I am tucked inside an old mill building in a favorite renovated warehouse restaurant overlooking the Androscoggin River. The day is grey and cold with a steady drizzle of rain falling and a subtle fog hovering over the landscape.

My eyes have caught sight of an apple tree perched on the bank of the river. It has lost nearly all of its leaves and color and yet one side of the top of the tree remains covered with apples. They are a deep crimson and complement the otherwise pallid scene. I imagine holding one of these apples, wondering whether they are firm—made solid by the dipping temperatures in the night under the moon’s glow—or soft, made tender by the dampness, the rain of the day. It’s hard to tell. It’s so often hard to tell what will make us strong and hardy, what will soften us on the inside.

I’m driving now in a torrential downpour. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and nearly dark. The rain is pounding on my windshield obscuring my view as I enter the highway. It isn’t clear where one lane ends and another begins. Cars are juggling for a place to be. I’m going to pick up my boys—much later than usual.

I can’t believe how dark it is.

My radio is singing out a ballad in such contrast to the weather that it feels as if I am traveling along in a warm cocoon. I’m imagining my boys, there, away from me in someone else’s care.

I can picture them—knowing just what to do—the faith they have in me to only leave them in a place where they will be safe. For just the briefest moment I get a glimpse of who I am to them. Navigating the stormy highway, I hold this thought—of me—as a mother. I wonder how it is that I came to be in charge of these two precious lives. I do not pretend to own them, and yet I guard them with every cell of my being. I marvel, again, for the briefest moment at the magnitude of this responsibility.

Here I am now, again, in the later evening. A fire is lit, the house is still. It continues to rain steadily, soothingly. This is the holiday season.

I’ve grown easier with myself and curtailed the need to get it all just-right. I’ve only just taken down the Happy Halloween sign from our door this evening—there is a string of pumpkin lights still lit in the kitchen. Their glow is festive and warm.

I am noticing a growing spaciousness within myself. I am noticing a greater tenderness with time. This is all we have—these moments—each one of them—and the manner in which we choose to greet them.

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