Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Waking Up

Last night I was looking through one of the "catch-all" boxes we moved from our last house to this one -- things I knew I wanted to keep at the time but didn't have a place for. Amidst photos from college, spools of thread, and old birthday cards I found a few stray pieces of notebook paper covered in my own handwriting. At the top I'd written only, "Waking Up."

It turned out to be one of the very few pieces of writing I did when my kids were little, this one when Sweetpea was about 18 months old and just taking her first steps (on her own schedule, even then). In these few pages of thoughts, scribbled during a nap or a rare moment alone and then forgotten, lie the seeds of so much I'm still working on today.

Questions like how to play this strange role of mother, cast by our children as their gods, their mirrors, their first experiences of "other" ... and rarely, if ever, on our own terms:

For months, the question "Where's Mommy?" was met with a blank stare, an innocent unblinking gape, as if humoring a crazy person. Later, cheerful pointing: at the clock, the radio, her dad. Mommy was omnipresent. Now she points an accusing finger directly at my chest and proclaims me "Mama," more sure of herself. Mama. Separate. Pleased with the knowledge she can pull my hair and not be hurt. Delights in my predictable yelp as she pinches folds of my neck between tiny fingers.

How to let them grow, and let them go, at their own pace:

Slow as she's been to move I am still one step behind. Even now, I look for her where I've left her, it takes me a minute to comprehend why she's not there.

And of course, how to achieve what some days still seems like an impossible task, to find the common ground between "writer" and "mother":

For the last 18 months it's been harder to breathe, to write. Longer: since the moment I imagined her ... She -- the idea of her, even -- supplanted my will and desire for any other kind of life, and I felt driven toward motherhood like a vocation, a calling. I watch other women and wonder if they somehow feel less or if they have just learned to conceal it, this glow like skin rubbed raw.

She keeps me grounded, but also trapped in the literal, untangling the differences between 'car' and 'bus,' 'cat' and 'dog,' until I almost confuse them myself. Wondering how I ever learned to distinguish yellow from orange, purple from blue. Some days this distracts me to the point I think if someone were to ask me I might get them wrong; afraid someone will overhear me calling the dog a 'ball' or 'clock.' ... How can I be expected to write metaphors in these circumstances?

I opened the piece by saying I felt as though I were emerging from a coma, blinking myself awake. I couldn’t know then how much more sleep was yet to come, how far I still was from daybreak. Nearly seven years later, I’m still waking up.


  1. Your talent and wisdom never cease to amaze me.
    I think I know you more with every post. I think you are more vulnerable and more open and more courageous with each post as well.

    The part of this that sent me over the edge:
    "Slow as she's been to move I am still one step behind. Even now, I look for her where I've left her, it takes me a minute to comprehend why she's not there."

    I know I connected to these words on a different level that you may (or may not) have intended, but connected to them just the same.

    Tears are flowing. My heart is soaring with pride for you and hope and love.


  2. In this piece, you touch the surface of an incredible service that can be given to young mothers, who are so aborbed in "being" and "doing" that they don't have the meditative time to contemplate well the change in their lives.

    In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this is the seventh habit, called "Sharpening the Saw". Brings quality of life, totally invaluable.

    Not bad, Jill.

    Uncle Doug