Revisiting

Hiya.

In (belated) honor of Mother’s Day, I thought that I would share a post that I wrote in 2011. I think that Asher was about 18 months old when I wrote this, but I’m pretty sure that I will be thinking about these car window down moments when he’s 40.

Car Windows Down

Yesterday when I picked Asher up I instinctively reached for the AC button, not wanting the car to be too hot or too cold and started to roll the windows up.  Before I clicked the button though, I looked in the backseat to see Asher’s downy red hair blowing straight up in the wind and he had both arms up in the air feeling the wind move through his fingertips with his eyes closed and the biggest grin on his tipped up face.  He was feeling the world, I could see it.

He was so beautiful in that moment.

So instead of rolling the windows up, I rolled the other two down and we drove on for 35 miles in the noisy sunshine filled cabin of our car singing the ABCs a little too loudly (me) and waving arms wildly in the wind (him) and as I was cruising down the highway a thought filtered through my mind that was so striking I had to stop in the middle of L-M-N-O-P to catch my breath.

I’ve known my whole life that this moment with my child was coming.

My mom used to pick me up from Mr. Ron’s (if you want to see my mama get all atwitter, ask her about Mr. Ron sometime) where I spent my preschool days doing the things that kids in Montessori preschools do.  One of my earliest and most distinct memories is of one of those afternoons in the car with my mom, or most likely a lot of those afternoons mashed into one golden moment; memory is broad-sweeping in its desire to distill.  Anyway, she worked as an educator in the hospital and so her workdays were marked in my mind with skirts and suit jackets, but in this memory I see her as I so often did, driving down the highway with all of the windows down in our blue Toyota Tercel (later dubbed the Blue Goose by my brother) both of our hair flying, her skirt pulled up over her knees, jacket off and in the passenger seat, fingers claiming a little of the blowing hair with her left hand and twirling it absentmindedly with her elbow crooked on the rim of the open window, her right hand on the steering wheel.  And that’s it, that’s the extent of the memory, but there we are, two women at opposite sides of the female spectrum, and I remember how free I felt, and I remember thinking how free she must have felt too.  I remembering thinking, we’re in this thing together.

Yesterday, in my own car, with my own son in the backseat, I could see the images of my mother and myself superimposed over the joy-filled bodies of Asher and me and it was one of those halting full-circle moments.  To feel that long-ago formed memory from the child’s perspective, I see my mother that I loved, confidently driving us home to dinner and bedtime kisses, patiently listening to me rattle on about all of the things that I never stopped talking about as a child.  To feel that memory now from a mother’s perspective, I think about my mom knowing that she was going home to an unraveling marriage, that she would have to cook for us, get a little girl settled for sleep, and a budding teenage boy settled from his own brand of divorced heartache, and I wonder what thoughts swept through her mind as the wind filled our car and blew us on home.

Just a couple of years after those car window down drives home, my mom would fall in love with her life-long partner, my brother would disappear into the world of college, we would settle into the house that I came to know as my childhood home, and the car window down drives would be replaced with my adolescent desire to control everything with air conditioning and radio stations.  But.  I can’t help but think that I can still remember a little of that acute observance that young children possess, and that my 4-year-old mind was watching my mom closely to figure out how to be a woman one day.  I can’t help but think that the beautiful abandon that I witnessed twenty five years ago reared its head again yesterday.

Part of parenthood is falling madly in love with your child, falling in love with parenting your child, learning your own thoughts and watching them change as you start to think like a parent.  But another astonishing (and I mean that, I’m not being cute here) thing about becoming a parent is seeing your parents for the first time.  It’s not like I didn’t know that was going to happen as one of the clichéd rites of passage into claiming a child as your own, that I didn’t know that I would one day empathize more with my parents than I ever believed possible, it’s just that I couldn’t have possibly known what it was going to feel like until it happened.  It overwhelms me.  Feeling what my mother in particular felt towards me, feeling the shame of abusing that love 1,000 times throughout my life, having an acute awareness of how potent it is, how fierce it is, how all-consuming it is to love a child, and finally understanding that I am on the receiving end of that love is overwhelming.  It overwhelms me because it’s such a powerful gift, and because I realize that Asher may not ever know the depth of my feelings for him unless he decides to one day have a child of his own.

One of my wonderful friends has been talking recently about her strong desire to be able to genuinely and effectively express the breadth of her gratitude to her husband as they’ve become parents together.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot because the truth is, there’s no gift that says thank you well enough when those are the kinds of the things on the table that you’re trying to thank someone for.  What I’ve come up with is that the biggest expression of gratitude is in our actions, and in this case it’s in the way that we love.  The kind of partner or parent or child or friend that we are and the level of thoughtful respect and care that we charge ourselves with in those roles.  I will never know how to say thank you adequately enough to my parents, all four of you, but I do know how to love my child as much as I possibly can, and I can pledge part of that love as a devotion to all that you have given me in your own ways.  I know that I will make mistakes as a mother, but I hope that in my triumphs my parents see a reflection of themselves and know that they are being honored and that I am, in my way, always whispering thank you.

My final thought is this: when Asher is in the backseat thinking his thoughts, is he observing a woman?  Someone who rolls the windows down and sings badly and looks so grown up?  Does he also see a skirt pulled up to free knees, an arm draped casually, a level of confidence that children assume comes with height?  Sometimes I think he might, others I’m beyond sure that my shortcomings are palpable. In either case, I am reminded of what my little brain knew way back then, which is that if nothing else we’re in this thing together, wind blown hair and all, and then I just turn the radio up a little louder and marvel at my beautiful child and the inevitable truth that we are marching forward, steadily on.

