Posts tagged ‘motherhood’

21

Her Mother

{by Gillian Marchenko}

photo credit

Last year in a Ukrainian court room, a stern looking judge asked me to rise. “Mrs. Marchenko, can you be a good mother to this child?” I had been coached beforehand by our adoption coordinator to answer ‘da,’ yes in Russian. Instead, though, I burst into tears.

My tears that day were a showcase of a medley of emotions: fear, insecurity, excitement, expectancy. The judge’s face softened as I stood weakly before her, sobbing. “Sit down, woman. The answer is in your tears.”

*

A year later, I am perched with my legs crisscross on scratchy gray carpet in an observation room with Evangeline, the little girl we adopted from Ukraine, on my lap. We just finished singing The Wheels on the Bus under the watchful eye of a social worker with a yellow pad of paper in one hand and a sharpened number two pencil tipped to take notes in the other.

Evangeline is being evaluated to determine if her behavior falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum or if what she does, stuff like eating dirt off the floor and rocking back and forth all day, are connected to her prior diagnosis of Down syndrome. I wonder internally, are these behaviors simply left over from being orphaned at birth?

*

A couple nights ago when all four of our children were tucked away in bed, I started working on a picture montage documenting Evangeline’s first year home. I scrutinized each picture we had of her and chose only the best: the ones where she looks happy, comfortable, content. While working on my project, I imagined friends and family commenting charitably. “Her hair is so long!” “She is so pretty!” And it’s true. She’s a beautiful girl. Her hair is as soft and shinny as corn silk. Her face is a plump, pink heart.

But so far, the montage falsely documents our first year together. I’ve left out the overarching theme; one of struggle and pain. Correct documentation would include a picture of me crying on my husband’s shoulder. “I can’t do this. She’s not who I expected her to be.” There would be another picture of Evangeline with a huge knot on her forehead from hitting herself on a crib bar at night to fall asleep. There would be a shot of me with scratches on my face from trying to hug her and probably another one with my back to her, my face blotchy and red from anger over her rejection.

*

Today at the evaluation, Evangeline surprises me by happily waving to the social worker when we first walk into the room. She bangs two plastic rings together, and flirts and laughs, this little girl who is typically suspicious of the world and traditionally closed off to me. Her actions both excite and anger me. I am overwhelmed to see her connect to her surroundings but I’m pissed off that she’ll wave hello to a stranger but won’t look me in the eye. If I would have seen these skills displayed earlier, we wouldn’t even be here.

“Give me five adjectives that describe your relationship with Evangeline compared to when you first brought her home” the social worker directs her attention to me after playing with Evangeline.          I did not expect this question. I thought the focus of our conversation would be Evangeline and her behavior. My mind folds out past me like a dry, cracked desert. I struggle to get words out. Finally I give her ten adjectives with little comprehension of what I am saying. I tug on the collar of my sweater in an effort to catch a breath.

“Do you feel like her mother?” The social worker asks, tapping her pinky on the pad of paper, blinking, her face flat and heavy looking, like a steel pan used to sizzle an egg.

The weight of Evangeline’s bottom presses into my thighs. I remember that she is sitting silently on my lap. My mind becomes a roman shade, flapping back to me, no longer a desert, but now a rolodex of memories from the past year. I think about the scratching and biting, about her hitting her head for comfort. I think about her moving away from the rest of us, finding a quiet place to rock while we watch a movie or play a family game.

But then, instances of connection emerge and intermingle with the painful memories: the time she came to me and raised her arms above her head so that I would pick her up. Her eyes locking with mine for a moment, before darting off to a distant land deep within her mind. Her high pitched laugh ringing out as her father tickles her under her arms.

I wrap my arms around her torso as a slow sob starts to form in the pit of my stomach. I am crying now, just like I did in the Ukrainian court room a year ago. I realize, unbeknownst to me, that a slow hum of trust has started to purr between us, as quiet and unidentifiable as white space.

“Yes. I am her mother. I feel it.”

The tears come hard now. I cry in front of the social worker not because Evangeline is being evaluated for a dual diagnosis. I cry not because at three-and-a-half years old she still does not talk or because the most recent scratch on my chin from her pointer finger still hasn’t crusted over.

I cry because I realize her gains. I cry because I realize our gains.

