Saturday, December 02, 2017

Graduating, reluctantly, from the shallow end of motherhood to the deep end

This kid is so far gone it's not even possible to pretend I can successfully prevent her from growing up anymore. Her head practically touches the clouds now. Her legs are long, made longer by the everpresent toe shoes she insists on wearing around the house.

 She measures her words before saying them and the things she says sound as if they have been put through a mature filter, examined by someone with far more years and far more experience than a newly turned 12-year-old could possibly have.

Where does a mother begin to capture the change, the growth, the transformation? The going from a squishy thing someone placed on my chest one November evening after the second longest day of my life (the first longest was the birth of my first child) to a long, quick-witted, self possessed human who determines her own future minute by minute. It's outrageous ,yet, so standard no one seems to step back and say, what the fuck?

Where did this woman child come from and how did she get in my house? And how many missteps on my part will it take to recognize the arrogance of my belief that I am somehow shaping her and her big sister, pouring them into some mold I created for them in order to fulfill some unrecognized dreams of my own regarding who I'd be or what I'd do or how the world perceived me--if only I had a second go at it?

I know in my bones I don't control these little people nor do I want to. But it's a letting go that doesn't come natural to me. It's nostalgia. It's a longing for the days when something as simple as a walk through the meadow, across the stone wall and down the long hill to the public library to fill our bag with magical picture books--books I was sure would inspire and enlighten-- and carry them back up the hill to read in front of the fire on a November day. And we had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but there. And no one to be but ourselves. Mother and children. It was all enough.

Now each day is measured by how productive we are, how prepared for the future, how striving, moving forward, how not in the moment we are. What about school, what about ballet, what about soccer, what about skiing, what about that friend you once had, where is she now, what about that honors class you dropped, and your homework. What about, what next, what's more, better, harder, more?

Humans doing were once humans being. Thankfully my kids push back. They know better than I that life is the here and now. They know who they are and call me out when I pressure them to be someone else. I can learn so much from these children.

The other day I had a tantrum trying to get the house, a guest room, ready for guests. A ball of resentment and helplessness, I was the child. Isla was the mother. She calmly asked how she could help, told me to relax, fetched me pillow cases and blankets and fresh sheets. I hated myself in that moment, but could not calm the child in me. So the child who lives with me took over.  As wrong as that felt, as ashamed as it made me feel, I was proud of that kid. My kid.

The after-school hot chocolate is coming, I promise.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Walking in the woods today, I lost my bearings

* As has become habit, I wrote this ages ago and left it to languish in my drafts folder. The onset of a new year inspired me to set it free. 

Walking in the woods today, I lost my bearings as I sometimes do when the wood floor is littered with a carpet of dry leaves. Nothing looked familiar. Was I too far North or too far South to find the main trail that led back down the ridge to my parents' cabin?

I momentarily recognized nothing. I had no sense of direction other than down.

Just when I started to feel irritated with myself-- I grew up in these woods, so how could I be lost, not to mention I don't much like bushwhacking because it triggers my claustrophobia-- I spotted a large rock propped up against a tree. It had to have been put there by a human--most likely, surely, my father.

Marking his way through the woods, stopping to pile up stones in a crude sculpture, a cairn, as well as pick up sticks off the trail, was one of my father's favorite ways to occupy his time. The trees were his friends. The woods were his home. If he could have, he would have tidied up the entire 80 acres, to the point of there being no stray branch or twig out of place. A meticulously kept domicile.

A few yards later, I spotted another cairn. This one was carefully stacked, a flat gray rock on the bottom, another less symmetrical rock on top of that, then another. My irritation subsided. "He's still guiding me," I thought. "Even though he's not here, my father is telling me which way to go and it will always be so."

My father is always in the woods for me. Vermont was his home, his dwelling place, his birthplace, his resting place. He felt the trees around him. He appreciated their permanence, perhaps in contrast with the tragic impermanence of his father, who died when Dad was only 5. He grew up with the trees, whose roots went just as deep into Vermont soil as his own. He learned community from the trees who never shun their neighbors, each swaying to the same breeze, each standing at the ready to hold the other up for as long as possible should one grow weary of standing up straight and simply let go.

"I've got you," the trees say without speaking.

"I've got you," my dad's many stone piles say to me