By Nancy Linnon
He slid down the big Curly-Q slide today. It was
starting to rain, a light drizzle rare in our desert town, but we agreed
it didn’t matter. The feat was too momentous. He knew it, and so did
While kids his age and height (2 years old, 3 feet tall) have gone flying
down such slides for months, Jake has generally held back. I’d stand
at the bottom and yell up to him “I’m right here, love bug. Mama will
catch you.” But he’d give me that look, the one that knew that safety
at the end doesn’t mitigate the fall. So I never pushed it. He would
go when ready, though privately his timidity pushed at my own vulnerability:
It wasn’t wise to be so scared—as I had been since the day he was born:
Not that something would happen to him, not that I would do something
wrong, but terrified that I would not be able to mother at all. I was
afraid I was not giving or selfless enough to be a mom, afraid that
caring for him would mean I’d never again care for myself.
So today, after a couple of times down the straight-shooting orange
slide, his announcement—“the red one now”—came as quite a surprise.
But he was clearly ready; he hardly hesitated. Didn’t ask that I move
around to the side so he could see me. Didn’t make sure I was perfectly
positioned where he might land. Just sat down at the top, seven feet
above the ground, pulled his legs around in front of him, and whoosh.
I was prepared for big round eyes as he rounded the slope of the slide,
arms flailing because he couldn’t keep his body erect, or a panicked
“too fast,” or “scared.” But none of those things happened. With a light
touch from me, he landed on his feet, happy. We were both so excited—mine
demonstrated by a loud “Yeah!” and “You did it, honey! Way to go!”;
his taking the form of a small squished smile that I glimpsed as I hugged
him from behind, right before he hurried to the top again.
Just as Jake was about to begin his second descent, two girls from across
the street—probably 8 and 10 years old—headed toward us with their dad.
Jake spotted them and stood up from where he had carefully sat down.
“Hello everybody,” he said, his hands gripping the yellow rails of the
play gym as he peeked through. “Look at me.”
I was sure his voice had dropped an octave.
Then, down he went again. Of course, the other children hadn’t heard
his small voice, intent as they were on reaching the swings, their father
intent on watching them. When Jake landed, he took a step toward them:
“Look at me! Look at me!” I stood behind him, worried, that he might
be crushed by no one seeing his accomplishment, that he’d start to think
it wasn’t important. But apparently, my witness was enough, as he pivoted
on his tiny Tevas and scrambled to the top, more sure of himself than
I had ever seen him.
“Again, Mama,” he yelled, positioning his body for a third run.
Had he grown a micro-millimeter taller? Had some synapse in his brain
connected differently today? Was it the clouds and the rain, or the
gathering purple dusk—the time of day that he now announces is “mama’s
What makes the intimidating not quite so anymore? What makes us move
forward instead of cower? What is the moment that the scream of fear
becomes barely a whisper, and we find ourselves doing what we never
is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher in Tucson, AZ. Her work has
appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Yoga International
and is forthcoming in Mothering magazine. Her essay “Hair”
was a finalist in the National League of American Pen Women contest
(San Francisco branch). She is currently finishing her MFA in creative
nonfiction at Antioch University in Los Angeles.
by Dinty W. Moore