I cry because I’m the one who has farther to go.

As an adoptive mom, I cling to these moments of clarity like they are email from God. Today, in front of this social worker, the center piece of our puzzle, the one that gives me a hint of our future, has started to move to its place.

I am her mother.

Sit down, woman. The answer is in your tears.

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28

everything has a last day

{by Amanda of Last Mom on Earth}

(photo source)

We went on a special date, just Louise and me. She crawled through the aisles of the bookstore and I slowly meandered behind her, reading passages from crisp, unspoiled novels I knew I wasn’t going to buy. Maybe someday.

She talks a lot, when she’s alone with me. She points to things and tells me about them in her funny, amazing language. When something surprises or delights her, her tiny hand flies to her mouth and she chews on her perfect little fingers.

We came home to an empty house and I sat a carton of blueberries on the floor between us. My hands were clumsy and imprecise, picking up toppling handfuls and eating them without discretion. Louise, with her dainty, pointed fingertips, thought carefully about each berry before she chose it with an attitude of satisfaction and ate it, all by itself, like it was the most special and singular blueberry on the planet.

So much thought and care goes into chewing and swallowing a single blueberry when you’re one years old.

Some children from my daughter’s school, their mother is dying. So, we swoop upon them with love, making lists and baking lasagna, doing things that don’t matter, but they mean something. They mean, “We are mothers, too and we couldn’t imagine how scared and sad you must feel, to be leaving your children.”

Lots of people talk about how a child should never die before a parent. I believe it’s true. It would be a grief so complete and unbearable, I have no way to fathom it. And, I also can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow if I might die before the year was over.

Every movement my daughters make is holy. Little fingernails, they’re so small you can barely believe that they’re real. Tiny crescents of mud beneath them. What would my life be, if I understood that everybody dies. I pray they will be old and settled when it’s my turn, but still. I will never be at peace with knowing they will breathe and eat and think and move around in the world, when I can no longer see them. They need me for everything. Without me, they couldn’t survive. And the amount I need them supersedes their neediness by mountains and thunderclouds, by river mouths and inlets. The way I love them is the way rain permeates the earth, filling up everything that was begging, and the earth sighs.

“Everything has a last day.” I read this on a blog today. A little boy said this about life. I almost can’t take it, he’s so smart and right and beautiful.

So, I’ll be spending the week at the beach with my family. There will be restaurants and shopping and we’ll all be stuffed into a bedroom that was made for a single person. There will be book lights and bubble wands and special, sugar cereal, just this one week per year. But, there will also be salt on the wind and a fat moon dangling above us while we sleep. Our summer congestion will be healed, I hope, and so will my sense of feeling like we’re all too big for our lives. The ocean has a way of making me small and unimportant, like death and love are all a part of things, and that I know what I’m doing, just because I’m a person.

I’ll bake and cry into the pen’s ink when I write, I hope you all are making it, out there… and my children will reach for the glow of our doorbell while I’m rushing them inside and out of the heat. We will all die someday, and it’s probably the right thing to do.

 

Amanda is a mother of two beautiful girls living in Pittsburgh. Her writing is stunning, a visceral thing that moves you to your core.
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Featured by Story Editor: Heather King

25

There And Back Again.

(by Stacey of Is There Any Mommy Out There?)

photo credit

I expect it to be like a cloud.  That moment of walking in the door.
A gold-tinged cloud scented orange with an undertone of cinnamon.  It’s more like hitting a wall of thin arms and loud reedy voices, their smiles bright, their garbled tales spilled at my feet like slippery fish from a basket. I am surrounded by noise where I anticipated hugs set to the flicker of a silent movie.

The baby is up.  Quiet time is over.  It’s time for snack.  They played in a tent.  Do I want a cookie?  That one is hopeful.  They made cookies with Daddy.  Might they perhaps, if I wanted one, have a cookie too?

My brain is frozen, shocked and sluggish, like the marble-eyed deer we nearly hit three nights ago on our wild escape through Palouse hill country into the night.  Why oh why does it smell like fish?

It is one of those things they don’t tell you about motherhood.  This matter of going away and coming back again.  Or maybe, to be fair, it is one of those things that can not be taught.  Like child birth and that instinct that tells you this fever is serious and not like all the others, this can not be explained before it is experienced.

