The only thing I can think of is Mama. Life is so wrapped up in that aspect of my being right now that it is the only thing that comes. Well, monkey did too, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything to write about a monkey. I did think about describing the Littlest Pet Shop monkey we have, but being so small, that wouldn’t take long. It is purple, by the way.
Mama is the thing I wanted to be most of all. After a certain point that is. I also wanted to be a model (at age 13…), and an artist, and a writer and finally a professional stage manager. I managed that last one. There’s an M word…manager. I am a very good manager. I can take a lot of things in stride, and sort through chaos pretty neatly. I even won an award as a manager.
But Mama…now that is something else entirely. From the beginning the journey wasn’t easy. After years of constantly being worried about accidentally getting pregnant, it turned out I was infertile. And husband was sporting a few million less sperm than he ought to. We tried to get pregnant. Then we went to a doctor and had tests. Then we tried some more things to get pregnant, finally succeeding after nearly 4 years, and we had a baby. A brilliant, gorgeous, blue-eyed baby girl. She was the best and most important thing that ever happened to me. She still is.
Being a mama was a challenge, but a good one. One that made me grow and stretch and that felt fulfilling. I loved it. My daughter and I were incredibly close. It was joy to be with her and watch her learn. We came up with adventures to go on and things to do each day. When she reached 5 years old, I knew that we would homeschool because I adored being around her. I love teaching her and watching her discover things. I love listening to her narratives.
And I thought that was it. That was my picture of Mama. Me and my girl.
And then…turns out infertile doesn’t mean sterile. After years of knowing we couldn’t conceive on our own and years of thinking that we would need help and a lot of money to have another child, after wrestling with the fact that we only got to do this whole journey once, after coming to terms with that and being okay with that…after all that (roughly 6 years of all that) it turned out I got to be mama again.
She arrived fast, and with a full head of dark hair. She was a surprise in every way possible, from the hair, to her size, to her dark eyes, to how angry she got. Born in Leo, in the year of the Dragon, and she was going to let everyone know it. Everything was different with this baby. It was not a peaceful gazing at the baby and becoming a mom. I feel like I was still slightly surprised by her until she was nearly 6 months old. She had a tongue tie and a lip tie that made it hard for her to get enough milk at first, and she would get a lot of air when she nursed. This made her gassy, and hungry and MAD. So mad. I was shocked by her arrival (40 weeks is not enough to get over nearly 10 years of infertility), and then shocked that she was always upset. Except for the brief hours when she was sleeping. It was nothing like the mama I had envisioned. It was hard, and exhausting and finally at 4 weeks old we got her tongue tie clipped and everything seemed to let out a breath.
Here we are now, big kid is 7, and tiny is 15 months (as of yesterday). Mama looks a lot different from here. Mama is tired. Mama is trying. Mama frequently finds herself short tempered and stressed out. Mama is trying to not yell. Mama is trying to learn new languages to speak to her kids the way she wishes she had been spoken to. Mama is trying so hard to let her girls know she is there for them. Mama is being a mama.
That is the only M word that comes up for me because it is so much of me. There’s another M word: ME. These days, Mama and Me are one and the same.
Finding the language. This is my fight right now. Finding the language that will convey what I am feeling, that will make people sit up and notice, that will relay a message. I feel like right now everything I say is bogged down. Either in trying to not blame someone (or make sure they don’t feel blame), or in trying to translate into 7yo-ese, or toddler-ese, or just because I don’t have the words. I have always been confident in my ability to communicate clearly. I can illustrate and teach, give examples and craft words. But now….right now…everything seems sticky. LIke wading through tar. All the things I am trying to remember are cramming up into the same small chute, trying to come out in an organized manner and get themselves HEARD, DAMMIT!, and instead I end up with word salad. I use words too big for my daughter to understand, and she tunes me out. I ask unreasonable things of my baby and she gets frustrated. I try to convey what I am feeling to my husband and nothing registers. Is it me? Is my universal translator broken? Am I really, finally not making sense?
Where is the language that can convince big kid how much I love her? How much I think she is the most awesome and lovely and kind and smart girl I have ever met. That I think she is incredibly talented and that I hope she chases her dreams down and sits on them until they give. That I want her to be happy more than anything. That I miss the time with her when it was just us and we were a team.
Where is the language that will let my toddler know that she is an amazing surprise and every day I fear I won’t have enough time with her to get to know her. That all I want to do is cuddle and hang out and love on her. That when she gets so frustrated that all she can do is cry, I want to move the world out of her way and make it better. That her hugs and kisses make my world right.
