Butterfly dance

April 27, 2012

Dot has a new nightgown, made from light-weight cotton with a pattern of brightly colored butterflies strewn across it, a ruffle at the hem. N brought it upstairs, fresh from the wash, last night, and she happily stripped off her shirt and insisted she wear it. Then she twirled around the kitchen, laughing.

Butterfly girl. Rainbow girl. Bright spark.

She danced with her daddy, round and round the living room to Beth Orton, one of N’s favorites though I find the sad echoes in her singing almost too lovely to bear sometimes. I guess that’s one way I’ve really changed over the past four years. I shy away from certain beauties I used to seek out. N held Dot in his arms and looked at her with so much love and happiness on his face that I was torn between laughing and sighing. They ran out in the cold drizzle to look for the moon, and, not finding her, came back to me.

Dot reached for me and took my hand, slid down out of N’s arms, still gripping his fingers tightly. She made us hold hands, too, and we found ourselves a circle of three, swaying and ring-a-rosy-ing to the music, directed by this tiny, whispy-haired girl who somehow knew that right then the most important thing was for us to hold hands and dance. So we dance, our little family together, surrounded by soft lamplight and music. And I was swept up into an intoxicating sort of happiness, knowing that this was a moment I would never forget, knowing that these are my loves, these two. And that I am their love as well. And that we have a few precious moments to hold hands and be who we are right this minute and love each other fiercely, and dance.

And the itch in my hands as they wanted to reach for the child whose hands we aren’t holding – how do I explain that it added to the dizzying beauty of it all without devolving into that silver lining business that I hate? We are three and we make a good three, but our fourth – I still long for him. We are complete and also forever incomplete and this makes the moment so dazzlingly bright that my eyes puddle with tears.

It’s so exhilarating and terrifying to know how precarious this is, how ephemeral we are with our fragile and miraculous joys, our brightly colored wings not meant to last. I can’t hold it in my mind for very long.

But we have a little time to make much of. And the dance – I think somehow the universe will hold it in its memory, this bright flash of a moment. The joy and togetherness and fractured loveliness – they matter, somehow, to something larger than myself, larger than us. I hold on to that while reminding myself of all I can’t hold on to.





  1. “We are complete and also forever incomplete and this makes the moment so dazzlingly bright that my eyes puddle with tears.”
    Gorgeous. Evocative. All of it. I want to gulp it down. I know….
    x Louise

  2. So perfectly put. This gives me hope that the sweetness won’t always be bitter.

  3. I wish I could say something more profound than that this is beautiful and it made me cry, but it is and it did.

  4. Simply beautiful, Erica. You’ve captured what it is like to live as a perfectly imperfect family so well. He is loved. He is missed.

  5. Oh my! Tears here, so beautiful, I can see you all so clearly dancing.

  6. So beautiful. You’ve captured that dazzling brightness so well. I wish that your fourth were with you.

    I understand about the itching hands and the addition that brings. No silver lining but . . . something extra.

  7. Choked up by the mental images here… first of the three of you, and then of the silent fourth. Just lovely.

  8. I want to say something profound but this is so beautiful and so perfect, anything I try to say will be dust compared to what you wrote. *Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful*.

  9. Ridiculously late comment here. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve read and re-read and re-read this. I love it so much.

  10. yes, incomplete. always that tinge of melancholy.

    And moments like that will persist, Dot will carry it forward, and pass that love on and on and on

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