It’s not that you miss them.  Or maybe that’s just me – I might be odd in that respect, though I doubt that I am alone.  Three years into sharing my thoughts on mothering this way, I believe firmly that I am never alone.  There is always someone out there searching for this nugget, this truth, this strange fossil of a thing that they find buried in themselves and that they are glad to see someone else hold up to the light and turn around, curious.  Will you look at this?  Isn’t that odd?  Look at how the shell turns back on itself.  A new creature entirely.

It’s not that I miss them.  Truth.  It is that I am bound to them, a middle-earthen pact of blood and tears and need.  I leave them joyfully.  I am glad to be free. Thrilled to wander streets and talk late and sleep long and hard. Thrilled to be unneeded, unfettered from need for sixty short hours.  But they are four cords of unearthly strength wrapped, vinelike, around my soul, that will stretch and stretch and stretch, becoming ever tighter, every thinner, ever tauter until the tension is unbearable and the outcome is a predetermined thing.  The unbreakable laws of gravity and elasticity take over.  I come hurtling back.

I traveled before children. I wandered Europe for months without a tie.  I left Matt to his own devices and meandered through Thailand and India and Nepal.  I missed him with all my heart and soul, but my missing of him was a part of the freedom.  Leaving loved ones behind for a time is a special kind of freedom.  Leaving children behind is a furtive, temporary escape.  He is a soft place to land.  They are the brick wall at the end of the cord.  Their dirty faces and high-pitched demands and grabby hands mortared by whining, crying, hot breath on my face, a nervous baby cleaved to my side.

I press myself into it as hard as I can.  The texture, when I close my eyes, is what I crave.  The crags of their little faces.  The spiderweb fibers of their hair.  The crumble under my fingers of the tear tracks at the corner of their eyes.  The classical melody beneath the scraw and screech.

I can’t explain it either. I haven’t got it right. Maybe I can’t tell you. Maybe you’ll never know.  It’s not a lack of love.  I’m not sorry to be home.  To be a lover is to want to come back quickly.  To be a mother is to have to.

**

Stacey writes the heart-truth of parenthood at Is There Any Mommy Out There?
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Pick by Story Editor – Sara Sophia//@sarasophia

1

Passing the Bed.

{by Heather Westberg King}

photo source

He has asked so many questions that don’t have answers and I’m just so tired. I ask him to help his brother. I say, “He’s going to get hurt, can you help him?” He asks, “Why will he get hurt?” I answer through gritted teeth, “He just will! Just help him!” Then he sighs and his big blue eyes look sad and I wish I could find the strength for more patience and less surprising anger.

When I walk into my room to get dressed, I pass the crumpled bed and want to get in it. I want to curl up on my side and cry. I’m not sure why, but I want to do it. I start to walk that way and then I see her, the me in my mind’s eye, on her side in the bed where I am not. She looks like she’s repeating history. She is carrying this disease and she thinks she isn’t and then sometimes she thinks she is this disease. She is me and I am her and she is them and she is not.

She is so afraid that she’s given it to them.

I know that if I were to walk in and find her curled there, I’d think she should get up. I’d think she should shake it off. It’s not her fault she’s there, but she needs to get up, I’d say. Then I’d wonder if some of it is her fault, because I know memories of ridiculous choices can flood in and bring with them the funk, curling her up.

So I get dressed. I wash my face of yesterday’s make-up and I put one foot in front of the other to make sure that I’m not her or them or her past. I fight it because I know that when I do, it gets a little better.

I fake it sometimes, but strangely, most of the time I’m truly reveling in the buried joy. The miraculous happiness that comes through the eyes of my boys. We make a hide-out in a closet and they are thrilled with their flashlights in the dark. I well up with joy because they are who they are and I believe we can change this. Even if it doesn’t stop, it can be lighter, it can get better. Even if they feel it, they can learn that it doesn’t define them. I will tell them. They can learn from the truths we speak over them…

You are lovely. You are worthy. You are good. Just exactly as you are.
This heavy weight of sadness, it can never be who you are.

I can say it with words from my mouth, and I can say it by walking away from the bed, uncurled and dressed.

“Can we go to the park?” He asks carefully. And I say yes even though I don’t want to because I know that it’s the right thing to do. I put one foot in front of the other and he rides with training wheels beside me.
He says, “You’re great, Mom.” Then through my tightening throat where my heart wells up with this mercy,
I say, “So are you, little man.”