Where is the language that shows my husband that I am running on the edge? That the juggling act I am performing is in dire danger of falling to the ground. That each day seems a bit harder to get everything done. The language that explains how much I feel like I’m missing with my kids each day trying to manage it all, and how much it hurts my heart when I have to juggle the kids to do something I hate. How do I find the words to let him know that I know work is hard on him too, and I miss him and I’m sorry I complain so much?
Do they know? Is any of the language being found?
Much as fall is my favorite time of year, twilight is my favorite time of day. The precipice between day and night has always seemed full of possibility. I am, as you might guess, a night owl.
I discovered the word gloaming during an involved romance novel phase. I believe it was a torrid Scottish affair, with not much plot, and a lot of racing over the heather strewn hills in pursuit of one another. The word though seemed to describe the time if day so much more aptly than dusk or twilight. Dusk and twilight only seemed to describe the color, or how much light was present. Gloaming, though, described the experience. The moment the sun drops behind the hills in the west and the light becomes diffuse and indirect. The way the street lights begin to come on, and how you can see into people’s houses in the moments before they close the curtains. The hush that falls as the daytime sounds fade and the birds stop singing. The feeling of resolution of the day.
I used to head to work about that time of day. In the autumn, I was unlocking the theatre and awaiting the actors arrival right about the time the sun would be touching the mountains. In those days I would sit on the loading dock with a cigarette and a cup of coffee getting ready to start my day as I watched other folks walk home. As full dark fell I would head inside to start my tasks and begin to set up the world of the show. This time of setting up mimicked the quiet of the gloaming. The pause before something else starts.
These days, I barely have a moment to note the sun is down before it’s time to make dinner and sort out the kids at the end of the day. Now it’s my favorite time if day because Daddy is coming home soon, and bedtime approaches. I miss the ritual of watching the night fall. Whole I may not be able to do coffee and cigarettes, perhaps adding so thing to our daily routine would not be amiss.
I used to say I didn’t have any regrets. That every single think I had done had move me to where I was, made me who I was. I still stick to that – mostly. I never saw the point in spending a lot of time regretting what I had or hadn’t done. I couldn’t change it, I could only move forward.
Even now most of my regrets are about smaller things. I regret not saving more money, or using my credit cards too much. I regret not getting good grades in high school (and college). Small things in the grand scheme. Things that can’t be changed, and that I didn’t need to dwell on.
But there is the one thing that I have come to regret. While I was pregnant with Tiny, the situation in my house changed pretty dramatically. And it wasn’t awesome. For me, for Big Kid. I was not the mom I wanted to be, and I am still getting my parenting legs back after that. But the thing I regret is that the last 6 months I had with just Big Kid was derailed and (I hate this word, but it fits) ruined. I was focused on things that were ultimately not my problem and shouldn’t have been my focus. I can’t get that time back ever. I can’t go back to it just being me and Big Kid and have those months back. And I bitterly regret that. It is going to be a while before I can forgive myself for making the decisions that led to the situation.
I dislike having regrets. I feel like I need to make up for it, to fix it somehow. It feels like a weight that I have to carry around with me all the time. All interactions with Big Kid are weighed on that time, and how much I failed her, whether or not she is mad about it, if she will remember it. I can’t change it, but I haven’t quit figured out how to let go of it yet either.
I feel like I write about autumn an awful lot. Just about every year actually. Autumn is different here than it is where I grew up.For one there are more trees, and those trees have leaves, not needles.
In Colorado, you can see weather, and just about everything else, coming. The wide open sky makes it easy to watch things moving, and the mountains may slow it down, but when things come over them, you can see it. Storms slowly eat the mountains, and roll over them down into the city. It is fascinating to watch. Those days are rare though, the ever present sun asserts its dominance over the clouds most of the time. It is beautiful, and open. There is a lack of mystery. Plenty of awe and stunning vistas, but not a lot is hidden.
Here in the Pacific Northwest it seems more like the sky is closing in. Dark, rainy autumn nights are possible the darkest I have ever seen. It truly feels like a falling here. The clouds fall over the city, not to be dislodged for months. The rain falls, the leaves fall. There is a weight to the arriving of Autumn. Once you have lived here a few years you understand why. It means that the months of gray have arrived. Activities move inside, lights turn on early in the day. Hibernation makes sense to me here. Here there is a distinctly mysterious feel to the change into fall. You can’t see everything, and you know it.
I enjoy the mystery. It is new still to feel like there is something out there that I can’t see coming. That there is more to discover. That when autumn falls, there is something to peer around corners for.
*warm weight of someone small sitting on your lap
*a child’s accomplishment
*settling into bed at the end of the day
* a perfect cup of coffee
*hugs from my husband
*the smell of good food greeting me as I come home
*walks on brisk days
*quiet moments, letting my brain soak in the silence.
