Holding tightly to my hand with your pudgy fingers, you look up at me with those beautiful, brown eyes, shining like lighthouses in the night, beckoning me back to a place called home. “I don’t want to be big,” you lament, glancing longingly at your sister who is nestled against my chest. The place you used to be. The place you loved to be.
Like a roar of racing thunder, your big brother comes flying by on his shiny bike with handle brakes and the impressive tires that carry him faster than your hand-me-down balance bike ever will. Always lagging behind, it seems. Left in his shadow, you begin to cry, with insight and articulation well beyond your three years, “It’s hard to be the little brother.”
People had cautioned me, as my belly and heart were busy growing bigger, “Oh, so you’re making him the middle child,” they would say knowingly.
But I did not believe in the ruin they called the middle.
“Better watch out for that middle child!” they had warned. Yet even through all of those bedtimes as we were laying together in your room, when my belly was growing between us, pushing you further and further away from the cradle of my embrace; still, I had not believed them.
I refused the idea that I would let you get caught up and lost somewhere in the agony of the middle. For I am the anchor, how can any tethered to me ever be swept away?
Despite my best intentions, here you have found yourself, my beautiful, brown eyes: A place where it is too insufferable to be little; yet, the weight of being big is too much to bear.
I try to find you when you wander in at 3 am, sleepy-eyed and full of sadness, looking for a cuddle. Though you enter just as I have gotten your baby sister to sleep again, though there are precious few hours left until your brother will wake full of life, I meet you in the darkness in the middle of the night; I try to rescue you from your wandering.
But how can I be the rescuer, when I am the wanderer, too?
How can I be the lighthouse, when I am the ship adrift at sea?
How can I be the fortitude, when I have trembling knees?
How can I be the mother, when there is still a child living within me?
How can I be the resiliency, when uncertainty is all I see?
I am lost right in the middle alongside you.
You see, little one, you will find yourself in the middle many times over as you live through this life of yours. In the midst of euphoria sweeter than blossoming spring, you might meet despair come shatter your heart. In the midst of realizing all that you could have ever hoped for, you might meet fate, come to steal it away. In the midst of discovering your infinite strength, you might meet chance, come to cripple your dreams. In the midst of acknowledging the love for your life, you might meet time, come to dance with mortality.
Yet, little one, how the middle can save you. Oh, how finding your way to the middle will bring mercy greater than any reprieve. In the midst of sadness deeper than the blackest sea, you might meet kindness, come to fill you up with peace. In the midst of hopelessness more endless than the galaxies, you might meet love, come to lull you into a dream. In the midst of agony that renders you to your knees, you might meet divinity, come to breathe into you relief.
In the midst of this living and this dying, you might meet the soul, come to enchant you with eternity.
They told me to watch out for you — how the middle, if not careful, would be the most troubling of all places to be. But my darling, here is what they did not see: We are all wanderers of the middle.
The middle is the only place to be.