“I know,” he says.

I laugh with unleashed joy and I think, please keep knowing…please keep knowing…please…

We are sometimes sadness, but mostly we are grace.

Heather writes with her heart-gut and soul at The Extraordinary Ordinary.
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:::::

Featured by Story Editor– Sara Sophia // @sarasophia

8

head over heels

{by Christine Green}

I was a feather of a girl for a while there. I could stand on my head in the middle of the living room floor for what seemed like hours. My mother would peer at me from the kitchen nervous that I would fall, but she did not scold or ask me to be sensible. She simply let me be.

She knew, I think, that those days were fleeting. She knew that someday the weight of many responsibilities would sit on my shoulders and my easy lightness would be replaced by a heaviness that would keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I’ve tried now, cautiously when no one was around, to spend some time upside down again. But I can barely lift my legs into the air, and my feet feel like lead weights. I’ve tried, too, in yoga class with plenty of prep and lots of help from the instructor, but I always freeze up. Fear washes over me and I convince myself that I will fall and break a leg or embarrass myself in front of the entire class. So I quietly move on to something else: a nice, firm warrior pose or a quiet, safe child’s pose.

But I see the others do it and wonder at the ease with which they seem to turn their world topsy turvey even for a second or two. I see them and I remember those sunny childhood afternoons I spent with my feet in the air and my heart easy. There was no fear, just action, as I swung my legs upwards toward the clouds. Then there was a calm while I watched the world pass crazily by as I stood on my head, motionless and quiet.

My son seems to be taking after me these days and spends inordinate amounts of time with his feet above his head. I watch him as he hangs upended on the couch, his small, perfect feet drumming a rhythm on the wall as he watches Scooby-Doo, and I envy the carefree flexibility of both his body and spirit.

I should, like my mother before me, let him be. I should let him hang there upside down among the cushions where he is happy, free, light. But I feel compelled to turn him right side up, tell him to stop before he gets hurt. I earnestly warn him that he could fall at any second. Even as I stand there scolding him, hands on hips, I know I shouldn’t. I should listen to the little voice telling me,

“Don’t fret. He isn’t about to fall. . . he is about to fly.”

Christine Green writes at Grown Ups Are Like That
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Story Editor~ Heather King ::: @HeatheroftheEO

12

The Witching Years

{by Amy Whitley}


It’s staying light a bit longer each day, but we still have a long way to go until spring. I can tell because I still have to switch my car headlights on driving the kids home from the karate studio or the soccer fields, still have to flip the porch light before calling them in from the neighborhood streets. In another lifetime (which wasn’t too long ago), I’d sit out these winter evenings indoors, the kids too young for unsupervised neighborhood roaming, my own motherhood too new to risk a public toddler meltdown or unscheduled nap after nightfall. From my watch at the kitchen window, the sun would disappear behind the city long before dinner was served, and something heavy and panicky would rise in my chest and sink in my belly as the outside darkness closed over me like a blanket, locking me into a fate of 5 pm until 7 pm with only my babies for company.

It would have been so easy to switch on Backyardigans and switch off myself, but most days, we resisted the lure of the TV. Instead, I’d play cars on the mat in the boys’ yellow-walled room, listening to the vrooom-vroooom vibrating against their lips, then to the bubbles blown in the bath, the run of the water from the faucet as they brushed their tiny, pearly teeth. I’d find Hidden Pictures, change diapers, press playdough between my hands. I’d pause to find blankies and binkies before scraping the dinner dishes and setting them on the sideboard to dry.

We were on our own most evenings back then, my husband needing to work late every weeknight, every weekend. (I still can’t believe we ever got used to that, but we did.) As the clock inched toward 7 pm, I’d finish the forgotten loads of laundry on the bed, each t-shirt and burp cloth and OshKosh overall cooled and wrinkled in the heap. The blackened windows would reflect my face—too tired for my twenties—and I’d wonder how to make it another hour. Another twenty minutes. Another ten.

This was my Witching Hour, but what people forget to tell you is how the hours add up, strung together end-to-end, day-to-day to become Witching Years. They commence in those first black nights of nursing a newborn, and they roll on and on until all your children are old enough to take the bus to school. Or at least old enough to wish they could.

