I'm not sure when I first noticed the DNA of my family's footsteps, but it was when I was recovering in our downstairs guestroom with my day-after-Christmas knee injury when my notice gave way to affection. What a peculiar thing to appreciate – like, even – knowing who would be walking through my bedroom door before I heard their voice or saw their face.
My husband's steps are consistent with who he is: deliberate and even. Funny how his stride belies personality.
My daughter's, on the contrary, are the opposite of who she is; I'm amazed someone her size can cause me to imagine a lumbering elephant, a herd of buffalo, a lummoxing clodhopper outside my bedroom door. In her defense, it's a hardwood hallway and even a pindrop would echo, but her Native American name is Thudnerfoot. "Fairy steps, Baby," I've said a thousand times a thousand. She's proud when she remembers.
My six-foot baby boy has a light step. Not quite silent but catlike. If you can hear someone coming, but barely, it's him.
And then there's my middle child. My first-born son. This one who has just closed the door on high school, the one perched on the edge of our nest and poised to take off.
His steps are my favorite. He's a pony; not on even ground, but on the flight between upstairs and downstairs, between coming and going.
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His is an uneven gait, a show pony's trot. A prance, a dance…carefree spirit puppeteering his feet.
To some I must sound crazy, to write about and wax poetic about my family's footsteps for cryin' out loud, but not to a mother. No, not to another mama, I think.
It is a mother's lot and grace to notice the things the world will never see in her children; to find delight in the common and otherwise taken-for-granted. Wise is the mother who calls out and names as good a birthmark, a physical anomaly, an impossible cowlick…or any of the other things that make a child different. Special. Unique...
Precious because it is that birthmark or physical anomaly or impossible cowlick that sets them apart from every other person on the planet.
Our culture tries so desperately to cookie cut young people; there's so much pressure to conform to an impossible standard that only lives in magazine covers and imagination.
A mother notices and celebrates milestones, yes, but isn't it the ponderings of her heart she treasures most? The minutia of a fleeting moment that no one else may ever know or witness that she gathers like golden crumbs?
So, yes, I listen for my son's trot and quiety thrill to the timbre of his step.
Both joy and dread fill my approximation of him–shoulders, broad; body, lean and sculpted; heart, on his sleeve; confidence, a roller coaster.
He is perched and poised on nest's edge, leaning into the wind. I sense his eagerness, though it is tinged with hesitancy, and rightly so. He knows that first step is big and charts direction.
His sister launched before him, so I know too well his steps will soon be an echo in my heart.
Oh, how I'll miss the elephants and ponies.