Honeysuckle and Mock Strawberries

I wish I could remember exactly how you said the word, “honeysuckle” last year. All I know is that you were obsessed with the bushes from May until sometime in the fall.

It started on our long walks around the three-mile loop. We went as often as I could until the pregnancy fatigue got to me. I remember vividly all the landmarks as I pushed you in the stroller— how we passed the yellow school bus before cutting down a side street, then the place where we once saw water bubbling from the ground, then the place where we could see mountains and then the bamboo (which you pronounced “boo bah”).

After the bamboo, we reached the honeysuckle and were just about halfway done with our walk. We would stop and pick the honeysuckle, and you would ask for flower after flower, sucking the sweet drops into your mouth. We rarely had time to try any ourselves, and you never wanted to leave.

Before long, we gave up on the long walk, but there were honeysuckle bushes near my mom’s house that bloomed for an incredibly long time. We always had to stop by when we visited, and you even asked us to stop the car if we weren’t walking. Sometimes it felt like an inconvenient obsession that I wished would go away.

My belly grew rounder as the season continued. You were a busy two-year-old who had just started to talk about the baby in my belly. When you grew frustrated, I could cuddle away your angst, and we took long, sunshiny naps every afternoon. You were usually easy to distract if you got upset, and I wondered whether the baby would disrupt the closeness and the quiet rhythm we had. I still couldn’t imagine a world where you would spend the night away from home or a world where I might be happy to see you go, just for a night.

As the honeysuckle slowly turned brown and disappeared, we talked about how the leaves would soon turn yellow and orange and it would be Fall. Then Winter would come, and it might bring snow. Then after Christmas, our baby would come. “After the winter, the honeysuckle will come again,” I told you, “and Baby will be here.”

A lot seems to have changed since then. The other afternoon, I drank in the May air, syrupy sweet with the yellow and cream honeysuckle flowers. And I said, “Look, Liam! Honeysuckle.” To my surprise, you looked confused. How could you have forgotten, though? How could you have forgotten something that you pointed out for months? And how could I have ever grown tired of picking flower after flower, pinching off the bottom, pulling the stem down just far enough so my golden-haired boy could suck the one tiny drop of liquid out? Those were simple, beautiful days.

Our days now are beautiful, too. But they aren’t quite as simple as our honeysuckle days. We have a three-month-old, just as we hoped we would when the honeysuckle came back. And you and I have both changed, too. Cuddles don’t fix everything. You refuse to nap, and if you do nap, you are impossible when you wake up. You’ve started hitting me when you get mad, and there’s a lot more screaming. In the midst of a tantrum, you told me yesterday that you wanted to “leave and go where no one could find you.” And as frustrated as I was, seeing your earnest little face in so much pain broke my heart.

In darker moments,  I wonder if we did something wrong in disrupting the peaceful life we had. Or maybe we didn’t disrupt it soon enough. Either way, I wonder why you seem more difficult and I seem more difficult now. Why is there shouting and frustration so often?

But they all say this is natural—as natural as those honeysuckle turning brown and the seasons changing. You are learning and growing. You want independence. You are developing your will. And this brings out new sides of me, too.

I realize that these days will probably fade in your memory, too. The days when it seems so urgent for you to be carried everywhere. The days when we get you a sprinkle cookie for helping me with the grocery shopping. The days when you want to run away, and the days when you say, “Don’t want to hit you ever, ever again, Mama.”

This year, it’s the mock strawberries in our backyard that have captivated you. You ask me to go with you to pick “wild strawberries,” and you particularly like to get the “super biggest one in the whole world.” And it doesn’t feel like an inconvenience because I know how quickly this will pass—how different we will both be by this time next year. Our life with you will continue to gain complexity, something I never understood until now.

I will remember this part of your childhood more than you ever will. And I don’t know what you will remember or when you will start to remember. But I do know that our days even now do matter; you are constantly growing and learning. So even if you don’t remember, whenever you smell the honeysuckle and taste that tiny drop of sweetness, I hope you have a memory of being safe, loved, and delighted in.

Guest post written by Heather Tencza. Heather is married to her college sweetheart, and they live in Georgia with their two little boys. She writes because it keeps her from talking too much (sometimes). She has been featured on several sites including Mothers Always Write and blogs at www.heathertencza.com