And some mothers are great at it—love it, even—but not me. I floundered, immersing myself in my boys: their needs and their wants, their meals and their clothes and their toys. I waved the white flag and gave myself over to them completely, and this was how it had to be. On the surface, I even looked good at it. Underneath, I was drowning. My days were spent sinking and my nights were spent kicking my way back to the top, to where at least the waves slapped me in the face instead of swallowing me whole, arms stroking upward through the dark. I stopped writing. I stopped exercising. I stopped thinking, truth be told. Sometimes I wondered whether some secret source of oxygen had been cut off from my brain.

It’s clearer here, on the other side. In the light. With kids who brush their own teeth and do their own homework and get their own snacks. I know now that being a mom of young children, staying in the house day after day, parenting solo so much of the time…well, it is what it is. (Oh, is it ever.) I know that I did my best.

I also know I’ll never get those years back, as much as they often make me shudder: those years that passed so slowly as to nearly grind backward. Those years so long I measured my children’s ages in months instead. And that’s a travesty, because I left a piece of myself there. Something raw, and unmeasured, and instinctively maternal. Something sacrificial.

It was that something in me that gave way, that moved to the rhythm of my children’s sleep cycles, to the sunrise and the twilight, to the stirring of the oatmeal and the snapping of the car seats and the hefting to the hip, to the breast, to the mouth to kiss the lips.

It was that something that laid down arms. Set aside dreams. And that something was—there’s no other word for it—bewitching.

Amy Whitley writes at The Never-True Tales
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Story Editor~  Heather King ::: @HeatheroftheEO

14
February 7, 2011 | Featured 2, HeatherEO, Wednesday 1

Everything Will Be Okay

{by Aidan Donnelley Rowley}

It is one of those moments. I am curled up in a bed not my own. Wrapped sloppily in scratchy wool. On my left side. It is late morning. The girls are outside playing with their father. Looking for hippos and dinosaurs. Making believe. Being kids.

And I am here. There. Resting. Because I am tired, so tired. And it’s quiet, so quiet, too quiet. In the distance, I hear the growl of a washing machine, the clanking of pots, the dragging of something big. But mostly? I hear the buzz of being alone.

An avalanche of anxiety. I think of all the things I must do and haven’t done. In the next two months. In my lifetime. I think of the sadness, sweet and stubborn, that lurks in the ale of adulthood; the pearly mist of melancholy we see and feel once we stop pretending. I think of my friend and the unthinkable tragedy she and her family suffered on Christmas day. On Christmas day.

I lie here. There. Body motionless, mind whirring with wonder and dread and, finally, some improbable and exquisite peace. I feel a kick. A thump. A something. Bold and strong and full of life. Just next to my belly button, that spot, small and centered, hidden so well. Beneath clothes and blankets and the most ferocious of fear. I reach my hand under the layers, real and imagined, splay my fingers wide and rest them there. I wait for more. For another movement. Another reminder. Another something.

And it comes. And here, there, alone, never alone, I smile to myself. And words come, a slow trickle, a silent stream.

Everything will be okay.

Words foolish and glorious. Words ridiculous and true. Words that save me.

And I sit up slowly, on that bed, less alone, more aware. Life and love, longing and loss pulsing proudly inside me. Me.

And I write these words. And in writing them, something lifts.

Everything will be okay.

:::::

Aidan Donnelley Rowley has been writing at Ivy League Insecurities since 2009. Subscribe to her blog by RSS or by email.
Aidan’s debut novel Life After Yes was released on May 18, 2010. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured by Story Editor Heather ::: @HeatheroftheEO

26
January 13, 2011 | Featured 2, Friday 1, Mr Lady

The Hardest Thing

{By Tanis from Attack of the Redneck Mommy}

My child recently had to write an essay about the hardest thing he ever had to do. For him, it seems to be trying to keep his damn room clean. It’s mission impossible for a twelve year old sloth I tell you.

But this essay inspired a conversation between us that I have long since been thinking about. He asked me what the hardest thing I ever had to do was.

I didn’t know how to answer him.

What does hard really mean? Gestating and giving birth to three rabid badgers who tore my insides out was hard.

Coming home with a disabled baby no one expected or prepared for was hard.

