We All Need Rebar Beneath the Surface
May 6, 2019
I started thinking about rebar the other day while walking through a parking lot that was under construction. Rebar is that grid of rugged steel bars arranged where concrete will eventually be poured. It provides a layer of strength beneath the surface. It looks rusty to me, but it doesn’t matter because once the concrete is poured, no one sees it. It’s not meant to be pretty.
Rebar is there from the start to reinforce, I started thinking, to uphold. Concrete is strong under compression (being pushed together), but weak under tension (being pulled).
It’s the antidote to surface cracks. God knows I need that. Because when kids pull me one way (or three ways, more accurately), Paul another, my laundry and dishes another, and the things I need to do so I can keep on doing all the other things another, I feel that weak tensile strength. Like I might crack open if something weren’t holding me together beneath the surface.
It’s unseen. It holds shape, and therefore space, for what comes after it. For me, rebar is writing to unwind; it’s my mom’s words in my mind and in her old notebooks in my drawer; it’s faith in God, belief that something offers a hand as I go.
With rebar in place, I can just go on being. Waiting for Clay to creep down the stairs with bed head and say “Boo! Did I startle you?” every morning I give him the chance. Watching as Maeve grits her six teeth and holds my chin in her hand as if to say “You’re so precious, mommy” just like I say to her. Accepting Ruby’s invitation to play. “You be the mean bridge, mommy, and I’m your secret daughter.”
I could swap “rebar” with “Spanx” in this little essay and it kinda still works.