Gasp By Melissa Lipnick
It's October and the sky is yellow. The fire is hot, the marshmallows burnt. The baby is asleep in my arms.
You three move quicker then I can document. The photos are blurry, like the moments in memory. We still say “snapshots” and here they are, ready, blurry, or not: marshmallows roasted. Three of you on a tiny red slide. Pajama bottoms falling down. Chopping wood with daddy. Fussy baby. Sad third child. Angry third child. Scared second child. Provoking second child. Loving second child. Moody first child. Leader first child. Anxious parents. Miscommunications and fixes. Hugs and pushes. “I’m learning,” husband says. He means the tending to the fire. I mean at life, as I nod.
There are rhythms to our chaos. Like waves that cascade, the tiny rhythms are these blurry photos from one hiccup to the next. A triumph sits heroically in between. The waves grow bigger and I see them in seasons. 'This too shall pass' is on repeat when we are at the top of the surf, unbalanced, afraid to drown. Then just like that, kicked out on to the beach. Not so unlike the time I found myself spit out onto the sand, with new awareness of our fragility, after the great Atlantic had mercy and let me go.
That evening, after the orange sky and sugar energy ran out, while my children snored, while I sat awake again on the couch, our next door neighbor died. Gasp. Quick deep breath, shocking news. Over and down the waves, under water, break through, Gasp. A soul waving at us from across the driveways under the orange setting sun, then gone. Gasp. Distance of time, already making the memory of her blurry. Quick, quick, another wave is coming. No time for deep breaths, just gasp. Quick, snap, document, remember if you can, then, move on. It's done.
Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.