Trying to explain to people why my beautiful son never smiled was hard.

Spending endless nights, months on end, staring at a boy in a crib in a hospital and wondering if my family would ever be whole and under one roof together was hard. Dealing with one doctor after another in a never ending series of medical emergencies was hard.

Missing field trips and precious moments with my older two children because I had to be with their younger sibling was hard.

Driving alone, in the middle of the night, with a dying child in the back seat of my car was hard.

Looking into my husband’s eyes when he arrived at the hospital and having to find the words to tell him I failed him and our son, was hard. Phoning our family to tell them our boy had died, was hard.

Walking out of the emergency room with nothing but a plastic bag of a dead boy’s belongings was hard.

Mustering up the courage to walk into my childrens rooms, sit them down as their father stood behind me weeping, to tell them their brother died in the middle of the night and they would never have another opportunity to hug him was hard.

Seeing the mound of dirt heaped upon where my boy’s body lie and having to walk away from that boy for the last time, was hard.

Hard doesn’t seem adequate enough.

Facing every holiday and birthday and anniversary knowing my family is forever fractured, is hard.

Watching our friends and family’s be able to celebrate together as a family with all of their children, is hard.

Opening the box of Christmas decorations and hanging a stocking for a boy who only exists in dusty picture frames and our hearts is hard.

None of this gets any easier. It seems to get harder as time ticks past and stretches out in front of us.

How does I choose what was the hardest when all of it is equally devastating and soul shattering?

Trying to adopt a baby boy, only to lose him and be accused of being a bad parent was hard. Fighting to clear our names and bring home another boy, our Jumby, was hard.

Fighting to get our family’s to accept and love Jumby has been hard.

Keeping my marriage together in the face of all this adversity has been hard.

All of these thoughts swirled around me as my son looked at me with patient innocent eyes. It was then I realized what the meaning of hard was to me, what my answer is, what it will always be.

“The hardest thing I have ever had to do, will ever have to do, is to remember to live, Frac,” I answered thoughtfully. “The hardest thing in the world is to choose joy. To remind myself that the scars we bear on our souls are just reminders of what we have been through, what we have lost. They shape us into the people we are today but they shouldn’t determine what comes tomorrow, Frac. For me, setting the example for you and your siblings that no matter how hard life gets, it should always go on because where one joy disappears another will appear.”

Frac fell silent while he stared at his lost brother’s ornament glinting off the Christmas tree as he processed what I had just said. I sat quietly beside him, staring off into the ether of my own memories as I waited for him to respond.

“I wish life wasn’t so hard for us. I wish we could just be regular people.”

“Me too buddy. Me too.”

“Thanks Mom,” he looked at me, the twinkle of the lights on the tree reflecting off his glasses. “I love you.”

“I love you too kidlet,” I smiled as I ruffled his unruly hair.

“I was totally wrong, by the way.”

“Wrong?” I asked, confused.

“Ya, I told Fric that you’d probably say the hardest thing you have ever done was get your nipples pierced. Boy was I wayyy off base,” he snickered.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him, so I just bit my tongue as he walked away and thought to myself, “Nope, dying the muff bright blue all by myself was waaaay harder than stringing ornaments through my boobs.”

Sometimes staying quiet is the hardest thing to do.

Tanis Miller has been blogging her life’s story since 2006 at Attack of the Redneck Mommy. The original post is here.
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45
December 9, 2010 | Featured 2, HeatherEO, Monday 2

Monsters

{by TKW of The Kitchen Witch}

Three weeks before her third birthday, Miss D. starts seeing monsters. My fierce warrior child, who fears nothing, now cowers in corners and under covers. Monsters usually appear around 3am. I wake with my heart pounding in my throat, hot with the strength of her scream.

“Monsters! Help me Mommy! I scared!”

I fumble for lights, footing and child simultaneously in the night and realize that I’m just as scared as she is.

**

I was almost in my third trimester with Miss D. when the newspaper was late. This drives my part-German self crazy. I need coffee and the paper to make me human in the morning; without them I am foul. Sourly, I resorted to the television. Mornings suck hard enough without some perky anchor with teeth too good to be true telling you what traffic’s like Out There.

I flicked the screen on just in time to see the second tower of The World Trade Center descend into rubble and smoke.