*hand knit socks.
*the smell of pine
*watching the snow fall (while inside with a nice cup of hot chocolate)
*being able to love the people in my life
following the daily prompts for November from Writealm.com
A bit of fiction
The street is a common residential street. The houses are middle class, some a little better off than others. This particular street has been here for a while. The imprint in the sidewalk reads 1912. The mid century houses that appear here are next to Victorians and Craftsman models, clearly built as the original owners sold off bits of land. It makes a cozy neighborhood overall, this diversity of styles.
She had walked down the street many different times. It was a normal route for her now, one of a dozen possible ways to get where she was going, but she liked this street, with its wide sidewalks and and large trees. It made her walk a bit more lovely, peaceful and picturesque.
It was a brisk morning. Slightly damp with overnight rain, and a breeze that kicked up to a full wind from time to time. The smells were of early autumn, and the last hint of summer’s heat. She was on her way to work, strolling in the breeze and shuffling through piles of leaves already accumulating this early in the season. She followed the sidewalk, letting her feet carry her on her familiar way while her mind wandered. She watched the leaves dance by her as the squirrels raced through the trees above, chattering. Her coffee was warm in her hand.
A gust of chill wind grabbed her coat and flung it open, causing her to inhale sharply. Fumbling briefly, she tucked her coffee cup under her arm so she could button up the errant coat. That wind smelled of snow, though it was early still, it was not unheard of. She hoped it would hold off until the fall leaves had finished their show. It was always disappointing when the reds, golds and oranges of autumn finally reached a glorious blaze of color, only to end up in the gutter the next day because of a heavy, wet snow.
She looked up at a jay calling across the street to find that she had walked past her usual turn. Not far, perhaps half a block. If she crossed here an doubled back, she could get back on track pretty easily, and continue to enjoy her stroll. There was also the added benefit of the next street over being shielded from the wind. As she made her way to cross, checking for the almost always nonexistent traffic, something caught her eye. It was the first thing she had truly seen in clear focus this morning. Something out of the ordinary in her usual routine. The house she had been about to pass had gas lamps. They were lit, even though it was well after sunrise, and flickering away against the gray morning. They had the look of something from Dickens, or perhaps Disney’s interpretation of Dickens. Black iron, shiny glass panes, all angles and reflections. She walked toward them and pulled out her phone to take a picture. They seemed so oddly dated here, where there were only electric lights, and she thought that her dad might get a kick out of seeing them. Some of the ornamentation was unique, and he would enjoy telling her all about whatever he found out about the style, being the old architect that he was.
She silently snapped the picture and wondered if she had ever been down this street before. It was unlikely that she would have missed these lamps, but she supposed it might have happened. She looked down the street to see if anything looked familiar.
That was when she saw the second sharply clear thing this morning. the street went on, as most do, but two or three houses from where she stood, the street turned into a path, and then disappeared into the trees. The houses on both sides of the street, well, path, looked like they were slowly being devoured by greenery. From where she stood, to where the trees blocked her vision, it looked as though
someone had begun coloring with a green crayon, lightly at first, then slowly harder and harder until nothing remained but the green.
Had she been down this street, she was fairly positive she would have noticed that.
Jumping into Writealm.com’s November Prompt-a-Day. I’m a couple of days behind, and read the first two prompts (1. First, 2. Be present) as one: First, be present.
You have to show up. Sometimes that’s the hardest part.
In parenting, being present is the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I am prone to navel-gazing, being preoccupied with things to come, or just liking to focus on something until it is complete. Children, they demand your presence in ways that are non-linear and immediate. You must pay attention to THIS. RIGHT NOW. And then you must pay attention to THIS OTHER THING! RIGHT NOW. It is enchanting, fascinating and undeniably exhausting.
The days when I reach the end and find myself shaking my head an wondering what they heck just happened, or feeling like I have failed miserably, are the days when I am caught up in the “shoulds” of what I think needs to happen. What I should do to be a good parent, or what I think my kids should have. It leaves me seeing only what I lack, rather than what these bright, shining children have to show me each and every day. It is breathtaking to feel like I lost a whole day to pushing a boulder up the wrong hill.
When I remember to be present, to watch and engage, to encourage and listen, I’m still exhausted at the end of the day, but in a way that feels rewarding and like good work was done. For this month, I think that perhaps “First, Be Present” is going to be a daily reminder. Especially as we get into the holidays and things get wound up tightly. Especially as my husband may have to go on a business trip. Especially as the rain sets in and we are stuck inside more.
Most importantly, so I don’t feel like I lost another day to seeing only what I think should be rather than what is.