A Mother and A Woman

For the last three years I have shied away from a mother’s day post because I have a lot of wonderful things to say about my mom and stepmother and a couple of other really powerful women that have shaped my life, and I want to acknowledge the group of women that I mother our collective brood with, and I want to wax poetic about the experience, but I’m not sure that I know how to go about reconciling that I feel that the mothers in my life are so deserving of recognition while I myself am still shaking my head in disbelief that I’ve been entrusted with a child’s life.

This blog is largely dedicated to my experience as a parent. From that lens it seems that I’m pretty much all-in with the whole mama gig, and don’t get me wrong, I am, but there’s so much about being a mother that feels, for lack of a better term, like make-believe to me. I still have days or moments when I feel like an outsider looking in at the snow globe of our lives and it seems surreal and and foggy and oddly fragile. In part I think that this feeling is born out of the whole my-heart-is-now-walking-outside-my-body phenomenon that every parent is all too familiar with, and in part I think that having a child is the inevitable and somewhat clichéd crossroads moment that everyone can tell you over and over about, but you can’t really appreciate the magnitude of the choice until you actually make it.

Down one path you see a life that is blissfully and appropriately self-centered. All the shops lining its trail flash signs that invite you to do whatever the hell you want with your life, sleep till noon, go back to school, spend all your money on a glass tile backsplash, book a flight for tomorrow on a moment’s notice, stay out, stay up, stay in, write books, live in a glass castle, indulge, indulge, indulge. Down the other path, you see a life that is boisterous and self-centered in a completely different way. The signs are more subtle, inviting you to step in here to have your heart explode with joy when your child giggles for the first time, look at a tiny face and see your husband’s smile, see the sunrise 5 days a week, let a tiny person decorate your kitchen with flour, settle down, anchor yourself with roots, indulge, indulge, indulge.

I’ve been feeling these things for only a couple of years now, so I’m about as far off from being an expert on this as one can be, but I think the point that I’ve arrived at is that two women have taken permanent residence in my being. One is a woman who is a mother and she is soft and attempting to make peace with stretch marks and she is joy-filled and emotional and honestly spends the majority of her time thinking about the child that she has and his future, and the child that she wants and their future. She consumes herself with reading about ways to honor the magnitude of trust that’s been placed in her hands, and reaches out to other mothers for guidance and acceptance and communion, she cries out of pride and fear and frustration. She’s grateful for early mornings and date nights in and the excuse of needing to be home for nap time. She’s unapologetic about all of the ways that she changed, all of the ways that her priorities have shifted, all of the ways that her resolve has morphed.

The other woman is the one that longs for a lot of things. There’s not another way to say it. She has opinions and gigantic ideas and she wants to over indulge and spend her life on a dance floor spinning and laughing. She’s anxious to always be feeling something new, to be recognized for being more that a long shadow behind a set of small footprints, to spend her time making out in backseats, and hunting down books, and learning how to finally make beautiful things in a meaningful way. She thinks about work and making a name for herself and saying, see that? I did that, and sure, I’ll be right over, no problem.

Until recently, I couldn’t really articulate this, but in an indistinct way I felt these two sides of myself in constant tension with one another. Not because I felt that one side was superior to the other (quite the opposite) but just that there was discord. It wasn’t harmonious, you chose one path or the other, there was no turning back. Thinking about Mother’s Day, and my anxiety about having a spotlight shined on a part of my life that I secretly feel guilty about not being 100% about 100% of the time, has made me think that I probably just need to lighten up a little. My two ‘lives’ are not mutually exclusive. I am a woman and I am a mother and I am a wife and I am an individual. My guess is that almost every single woman–parent–out there feels this on some sort of spectrum. We wouldn’t trade our lives with our families for anything, and we desperately want not just everyone else, but our own eyes to still see us as those awesome independent women that once ruled our worlds. We’re both. Two for the price of one.

The last thing that I’ll to this is that I sense the finality of it. We will have our youngest child move out, move on one day, and although my heart will still be in permanent residence in someone else’s shoes, and although I’ll still be thinking about their future and their well being and all of that, but my time being mine will be the rule and no longer the exception. I will suddenly be able to sleep in and stay out and say yes, I’ll be right there, and I can take classes and read books and learn to make beautiful things. I see that door on the horizon, and here again I feel a strange little dual ping in my heart. I can’t wait. I hope they’ll never leave us.

Perhaps the metaphor of turning our hearts over to our children is even more apt than I’ve realized…we’re not making a choice, we’re creating a song: they put the baby in our arms and one becomes two, a single note becomes a harmony.

Mama.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.”  ~Rajneesh

A thank you to all of the mothers in my life, especially the one that brought me into the world and has loved me through thick and thin all of these years.  Another special thank you to Drew, husband extraodinaire, for always making me feel like a queen, and for going the extra mile on my first mother’s day.  And above all, a thank you to the young sir, my amazing bright little beautiful son, for making me a mama.  To all of you mothers out there, thank you to you too.  It’s not a big deal, but we’re kind of rockstars.  I mean, if you think about it, we really are: hair sticking out all over the place, up all hours of the night, we have a stage name, and I haven’t stayed in a hotel with a toddler yet, but 10 to 1 says that he’ll be able to trash a hotel room in under 10 minutes.  Total Rockstars.

Here a couple of pictures from Sunday…

We started the day with a walk (found a beautiful bird's nest!)

me and my mama!

A luna moth joined us for dinner

Our little guy

Drew and I finish the day giving some thought to how parenthood makes us feel.