Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Open Letter

To my oldest friend and ally,

Greetings!  I hope this finds you well.  This is my very first letter to you, in all the years (almost 40 of them) I've known you.  While I don't expect a response, I hope you appreciate what I have to say.

I start by confessing that we've had an off at first, on, then off again, then on again relationship over the years.  I ask that you kindly note that the off times generally included the presence of a baby. 

I recall the early days when we were just getting to know each other.  Our budding relationship was fraught.  There were grave misgivings.  There was not even the tiniest inkling of trust.  You terrified me. I know now that I was frightened to tears that you were going to take me away.  (To be fair to me, you were so mysterious and unpredictable.)

To your credit, you never gave up.  You cooed and cajoled.  You gently embraced.  You called softly to me and I learned to fall into your arms and feel safe.  And I grew to love you. Even to long for you when we weren't together.  And so we had so many years of happiness together. 


Until we didn't. 

Oh my beloved!  Your stoicism leaves much room for my imagination so I can't say how it was for you, but for me? It was torture!  Instead of long, languid visits together, instead of your warm embrace, instead, my love, of us melting together there was upheaval and seemingly endless intrusions on our time together. The less you were there, the more I craved your peace.  I cliché as I say here that I felt I was going mad - but I really did.  My sense of reality was distorted.  Time became a tangle without you.  I remained upright.  But only just.

During that time, there were innumerable occasions on which I marveled that there was ever a time that I didn't love and trust you implicitly.  What a fool I was!

As soon as I possibly could, I worked - (really "crawled" is a better choice (hmm, might we really go for it and say "dragged"?))- my way back to you.  And like the steadfastly faithful friend you are, there you were quietly waiting, ready.  I- harrowed, harangued, bewildered, tormented- I fell hard and gratefully into your soporific arms. 

After all those years, you were still there for me.  My friend.  It changed me for the better to be reunited with you.  I was a new woman!  Upright became standing, standing became standing tall.  Things were great between us again! And so it was. 

But now?  Something is happening and it alarms (let's not get too hasty) concerns me.  You come to visit, yes, but you don't stay as long and sometimes you don't even come in, instead lingering on the periphery.  Or else you leave early or come-and-go, rather like a person caught in a revolving door. You're changing, my friend.  I say you because I am still coming to see you.  Calling. I still talk about you with my friends.  I often think about you as the afternoon wanes, a small yearning for our time together later. My desire to be with you hasn't changed. 

I want to know what is happening and how I can fix it.

I won't give up.  I know we still have something; we always will. 

Why don't you come by at around 11:30 tonight and let's do our best to stay together for about seven hours? And let's try again and again.  Every single night.

So Very Faithfully Yours,


Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Caterpillar and The Butterfly

This post has been low temp slow cooking for a while.  It's being borne out of and by the inherent sorrow that belongs exclusively to parenthood.  It's a peculiar brand as it inextricably entangled with joy and gratitude. 

It's the changing of the caterpillar into a butterfly.  Over and over and over and over and over (ad infinitum (we hope)) again. 

It's watching your baby grow older.  Rather, watching your baby continually being replaced by newer, older, bigger, differenter versions of herself.  Of himself.

Last night, as I tucked my 10 year old boy in for the last time, we talked a little about how in the morning, he'd have been replaced by an 11 year old.  At the grave risk of being even more melodramatic - a mini-death is what we'd called it.  We smiled together about it.  It was copacetic.  

Which brings me back to the metaphor that seems to be held as the fertile ground of hope (proof?) that things don't really end, they just change.  The caterpillar becoming the butterfly.  It would be easy to think the caterpillar has died. Especially as we see him ensconced in his cocoon.  But if we wait long enough.  If we are still and patient, we will be rewarded. A new and beautiful creature will emerge to greet us.  But what of the caterpillar? He can't be recognized in the butterfly!  Yet, we know.  We know the caterpillar is in there.  Somewhere.  Everywhere.

Sci/Why: Help Save the Monarch Butterfly!

Who could have known (except all the mothers and fathers before, with, and after me) that special sorrow? That heartcrack, the edges of which are coated with joy. Hands fly to face, to heart, to reach, to hold, to grasp the flash of time. The impossibly subtle shifts that suddenly become glaring and terrifyingly beautiful bounds of growth, of new person.

I beg you to forgive me for the clumsiness of this language.  I am in rather a clumsy state as a whirl and turn, bewildered at having arrived here almost without knowing how.

In the short space of 4 days I've celebrated my firstborn becoming a teenager and my second born firmly establishing his foothold in the double digits and stepping into the realm of the tween.

It seems so odd and silly, doesn't it?  It seems contrary that I should feel this way.  This little (I lied.  This rather embarrassingly large) heartbreak.  This fishing line (trawler's net?) of sorrow plumbing the depths of my love, joy and general state of awe at being the mother of these two completely other people.  One would imagine only happiness that they are growing and healthy and happy and thriving.  Pride at the achievements and the people they are being and becoming. Wonder all the things that are uniquely their own.  All the good feelings.

And yes.  Yes to all those things and more.  (Pictured here are a pair of animé eyes with those oversized pupils and reflection spots, all wide-eyed shining with awe.)

One might be confounded at the very notion of sadness coming to roost in the midst of these wonderful things.  What's there to be sad about?

But it is.  It is sad.   All the farewells.  All the goodbyes.  All the ends of all the stages (remember when...?).   The disappearances of the hand-held baby, the busy toddler, the curious little kid, the rapidly developing bigger kid.  These are hinged on, are flip sides of, the joyful appearances of all the same versions. 

Here I stand greeting two new people. 
A teenager has arrived.  My little girl has gone.
A tween has arrived. My little boy is going.

It's pure, radiant joy.  It's deep, beautiful sorrow.

I suspect that this may be the sweetest sorrow there is.