How little a thing we are when we first begin to be a thing at all. Little breaths, babies’ breaths and babies’ tears, babies’ coos, the little things that define the undefined, the unmolded yet unique being called us. Oh delicious, soft fat arms, milk sent in the fold of chubby necks, the sweet pink of soft cherry cheeks. The us in us is fragrant with possibilities folded into jumpers and onesies and serenaded by a cacophony of vowels and consonants into a guttural noise that means us: Mary, George, Jane, Robert. We hear the sound that means us and we smile or scowl in rotation depending if we want to be wanted or are vexed to be disturbed. Silly brilliant things are names we wear like crowns defining ourselves by them as they define us to the world. Mary Ellington George St. Mari, would be as sweet if she were Jane, just Jane.
As baby bloom lengthens to childhood’s bumpy first steps the toddler emerges with creased brow and declares NO! NO I shan’t! No, I couldn’t possibly! No to everything you say. Simply NO! And little arms are crossed and little heads are shaken in resolute defiance, the simple NO sufficient in its rebellion. I am me, we all cry out. I shan’t, I won’t, I flatly refuse. The beauty of saying No, of being naughty, the tasty succulent delight of owning oneself fully and wholly in the now. NO! We cry, NO! But soft months that creep on cajoling or disciplinarian feet teach us to be pliable, polite, reasonable, inoffensive and sociable. So, we blend, we merge, we become one with society until our sacred self, our defining NO becomes a thing we no longer hold in our hand but have given, somehow, away to the masses.
And how we love the masses. We want them to love us back as we run to catch the ball, hoping it was thrown to us, wanting to hear our melodious syllables called out, here to me Jane. Let’s play Charlie. You are my best friend Mary. We run to the others, are polite and pliable, becoming not so much an us as a we. The we is a many legged creature which stumbles and tumbles through girlhood and boyhood raising one we up, as it throws one we down, decrying that this we was rude, and that we was wonderful, and don’t we all agree that the brown eyed we is awfully good looking in his new jacket? And we clutch to our we’s as they roll us about, spitting us out, taking us up, including, excluding, laughing, and rebuking, until the entire thing is smashed by the something called two.
And so goes us, so goes we, now there is you, and now there is me. A touch of the hand, a catch of the eye, I brush back your hair, your hand touches my knee. We are sighs on summer breezes, kisses on grassy lawns, hands held between classes, stolen kisses on shadowed porches, a hand slipped up under a shirt. And the yearning grows and grows until we are no longer children but grown grasping things alive and alight with living. We say hello, we say goodbye, hearts break, tears dry, we part, we come together, we lose sight only to find one another once again in a different city, in a different time when laughter lines our eyes.
And if we are smart, we have found our NO! Stomped our foot, said hell yes to all the right things and hell no to all the wrong. We’ve held our own children and set them firmly on their feet. Only to linger now in this kind light of long ago loves and look, just look into each other’s eyes. I who was me, you who were you. And we hold our coffee cups in our knotted hands and remember how brilliant it is to be…just us.