Thursday, April 19, 2018

Home but not home

 I'm transferring some of my favorite blog posts I wrote for BabyCenter over here, for safekeeping.

This one was posted in 2010, when we lived in France. Isla was almost 5 and Esther was 8. It's interesting for me to read between the lines and realize I was a wee bit homesick for Vermont, despite how romantic if felt to be "living the dream" in France.

Home is a tricky, sticky concept and I am still grappling with what it means to be home, to this day.

Poop is wicked fun to say

Betsy Shaw

posted: July 22, 2010, 7:15 pm
On the drive back to France from England, Esther and Isla fought for what felt like 1000 kilometers but was probably only 100. The four year old wanted music. The eight year old wanted an audiobook.
The fight was resolved by the crazy, shouting lady in the front passenger seat, who wanted to leap from the moving car. Was that me?

Then things took a schizophrenic left turn towards comedy. Isla was the main act. Every word she uttered was deemed, by Isla, to be profoundly funny. Poop was on her mind. It didn’t matter who was doing the pooping– we all were– or where we did it–everywhere but in the toilet. What mattered most was the word poop, with its P to the O to the O to the P, is wicked fun to say.

At times, I have to wonder if someone with a sense of humor as immature as mine, has any business raising children. What started as a snicker turned into an aching belly from all that laughing. It’s impossible to hear Isla’s laugh, which is as perfect as laughs come,  without imagining you can actually see the shape of joy.

Home but not home

Back in our quiet French village, which still doesn’t feel as much like home as it does a way station, Esther is at a tennis camp and Isla and I are looking for something to laugh about.
151essieandianIan came home last night with a sandbox he made, complete with a top to keep the feral cats out. So there we were, Isla and I, this morning, at 10 a.m. in the back yard.
“Why aren’t you playing with me? ” Isla asked as I sat on the edge of the patio, reading a book.
“I did play,” I argued. “I built two castles. I’m done now.”
We’d already been “playing” in the river this morning. After buying bread at the market, we stopped to put our feet in the water. As Isla played around a makeshift dam, I thought about how many childhood hours I spent making dams with my friends in the winding river that flowed through my hometown in Vermont.
I wondered how it was that this river seemed so different. What made this water feel so foreign and that water feel as if it was the same stuff that ran through my veins?
I squatted by the river’s edge, hugging my loaf of bread, and watched the moving water. I felt fixed, bored, and vaguely lonely. I used to get this exact same listless, detached feeling at our local playground in Vermont. We were so often the only ones there, like survivors of an apocalypse. There’s something numbing about playgrounds. I just want to ruminate, while my kids ignore me.
My mind went to lying in bed next to Ian. I could have stayed there, his hand resting warm and heavy on my hip, forever this morning. It was like being plugged into an oxygen source. I was being restored to my former shape after a long, slow leak.
C’mon Mom
Isla, immune to my flatness, kept right on chattering.
“Can I go over to that Island?” she asked, pointing to a tiny clump of grass poking up out of the shallows.
“Yes,” I said. “But you can’t go any further.”
“She stepped cautiously, looking back at me after every step.
“I’m not going to drown, Mommy,” she said.
I stood up. She came back.
“You want to come in the river with me?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because,” I said. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to.”
“Sure you do, Mommy,” she said, just like the bossy friend you need to push you when you are being pathetic.
She bent down to roll up my pants for me as I slipped off my shoes.
“It will be fun.” she assured me. “We can go to my island.”
She slid her warm hand in mine, a motion that, for me, encompasses the experience of motherhood completely. The feeling of my child’s hand in mine, especially when she has initiated it, the contrast between the full-grown largeness of me and the still-growing smallness of she, and all the heavy symbolism it carries–I’m here, I’m coming with you–I hope I never forget that feeling.
We stepped carefully through the water, over the slimy green rocks. We made it to Isla’s island.  She stepped up onto it, still holding my hand, and said, “Do you want to step on my island, Mommy?”
“It looks a bit small,” I said, thinking of The LIttle Prince story, we just listened to, twice, on our travels.
“Why don’t you keep it all for yourself, like your very own planet.”
“I have pretty flowers on my island,” she said.
“You do,” I said, noticing her island was covered with beautiful little cornflower blue flowers.
“They’re called forget-me-nots.”