A. Walk with a two year old through a mile-long corn maze on a seventy-eight degree afternoon exactly at nap time
B. Eat a leather shoe?
Would You Rather...?
A. Spend an afternoon watching beginner figure skaters perform skittering tricks to grainy recordings of instrumental Broadway show tunes, High School Musical karaoke songs, and umpteen different versions of The Nutcracker
B. Sunbathe with your eyelids duct-taped open?
Would You Rather...?
A. Listen to your eight year old wax poetic for hours on end on the joy that is Tamagotchi
B. Sneeze staples?
Some days are hard.
Or rather, in my world of privilege, abundant food and water, indoor plumbing, and luxurious time to spare, some days are "hard".
Some days, it takes a great effort of sustained reverse imagination to stay in the moment, any moment, and enjoy the luxury of accurately and genuinely seeing these small people I made, see them and soak them in like honey on a sponge cake, soak them in like the dessert that they are and not, instead, some bowlful of dry lentils.
Some days, I need to play a reverse version of the Our Town Stage Manager and lead myself forward in time to another version of myself - an older, less agile, more pained version; or a version of myself anxious and waiting in a hospital room; or a version of myself alone in a kitchen pouring, finally, an uninterrupted cup of tea and wondering what my grown babies are doing, where they are in their own heads, where they will lay those lovely heads that night, and not being sure where or in what room or place they will meet the dawn....
I need to lead myself forward in time to a moment of unwanted, unanswered solitude and then back again, back to this uneventful day, this unimportant day, this day of ever watching clocks while rushing and prodding children through one moment into the next:
Now breakfast, now the arguments about cleaning up dishes and pulling combs through tangled hair, now out the door to school and homework left on the counter, now wondering how much longer I need to play on the floor in order to call myself "good mother", now nap time, now the afternoon crush of low sugar and out the door to soccergrymnasticsballetskatingscouts, now the dinnertime squabbles, now the gauntlet before bedtime, now one ear awake all night hoping to not hear them before dawn -
But, just for a moment now we're all together.Some days, I’m in the middle of a hot, dry corn field with a toddler who is at once cranky, at once pointing toward the high golden stalks bending over him like gods' heads, now screaming on the ground, now kicking a stray kernel through the dust, now rushing ahead of me singing a song never heard before, never to be heard again, the words stringing out and disappearing like seconds, minutes, now turning a corner, a glimpse of Spiderman sneaker, a corner of blue coat sleeve, a few fine strands of strawberry-blond hair, later clipped and pasted on a page….
Just for a moment we're happy.
Let's look at one another.
Some day in the quickly closing-in future, I'll give anything and everything to be in that hot, dry cornfield again.
Some day, I'll give anything for my biggest immediate problem to be wrestling a tired toddler into my arms - even the beating fists, even the tears - just to feel the beautiful weight of him in my arms, just to know where he will be laying his lovely head that evening, free from my own anxieties, free from the not being able to remember how it felt to be able to run and catch up with him so easily.
Mama, I'm here.
I'm grown up.
I love you all, everything.
I can't look at everything hard enough.
Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me.
This lanky girl who walks into the kitchen on colt's legs, a mane of chestnut hair, a book under her arm, a book filled with words she may never show me, a book filled with a version of herself that she’s inventing while I’m not looking. My authoress who will, I know, parse me and poem me until I become an unrecognizable Picasso work reinvented by my own invention.
This golden daughter in the middle who becomes a mystery to me each day even as she smiles out loud; she pokes fun and teases me and refuses to be a simple known quantity easily assembled from bits and pieces of a mother plus a father. She equals nothing I have ever known before and this is a joke she loves repeating, her heart-sleeve emotions a punch line that gets me every time.
Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?
Every, every minute?
We take photos.
We make videos.
We document and describe what is happening, what was, what we think we’ll never forget but press into scrapbooks just in case - this endless hour of breastfeeding, this first week of autumn, this secret flashlight and shape of finger shadow on tent wall, this sound of giggling from the next room, this frosty morning, this small hand on my arm….
And still so many moments slip through like water in a cupped palm.
So many days are here and gone with the waiting for each day to end.
I am not perfect.
I am not a poet or a saint or - Shakespeare's aphorism notwithstanding - even a character in a play with or without a Stage Manager at hand to prompt me into climactic monologue of perfect awareness.
I’m just a mom and a blogger and someone who can occasionally trick herself into answering "A" for every "Would You Rather...?" when really, it should take no trick at all.
When really, 1:34 PM on a glorious Tuesday in warm October in the middle of a tall corn field with a red-haired little boy shouting
"Now! And now! And now!"
should be enough.