When I was really young my grandpa always asked me ‘a penny for your thoughts’ and I never knew what he meant and he never explained because he just laughed and I never asked because I just stared, but now I get it and my grandfather is long dead so I can’t give him what he’s asking for or tell him what he wants to hear even if it’s not what he wants to hear.

My mom used to write notes on my birthday cards and graduation cards like ‘cherish the moment’ and ‘live life to the fullest’ and ‘when given the chance, I hope you dance,’ and when I think about it now and ask myself if I’ve been dancing or cherishing or living to the fullest, I’m not sure I can answer with confidence one way or the other, and I’m not sure what be here now sayings really mean, like what that looks like, what that feels like.

When my mom died I was in law school and the last thing I wanted to do was to go back to school, go back to contracts and property and constitutional law and legal writing but I did because I thought doing the hard thing is what my mom would have wanted, what would have made her proud.

Last night Kate and I have Ellie a bath because she had almond butter on her forehead and orange pulp between her fingers and dirt on her feet but she didn’t want to sit down in the tub and I checked the water and it wasn’t too hot and then I put my feet in to show her that it was fine, but she still didn’t want to be in there, she kept reaching for my legs and pulling herself up and out, and even singing didn’t help, even singing the we will rock you song but instead of saying rock, I said bathe, but she still didn’t want to be wet, so I fast scrubbed her head, face and butt and rinsed and pulled her out because I don’t want to force her to do what she’s not into—I just want her to be warm and clean and safe and happy.

I think what would have made my mom proud is the same thing my grandpa was offering me a penny for. I bet my mom used the Hallmark phrases because saying ‘do you’ wasn’t a cultural quip yet and inside her birthday card cursive was the same seize the day sentiment in Ram Dass’s psychedelic book Be Here Now which makes me think that one word we use to describe this phenomenon is love and that it’s hard to pin down exactly what we mean by this feeling but I think what would have made my mom proud is the same thing my grandpa was offering me a penny for and probably the same reason I pulled the baby out of the tub. And I’m not really clear and what neurobiology or subconscious motivators are at work, but I bet parents and grandparents want to hear their child tell, speak, whisper, shout their thoughts because in a sense giving birth to a child means that now as a parent, as a person the meaning of your existence is now bound up with this little being who doesn’t want to get in the bath, or whatever the case may be. And because of this, when it comes down to it, I bet my mom wouldn’t have given one iota of a damn if I dropped out of law school if that’s where my heart compelled me because what’s important is that our children are warm and clean and safe and happy.

Maybe clean is negotiable.


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