Me! Two!

I cannot see your face in the mirror.

Standing behind you at the porcelain sink,

I lean forward so my arms circle you.

Your hair tickles my collarbone.

The green stool is pushed too far under the basin’s edge—

your feet balance precariously on its very back, heels in the air.

But you pushed that stool into place yourself, so I say nothing.

I carefully watch the edges of your scrunched up sleeves as you stretch for the faucet’s stream of water to make sure the water doesn’t creep up your arms,

soak your cuffs. You probably wouldn’t care,

but I learned handwashing from your brother, who always did.

If I put my hands below yours under the water you don’t mind.

Otherwise you say “Me!” and push back against me with your shoulders.

I turn off the tap, give you your soap first.

Lavender fills the small room.

Dissatisfied with your lather

you present your hands to me, thrusting them forward into mine.

I hold your right hand in my right,

your left in my left.

Neither of us speaks.

No sound but the soap as it slips and pops and slows the circles of my thumbs—

mesmerizing circles.

I don’t think about teaching you the right way to wash your hands:

the number of seconds, the length of the ABC song,

sequence of fingernails and wrists.

I feel your small hands submitted to mine like an offering—

slices of mango laid reverently on an altar,

a candle lit beneath a photograph.

These small hands that came into the world curled up under your chin,

remained that way for months

before you reached out to the world,

before you learned to push a flat palm out to say Back!

Stop! Or with a slight flick,

aWay!

Slow bubbles over your upturned palms

One fingernail cut crooked to leave a tiny triangle on one side

scratching at my skin as I massage the tips of your fingers the way I would knead your father’s scalp or rub my  mother’s feet

Thread my fingers gently between yours, softly separating them, not too far apart

Your head turns back and forth to watch my fingertips intently

palpate one hand, then the other.

Soap casts its spell over us both,

and for as long as you are willing

has the power to stop time,

here at two.

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6 thoughts on “Me! Two!

  1. I read this poem days ago and find the images keep coming back to me. That says good things about any poem! Thank you for capturing this moment, and for helping me to remember to capture moments in my life with my children.

    • Thank you for telling me! It’s not often that meditative moments descend upon me as I’m mothering, but as I watched my daughter watch me soaping her hands, it felt like that action expanded to include everything there is. It was very satisfying to feel that just washing hands together is enough.

  2. Thank you Michelle, from someone who doesn’t have kids, for sharing beautiful and insightful moments like this with others. It’s a gift I can vicariously enjoy.

    • Your enjoyment of my children saves me when one of them is screaming bloody murder for asking him to clear his plate from the dinner table, and the other is biting my shoulder just for the fun of it.

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