In Celebration of Usefulness
All three of our sons have had birthdays in the past three months. Another year older, another year gone.
While road-tripping over spring vacation, my husband and I were sharing laughs over those years now gone with our littler - now - bigger ones. I reached for this beautiful book and opened to the entries by my all-time favorite poet, Sharon Olds. She spoke to my earnest collegiate heart in Contemporary Lit class and still resonates with me today.
As I began to read this poem aloud to my husband, tears welled and my voice cracked over the simple words that somehow evoked the sense of joy-loss each birthday brings. I hope you find it as moving as I did.
I'll play Ninja Death with you
tonight, if you buy new socks, I say
to our son. After supper he holds out his foot,
the sock with a hole for its heel, I whisk it
into the wastebasket. He is tired, allergic,
his hands full of Ninja Death leaflets,
I take a sock from the bag, heft his
Achilles tendon in my palm and pull the
cotton over the arch and instep,
I have not done this for years, I feel
intensely happy, drawing the sock
up the calf --Other foot--
as if we are back in the days of my great
usefulness. We cast the dice
for how we will fight, I swing my mace,
he ducks, parries with his chain, I'm dazed, then
stunned. Day after day, year after
year I dressed our little beloveds
as if it were a life's work,
stretching the necks of the shirts to get them
over their heads, guarding the nape as I
swooped them on their back to slide overalls on---
back through the toddler clothes to the one-year
clothes to those gauzy infant-suits that un-
snapped along the seam to lie
fully open, like the body first offered to the
soul to clothe it, the mother given to the child.