I thought it was a joke at first, or some weird movie stunt. Everybody did. You just don’t believe things like that can happen, particularly if you’re my age and have missed most of the good tragedies like JFK and World Wars and even Lennon, who I was too little to know.

I spent the rest of September 11 like most Americans did, grotesquely tuned-in. I channel-surfed maniacally, looking for answers or truth or the latest horrible picture, but it was a one-handed quest. The other hand was glued to my swollen belly,and I remember looking down at it and and thinking, “What on Earth have I done?”

**

My friend Tamar, an Israeli Jew, taught at Hebrew University. Her son, Yarden, was born ten days before Miss D. She has lived in Jerusalem, and then Tel Aviv, and has seen unspeakable things in both.

She watched when a bomb destroyed her favorite cafe; watched when the student union blew up in her workplace–minutes before she arrived at the U. She learned to avoid crowds, buses, open-air marketplaces. She grew accustomed to having her car searched by young men in uniforms.

“It’s sad, so sad, what’s going on in Israel, and yet still, I feel it is my home,” she wrote after yet another bombing near her neighborhood. “It’s part of our life here. We live with it and we go on.”

She is stronger than anyone I know and holds tight to her faith, even when horrible things happen. She sends me pictures during poppy season, her son beaming through an endless kaliedescope of orange.

I have seldom seen her rattled, but not long after Yarden’s first birthday, she wrote: I had to get Yarden a gas mask today. They require every child at the daycare to have one. I haven’t even bought my son a pair of real tennis shoes yet. But he has a gas mask.

She and her family now live in Chicago, and she convinces herself that she feels safe. When I ask her, she says she dreams in orange.

**

My sister, who used to be beautiful, has cataracts in both eyes. One more blow to either of them and she could be blinded. Her left eye is smaller and hangs lower in its socket, part of the occipital bone poking out at an awkward angle. She’s lost several front teeth and dresses in long sleeves. Her husband has a temper.

We grew up side by side, camped in the backyard, had parents who loved us and spoiled us and told us we had good brains.

The last time she was hospitalized, my father offered to pay for her divorce.

“I know you don’t approve, but I love him,” she said. “Some people just aren’t strong.” She looked out the window. “I’ve never had any luck.”

**

There’s an old gentleman, a relative of mine, who my mother never lets me be alone in a room with–never has. He’s in his 80′s now, small and wizened like a bad grape. He’s a God loving Baptist, has gone to church every Sunday for generations, gives hundreds of dollars to charity, is a pinnacle of the community. All the women in the family call him Papa.

When my mother was nine, Papa stuck his hands down her shirt in a dark cinema.

She ran all the way home, hysterical, and told her mother what had happened. My grandmother said, “Oh my goodness, is he still doing that?” and continued frying chicken.

**

I fumble for lights and words and my quivering daughter at 3am. She’s sweaty and she’s peed herself and she claws at my neck, burrowing her nose into my hair.

“It’s okay, baby. It’s okay, Mommy’s here,” I say, rubbing her back.

“Everything’s okay, Baby. No Monsters here,” I whisper, and choke on the lie.

:::::

Read the original post on TKW’s blog here.

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3

Farewell, Friend

{by Heather, of the former Queen of Shake-Shake}

Last Friday was Field Day at the boys’ school. Two hours each of Go-Fish, bouncy houses and terrible carnival-type food. Ages seven and nine now, Payton & Parker don’t need me there. They run off and leave me as soon as we get to the field. I’m simply there to hold their drinks, trinkets, and sand art jars. This is perfect because just the other day my arms and hands were telling me how very bored they were. Thanks goodness I had children so I would have random shit to hold for approximately 18 years!

So while I stood around like some kind of humanoid storage facility, I chatted with other moms who also resembled humanoid storage facilities. I was introduced to another 3rd grade mom and I have such awesome social skills that I couldn’t remember her name 30 seconds later. But this nameless mom said something I found very interesting….

“Isn’t it funny how the kids will be friends with one person this week, or for a month, and then someone else will be their best friend the next week? Kids are just so funny that way!”

They are?

They do?

Is this what “normal” kids do to friends? Shit, and they think my kid is weird? That’s rich.

Neither of my boys do that, even my very typical Parker, so maybe it’s girls? Or the future generation of shallow backstabbers?

