My ever gracious alively host, Alexander, has produced a new portrait of my children:
I adore it. I adore everything about it. Especially all the little touches that make it so extraordinarily specific to them and their relationship.
What’s that? You want me to discuss the portrait? You want me to go on at length about my children? How kind.
I’ll start with Mira, as she jumped off the page first. I mean, of course she did. Look at her. That is the hair of a child who likes to be noticed.
She denies it, but it’s true.
Every once in a while, she lets me soothe it with relaxer into these utterly stunning waves, straight out of the 1920s. Or she lets Popa braid it in intricate Roman fashion. But on the whole, wild and unruly is her chosen style.
Likely, that’s on account of the fact that her entire person is wild and unruly. She is the sort to run straight towards danger. She has a knack for finding the jagged edges on the world, where transformations are most like to happen, and brazenly flinging herself through them catching her omnipresent tutus on the way by. She subdues ordinary friction and drama with a glance, but only to create friction and drama that more suits her. She exists for the unexpected, and when things are going as expected, she creates it.
It can be a bit exhausting keeping up with her. I have more than once rolled my eyes in a parent-teacher sit down where she sullenly explains that ‘the vase was bound to break anyway’ or ‘he had it coming’.
But we’ve found outlets for her particular brand of crazy. Modeling, for instance, has proved a brilliant success, as it suits her desire to be seen, to destroy for the sake of art, and to gallop through adult spaces and dare anyone to question her presence. We also let her go on solo walkabouts at the end of the summer (although they have shortened in length, and she didn’t even go last year). And we let her have the odd glass of wine or champagne, often in front of the fire, where we encourage her to start creating through-lines in her philosophies and settle some of her anxious spirit.
We’ve also placed strictures, of course. Lately we insisted that she must learn to read, which engages her in the portrait.
Jeremy–J–already knows how to read. In fact, his position in this portrait is that of silent support, with the occasional correction, as Mira tolerates his interventions over anyone else’s.
That’s likely on account of the fact that J is the most patient, gorgeous, efficacious empath I have ever met. Ever.
I recently ran across an article that introduced me to the idea of ‘holding space’ for someone–existing on the periphery or centre of the lives around you, as needed, and swooping in or pulling back based on the requirements of others; providing support without judgement, advice, or didactic intention.
J holds all of us.
He holds you, even though you’ve never met, I swear to god.
He tells us that he was just made with an extra big heart, and that he chooses to fill it with love and kindness. Truly, this child…
Actually, that brings me to another point. Although J cannot remember how he died, Marcus and I suspect that it had something to do with his heart. His vocabulary is very heart-centric. He will tell us his heart is sad, when he’s upset. When he’s happy, his heart is happy. When he’s ecstatic, he often bursts into tears or falls asleep, because there’s not enough room in his heart for all his love.
He’s also rather small for his age–a suspected 4–and he sports ever-present circles under his eyes. He moves carefully, without the wild abandon of most toddlers, and sometimes we catch him taking a deep breath, almost as if to prove that he can.
We presented these lingering symptoms and behaviours to a pediatric death doctor–literally a ghost who helps little ones sort through their departures–and he agreed that it was likely some sort of failing of the heart that took J out of the alively world. A cardiomyopathy of some sort.
J seems utterly uninterested in diagnosing his death–Marc and I attended to this for our own edification and won’t be sharing the results with J unless he asks.
And that’s fine by us. We are more than happy to let him be what he is–careful, considered, and yet ephemeral and liminal. Almost otherworldly, at times, despite the warmth of his cuddles and his position as the flexible backbone of our family unit.
Other notes on the portrait:
The pets are Cozy–Lady Costanza of Motherfuck Island–and Earl Pink.
Those wings, J would want you to know, were a Christmas present last year–balsa wood reinforced with teak and embedded with jade. I made them, with help from Delphi for the stone settings. They’re one of a growing collection of faerie wings, which J hangs up around his room and selects each morning with the seriousness of a man selecting cufflinks for an interview. A pair of puffy wings with safety straps hang on J’s frog bed, so that he can be a faerie prince as he sleeps.
Yes, we field a lot of comments–vicious and curious, alike–about J’s hair. He said it best himself, when asked if he was a boy or a girl: Mostly I’m a faerie. I’m also four.
Yes, we also field a lot of comments about Mira’s hair. Or she does. With a reckless abandon for profanity.
(We tried to get her to swear less for a while, as seemed a befitting sort of thing for a parent to do. But she reminded us that she was over a century old, and therefore our ‘children shouldn’t swear’ argument held as much water as a sieve. She also challenged us to consider whether or not we would be so concerned about her filthy mouth if she were not a girl. Chagrined, we decided, fuck it. Fuck it, she agreed.)
Yes, I have the best children. Naturally.