Our giant cottonwood trees have dropped millions of leaves onto the lawn. Each step Reef takes is a giant crunch of dead leaves, the only sign in
I peel my orange and take the first bite. A just-picked orange is better then candy. It’s the sweetest taste, and in the morning, the oranges are cold.
Image found here.
I stand near the tree and watch my little boy. He’s almost two, but for a few more months he is that precious age of one. Innocence magnified; jumbled words in the sweetest voice, still a bit of teetering when he takes his steps, “Momma,” he says when he sees me; like music.
Reef explores that backyard and our dog, Sierra follows, her behind wagging as she watches. She rubs up against him and he topples over, only to discover the leaves he’s been walking on.
I finish my orange and pick another. My fingers smell like orange perfume as I began to peel away.
Reef is in his own world as I stand near the orange tree, somewhat hidden by the branches. My baby walks to a back gate separating my yard with my neighbors. He pushes on the gate, a gate that must be as old as this 40 year-old house. And wouldn’t you know it, that gate lures itself open.
It must be like the secret garden, an unexplored place to discover. Sierra bounds into my neighbor’s yard and Reef follows, unaware that I’m watching his every move.
I finish eating my orange and waddle my six-month pregnant body over to the opened gate. My neighbors yard is huge, at least an acre, and it hits me like a crashing wall!
Her pool is not fenced!
It’s only been a few minutes, but I’m sprinting through my neighbor’s yard, holding my ball of a baby that’s growing inside me, and I don’t see Reef anywhere.
My neighbor’s pool is in another section of yard, separated by a waist-high block wall and as I get closer I see him. Relief washes over me and I stop to watch. I want to see what he’s going to do. He teeters near the patio of the pool, saying precious little baby words to Sierra. He doesn’t go near the water, doesn’t bend down to see what’s going on, he just stays with the dog in the grass.
“Reef,” I shout, my voice cracks as I start to cry.
My little Reef, named after the sea and my favorite author and my great-grandparents.
And he turns to look at me. His long fly-away hair that curls at the tips, almost white it’s so blonde. His jeans that barely stay up, held up by his diaper because his little buns are so tiny and thin.
“Momma,” he says and he runs toward me.
I pick him up in my arms and he smells like oranges. His soft cheeks caress against my lips and I hold onto him tight, knowing all too well that this moment could hold tragedy and heartbreak just as easily as it holds joy and delight.
When the counselor gets home he attaches a new latch onto the gate. He secures it about 10 different ways, testing over and over again if the gate will open with a push, a kick, a tug. It seems secure, but is it?
That night, I cry in bed and the counselor tells me everything is alright. I need his strong arms around me because I can’t get the “what if” out of my head.
The only way to find comfort is to trust in God.
Image found here. Artist, Greg Olsen.
God was with Reef the entire time, most importantly, those desperate moments when he was alone. When have I been alone, teetering, so to speak, near danger, and God spared me?
Our babies, growing up into amazing people and it’s up to us to keep them safe, to hold them when they get hurt, compliment their accomplishments, kiss them until they physically can’t take it anymore (that’s my philosophy, at least) and trust that God will take care of them when we’re not there.