Dan yells out from the kitchen, “Do you smell that?”
And of course I can, but that’s not the point. He wants me to tell him just how good it smells.
Joaquin is sleeping on my chest, his legs sprawled, his scalp sweating his gentle baby scent. His weight and heat are precious to me. His right hand is curled around my finger. In this moment, I don’t have to do anything other than breathe and I am everything for my child. My heat, my heart, my scent, the curve of my ribs, the softness of my belly, this is the language of heaven holding my boy’s innocence.
“I’m trying something different.”
“It smells beautiful,” I say, trying to keep my voice a low hum in my chest. Sol is on the seat next to me, his head shoved in the pillows, his butt facing me as an expression of his displeasure that I’m allowing Zaviera to wrap her leg around mine and to occupy the spaces on my body unclaimed by Joaquin.
“Sol, you can come sit by me, I’ll make room.” His butt goes higher in the air, his head deeper into the cushions. A muffled protest.
“You’re going to be proud of me,” Dan says, coming around the corner, a smile on his face. “It’s proof that I’m changing my ways. Guess what I put in the stir fry?”
Dan and I have a longstanding joke about our first real disagreement. It was an example of the differences in our natures. I wanted to use a pre-packaged seasoning for chicken when the package stated that it was a seasoning for a beef dish. Dan refused my arguments that Chinese restaurants offer the same seasoning and your choice of chicken, beef, or shrimp. He wouldn’t budge. The instructions said ‘beef’ and in Dan’s mind, you don’t mess with instructions.
“I used beefsteak seasoning on the chicken,” he says.
“Wow, that’s big.”
“I know, I told you. I’m changing.”
An hour later, I’m out in the kitchen with him. I sit on the counter, my arms wrapped around my knees. As a consequence of my three-day painting marathon my face itches, the inside of my mouth is sore, and I’m fighting the beginning of fever. A deep cough is already tunneling through my lungs.
“I had this crazy dream,” Dan says. “I don’t usually remember things like this, but it felt so real. We had another daughter.”
The skin on my arms and neck tightens. A tingling spreads across my scalp. I’ve had two dreams in the last week of another daughter. Each one was so vivid it disoriented me. In the few moments of transition between dreaming and wakefulness, I struggled with putting things in their rightful place. How did I let go of this child that was so absolutely formed? A sturdy body. Black hair. Dark eyes. A hand grasping for mine.
The dreams trailed after me through the day, a scent I would wander into unexpectedly, but didn’t know how to name. I’ve had dreams about pregnancy and childbirth and my unborn children and sometimes they had to do with childbearing, sometimes they were about creative projects or emotional healing. But this was different. Joaquin was my third c-section so we had the titanium clips put into place. Our small tribe had gathered, there would be no more. If it weren’t for those clips, I’d have woken from these dreams and announced, “We’re having a fourth child. A dark-haired daughter.”
I didn’t tell anyone about the dreams. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I shoved them back into the corner and carried on, but now here was my husband saying, “She had black hair. It was curly or full of waves. And she was strong. Like, I mean really physically strong.” He flexes his muscles, gestures to his biceps.
I tell him about my dreams of the dark-haired daughter. Neither of us know what to make of it.
This last month, my mind has been full of water. When I sleep, I dream of sacred pools, rain, floods, waves, oceans, and tears. The dreams overflow into one another and then trickle into my waking life until they carve away at my understanding of my day-to-day moments. Small acts are redefined. Relationships are broadened, deepened, cleansed.
At bedtime, I sit in the dark watching ‘The Rainbabies’ with my children. Joaquin is enthroned on my chest, the court jester as king. Zaviera is braided into me, she doesn’t complain, she simply claims what is hers and settles in. Sol has his surfaces pressed into me, his blanket tucked carefully into his sides. He doesn’t share the blanket because it might touch one of his siblings, but he is happy with the way his leg marks the edge of my leg, his shoulder against my shoulder. Our territories defined and peacefully laid down next to one another.
Sol doesn’t understand the movie. “What are rain babies?”
I tell him that they were given to the old couple by the sky because they couldn’t have any babies of their own. This disturbs him. “Don’t worry,” I say. “It’s just a story.”
I am grateful when he accepts this.
The old couple are rewarded for their devotion and love toward their rain babies. The rain babies are replaced with a real child. A dark-haired daughter.
“Some nights when the full moon shone the couple stood at the window
they watched their daughter, arms outstretched, hair floating in the soft breeze
twirling gracefully across the moonlit meadow
and the old couple found themselves truly fortunate for their happiness was now complete.”
And in this moment, as I lose myself in the story, in the heat and rhythm of my children surrounding me on all sides, I think I understand a small part of the dark-haired dream.