As is quite common at the end of the year, I find myself replaying all kinds of memories as I reflect on the past 12 months. I am imagining what life felt like a short year ago, what I’ve learned, what’s changed, and what could possibly be happening one year from today.
I think of last New Year’s Eve when Little Foot was a little week old. King Ranch and I were little week old parents with hardly a clue of what we were doing. My mother-in-law was in town as a week old grandmother learning for the first time what it’s like to hold your kid’s kid and how there wasn’t ever a love she’d felt like it. These week-old roles were all so new to each of us and the only way we navigated through it all was on the efficient resource of love and support. King Ranch must have hugged me more that week than he had in the years before. I must have kissed Little Foot a thousand times. King Ranch’s mom cried more than I’d ever seen. Tears and touch spoke louder than any words ever could.
I think of my best friend, the Unicorn. The smile that spread across her face the first time she met Little Foot was one I’d never seen. She’s always had a lovely Crest-worthy smile, but it was more pronounced and effortless as I placed Little Foot in her arms. She didn’t know what to say – much like the morning that Little Foot was born and I stumbled over some sounds, the Unicorn just over and over gasped. Her eyes glazed over and she hugged him up close to her chin. She finally muttered, “Who are you?” and looked up at me as she winked.
I think of the phone call I got from King Ranch saying that he’d just completed his interview with a company north of Fort Worth and that he’d been offered the job. There was excitement and pride in his voice that I’d been waiting to hear for a long time. The offer was nothing but promising. I was at my parent’s house with Little Foot at the time. When I got off the phone and told my mom, you could see the perfectly equal parts of her reaction: joy and sadness. She was a yin and yang of joy for our new opportunity but sadness that we’d no longer be on the other side of town. Admittedly, I felt the same way. I remember my mom and me hugging each other tight – tighter than we had in a very long time. I remember that her hair smelled like coconut. Words didn’t do much that day – tears and touch did the talking for us.
I think of meeting Bunny for the first time – learning that the seller of the property was planning on leaving her behind and wondering how on Earth someone could just walk away from such a beautiful creature. I squatted down and looked into her deep brown eyes and I knew that even though I’d only known her for minutes, I could not say goodbye to her. She looked right back into me – her eyes a welcoming million miles. The seller told us that she was usually shy but with me, she leaned all her weight into my side as I patted her fuzzy and surprisingly large head. I never told King Ranch this, but before we left that day, I whispered in Bunny’s ear this: “We’re coming back for you, honey. This is still your home.” Knowing she couldn’t understand my words, I know for a fact that she saw my tears and felt my touch. As King Ranch and I drove away, Bunny brayed loudly. I knew I’d hear that sound again very soon.
I think of the first yoga class I taught at the new studio near Fort Worth. It’s a small studio with an intimately connected group of women. I was an outsider, nervous, and unsure of the expectations of the members. I couldn’t tell you what I taught in class – I only remember making a point to rub the shoulders and back of every single participant in class at some point. I wanted them to know that I would be there for them. I didn’t have the words. How do you tell someone you’ve just met that they have nothing to be self-conscious or insecure about when they’re with you? They didn’t know me or where I came from. So I touched them all and did my best to pour my warmth and appreciation for them down through my fingertips. They don’t know this, but I cried the whole way home that day in gratitude because I believed that I’d found my first local friends – and that made North Texas a little more like home.
I think of the first time Little Foot said, “mama” and meant it. I was in the kitchen sauteing peppers and onions for vegetarian tacos while Little Foot was rolling around in his baby walker. Over the sizzling, I thought I heard a tiny voice say, “mama” but I couldn’t be sure so I placed the wooden spoon on the counter, crouched down to his eye level, and pointed to myself.
“Who am I?” I asked.
Little Foot smiled and flailed his arms.
“Who am I?” I asked again.
“I’m mama,” I said. “Mama.”
I started to stand up when suddenly, “Mamama.”
“Mama?” I asked, pointing back at myself.
“Mamama.” Smile. Flail.
“Mama,” I muttered, picking him up from his baby walker and hugging him tight. His curls became damp under my tears. The onions and peppers ended up being overly cooked that night, but Little Foot and I must have said ‘Mama’ back and forth 500 times.
I think of the day King Ranch called me and told me he’d suddenly been laid off from his job. I remember him saying that he was collecting his things and would be home in an hour. I remember wanting to jump through the phone and embrace him because I couldn’t wait that long to wrap my arms around him and beg him to believe that everything was going to be just fine. After we ended our short phone conversation, I opened the front gate to our driveway and waited for him on the front porch. Little Foot was on my right hip and I held a 16oz can of cold Miller Light in the other popped and ready for King Ranch. As he pulled into our circular driveway, I hurried over to the driver’s side, placed the beer on the edge of the truck bed, and wrapped my free arm around his slightly-damp-with-sweat waist. The three of us stood there for a few moments underneath the pecan trees in a three-way hug. Everything was going to be okay. It would. It will.
I think of what I might be saying next year and realize there’s no way I could possibly know. This time last year, we didn’t know King Ranch’s new job. We didn’t know Bunny or Tyrion. We didn’t know what Little Foot’s voice sounded like. We didn’t know what unemployment felt like. We didn’t have chickens or a compost. We didn’t tag-team all night to take care of a restless baby. I didn’t know that King Ranch could make up a song about anything to sing to Little Foot. We just didn’t know.
In the end, it’s the now that really matters. It’s me laying in bed typing away at this blog that I truly hope people enjoy reading while King Ranch and Little Foot are napping next to me. Their eyes look exactly the same when they sleep. It’s knowing that Bunny and Tee are out in the yard paling around – realizing that this time last year even they didn’t know each other.
It’s the rise and fall of each breath. It’s the warmth underneath this blanket. The blessing that is life one minute at a time. The letting go of worrying so much. The letting go of ‘what ifs’ and ‘shoulda/woulda/coulda.’ It’s staring into your loved ones eyes not caring about the mistakes they’ve made and knowing that they don’t care about yours.
What’s different than this time last year? Absolutely everything. Every single thing.
What have I learned? In a nutshell – I’ve learned to love more deeply than I thought possible. I’ve learned to be more present. To appreciate the simple beauties in life like a baby breathing, a tighter hug, and a slightly different smile. I’ve learned that a few breaths from time to time, especially when things are hectic, can make a huge difference. I’ve learned that even in the wake of chaos, life is so overwhelmingly fabulous. Our mere existence with one another is such a wonderful opportunity that I just don’t want to take for granted.
What will we be doing this time next year? Only time will tell. And I guess I shouldn’t bother myself with wondering – it’s not like I could predict in any certainty.
I do know that there will be love – for King Ranch, Little Foot, Bunny, and Tyrion. There will be love. The rest, I hand up to time.
This entry will end the ole’ Ranch Life’s Donkumentary Volume I. 2016 will bring Volume II and God knows what that could possibly entail. I hope you’ll all tag along with us.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. Stay safe. Stay present. Stay strong.