I think of Parker and his favorite playmate. He’s been the favorite since they were, I don’t know, three? Four? When they were placed in separate 1st grade classes (after pre-K & kindergarten together) I thought surely Parker would move on to another “best” friend. He’s just so social, after all.

Not so, though he does have other more casual friendships. They still play together every day at P.E. and Parker is very worried they won’t have class or P.E. together next year.

I think of Payton and his one best friend. They’ve been close for three years now. Of course, Payton is my kid who could possibly be called “socially delayed,” but shit, the other kids flutter friend to friend, week to week. I don’t know, it seems my kid actually knows more about quality of friendship over quantity. Who’s delayed again?

_____________________________________________________________

Two hours earlier

I’m in between Parker’s field day time slot and Payton’s, waiting in Payton’s classroom as they prepare to go outside.

I don’t know what it is, but every time I come into Payton’s classroom there are three girls who gravitate towards me. Maybe it’s my hair. Or my cookies. Do I permanently smell like home-baked cookies? I can’t figure out why I’m like a magnet to these girls. I don’t think I exude liking for other people’s kids.

Of course, Payton’s best friend is in this group. We shall give her the blog name Macy.

As soon as I find a seat in his room, I’m overwhelmed by Payton and his scientific questions. As usual. He sees me, throws his hands in the air, yells “MOM!” and then shoves a nonfiction book in my face. This is how he greets me nine times out of ten. (Just so you know, the tenth time is a very unexcited and distracted “hi. Apparently if I’m not good for shoving a book in my face, I’m not that important.”)

With Parker, it’s “Mama!” and smiles and sweet, little boy hugs. But with Payton, it’s “Mom!” with hands in the air (sometimes jumping is included), science book in the face, and serious queries only.

Friday’s question was whether you pronounce the Tachina Fly as ta-key-na or ta-chi-na.

Payton asks this as if I automatically know the answer. Because I am God and have all the answers. One day he will realize he’s smarter than me and that I’m not God. *tremble*

No, actually, I’m quite honest with him when I don’t know the answer, which is frequent with the type of questions he asks. I want Payton to know the joy of the pursuit of knowledge, and so I make not knowing the answer perfectly acceptable. This works out great too, because I’m kind of lazy and faking it takes up energy. Why bother? Luckily, Payton has such an inborn enthusiasm to learn that I need do very little to encourage him to find the answers himself.

I told him I didn’t know the correct way to pronounce it.

“Let’s look it up on dictionary.com,” he said.

I turn to the classroom computer. And then recoil in horror.

It’s a PC. The hell. Do I dare sully my Mac fingers by touching it? Could I cross contaminate my Mac if I do? Not to mention the school password to get onto the internet, which I don’t have.

“Dictionary.com is probably blocked anyway,” one of my groupie girls says.

“How about we look it up in a regular dictionary,” I suggested.

This is met with a blank look by all three girls and Payton.

“You know, A BOOK DICTIONARY?” I said.

“Oh, yeah.” Payton says, as if lowering himself to a substandard way of life.

“I know,” I respond dramatically (with my hands in the air, I wonder where Payton gets it), “it’s like we’re living in 1972!”

Two of the three girls look at me as if they are trying to figure out whether I am funny or mentally unbalanced. They *think* I just made a joke, but aren’t sure.

On the other hand, Macy is having a big belly laugh. She totally gets the joke.

This is why I LOVE MACY SO MUCH. The fact that she is a child-model has nothing to do with it. Okay, so her cuteness did help me overcome my dislike of OPKs (other people’s kids), but only a little. Her prettiness is like icing on the cake of an utterly wonderful soul.

There are so many things I could say about Macy. I could tell you how she gently tries to help Payton through his emotional crises at school. I could tell you the number of times she has stood up for him when other kids were making fun of him. How she helps ease him into social situations. How she thinks Payton is the COOLEST kid ever (obviously she is of superior intelligence.) How she begs her mother to give us their trash (to recycle, of course.) Or how she saved up pop tops to help one of Payton’s charities.

I could tell you those things and more and still not convey how special she is to us.

On Wednesday, Macy is moving to another state.

We are going to miss her so much.

I’m trying not to dwell that Payton is losing his only friend.

Heather‘s blog is currently on hiatus.
You can still follow her on Twitter @queenofshake

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