. I am to think of him whenever I pop a PEZ on my three-day trip to FL.
And I do. I think about him and Clara a lot. Without Clara in my arms on the flight, I have time to peel off the taunting $4.99 sticker from the water bottle—“You paid WAY too much for this, Sucker!”, I take notes for this blog on a yellow legal pad, I am gracious and eager to offer my aisle seat to a distraught mother, I watch other people’s children—freakishly sappy for my own, and I do not cringe when the pilot announces a 15 minute delay due to a mechanical issue. Time does not matter; a four hour flight to Salt Lake City is not long. A forty-five minute layover is not too short. I am, after all, in and out of the bathroom in less than two minutes—the time it normally takes to find a diaper and wipes.
I board the plane and immediately hear “She gives me love, love, love, craazzy love” playing over the PA system. A song about “crazy love” seems ill-fitted with all the rows of fifty-somethings clumsily texting with their index fingers and the twenty-somethings hiding behind their Apple laptops. For the bajillionth time in my life, I think the human race’s capacity for crazy love is lost to too many Tetris games and fragmented sentences.
Yet, the Tetris-playing man sitting next to me in 33 B abruptly asks his grown daughter in the seat in front of him if she has her bagel. “Are you eating it?”,” he asks. “Do you want some of my sandwich?” She takes a quarter of his egg-and-sausage sandwich and gives him a smile with her mouth full of bagel and cream cheese. I think, these too will always be my questions: do you need anything and can I give it to you? They are the questions for every parent who, when they think about their children, feel their hearts literally fill up with gladness.
Before I had Clara, I don’t think I heard a single baby cry. I didn’t see the young fathers try to comfort their wailing six-month-olds while tired moms mouth, “Maybe she’s hungry.” There were no six-year-old sisters with matching backpacks and pajamas, eagerly asking their parents what seat they would be sitting in. The mothers holding babies on the airplane weren’t exhausted and distracted. There was Sherry. And sometimes Aaron, but mostly there was Sherry jotting notes on all her legal pads.
The crazy love is in that egg-and-sausage sandwich. It’s in the mad desire to satisfy another human’s most basic physical and emotional needs. It’s in how when you have one child, you have a part of everyone else’s. When you hear about the one- and three-year-old left by their mom in the car in thirty below, you turn savage for a brief moment with detest. You want to fight for neglected children and hold babies that are crying. When I labored Clara out to meet her world, I think she left behind a space large enough to love all the children who suddenly reminded me of her. And, I think that’s how the world survives. It survives when we finally hear the crying, when we see the struggling, and when we learn that in every outstanding Tetris player is a man whose preoccupying thought is, what can I do to make you happy.