Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Little and Big Earthquakes

Parenting, (and apparently, life in the Mid-Atlantic region), is a series of little earthquakes.

That first cry. That life-affirming smile. A chubby foot striking the earth.

Belly laughs. Spontaneous dancing. Sweaty heads resting on shoulders.

Moments that make a forever.

And then, there are days like this, when the earthquakes are not as little.

And when your baby enters the big, big world? You trust that your foundation is rock solid, and hold on.

And smile when all is calm again.

(Happy first day of Kindergarten, Buddy.)

Red Writing Hood: All a Twitter

The Prompt: 
Let’s lighten it up around here. And when I say lighten, I mean REALLY lighten.
This week’s assignment will require the fewest number of words ever: we want you to write a story – your choice of topic – as a tweet.
That’s right. One hundred and forty characters. Not words. Characters.

 Here 'Tis:
They had been married thirty years. She arched her back. Gasped. Sensation erupted in endless waves. But only in Madge's arms. Never his. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Flickering Warm, Light

Motivation. It alludes me these days.

When I was a teacher, I stayed late, tweaked lesson plans, and served on committees. I endeavored to be professional, knowledgeable, and vibrant.

Then, for awhile, I was that mother. Extended breast feeding and homemade baby food. No TV. Daily enrichment activities and age-appropriate sensory experiences.

This then morphed into writing. I was going to become a freelance writer, a la David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, or Erma Bombeck. I would work from home, crafting words and emotions while my children napped.

And now? It all exhausts me. I've given up on writing being anything more than a hobby, because those that want it work really, really hard. And I don't.  (Also, my kids don't nap anymore).

I am a loving, considerate, caring mother. But I cannot get excited about making fun snacks for preschool or planning parties for my older son's classroom.

When I drop off my kids at camps or school, I don't linger. I don't make small talk with the other mothers, exchanging chit-chat about sleep habits or the best deals on chicken breasts. I keep my sunglasses on. Or I text.

That fire within--to be the best, to be noticed, to be liked and have lots of gold stars--has become a flickering warm light.

I take pride in smaller things. A solid four-mile run. The paint roller gliding across the wall. Knobby knees. A soft hand clutching my thumb.

I don't know if my motivation is hibernating or forever dormant. Perhaps, in light of all the other things going in my life right now, this is the best I can do.

Or maybe, this is what I've always meant to do.

Maybe life is teaching me to care less, so I don't become careless when it really matters.

Does this ring true to anybody? Please share your insights.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Cleared

We're getting steamy at the Red Dress Club today....

"Should we do it?" he whispered.

She glanced upstairs. "Okay," She tiptoed to the couch, "But only if we're quiet."

"Don't worry," he said, flicking on the DVD.

They watched season one of Lost during the final months of her pregnancy, unwrapping each character and plot twist, then folding them neatly in their mind's drawers. .

But then Madelyn came, with her fleshy pink feet and soft sighs. Life pressed the pause button. The drank her in. Watched each sigh and arm flail with wide eyes and an ever-present camera.

But oh, how she fussed! Bleating mews, inconsolable arching. Fury with a red face and pouted lip.

Her parents paced, holding her close as she curled into herself. They placed her in her bassinet, where she would sleep for ten, sometimes fifteen minutes a stretch before beginning the process anew.

They had tried to watch the same episode of Season Two for five weeks now "Why is Charlie so conflicted about the Mary dolls?" she asked, "I swear, this baby has made me stupid."

"I don't remember," he admitted. "Should I rewind it?"

"Nooooooo!" she hissed, "We will never finish this show. We must plow through it."

He winced as the baby hiccuped and growled from the bedroom. The clock ticked as they held their breath and waited. 


He pressed play. She rested against him, placing her hand on his leg.

She had gone to the doctor today for her six-week checkup. Her husband didn't know, because she didn't want him to know, that she was cleared. For exercise, for sex, for medically being "normal."

As the castaways ran through the forest on the screen, her eyes filled with tears. How was this normal? Her breasts reeked, her hair was developing its own ecosystem, and life was broken into fifteen minutes of wailing and fear.

How did people have second children? How could they even consider doing this all again?

How could they even do it again? 

She sat in silence as the screen faded to black. She felt his gaze, and turned to him.

And  he kissed her. He cupped the back of her neck and drew her closer. She folded into him, returning the kiss, feeling herself become lighter, looser, unleashed.

He ran a thumb down her check, tracing her jawbone. His eyes spoke of longing, of twisted sheets and soft sighs. "I miss us," he said, "I love Madelyn, but I miss these lips." She closed her eyes as he moved to her ear, "And lots of other places."

She nodded, and once again, felt her eyes fill with tears. "Oh, me too." She rested her head against his chest, feeling the familiar warmth, his soft, oaky smell. Her hand moved to the trail of hair leading to his waistband. He let out a low groan.

She smiled. It was time.

"Honey? I went to the doctor today...."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Body Surfing

"Let's go on a bug hunt," my youngest said. A first coating of mud was already hardening under his stubby fingernails. His smile exploded across his face.

"Give me a second," I walked inside and changed out of my pajama bottoms, then refilled my coffee cup.

I didn't want to go on a bug hunt. I wanted to sit at the kitchen table and check Facebook updates on my phone. To crawl up into myself like a hermit crab.

The boys tumbled into the kitchen, "We need bread! We need bread!" my oldest sang.

"For the bugs! For the bugs!" yelped the youngest.

I had hoped they had forgotten. Every pore sighed as I trudged over to the cabinet, dug out the butt end of a loaf. I forced a smile, and reached for my sunglasses. "Let's go!"

We walked through our neighborhood, and as the boys handed me Black-Eyed Susans, rocks, and green gum ball pods, I berated myself. Shake this off. Enough. Smile and mean it. 

I held on to my youngest hand, called out "Red Light," whenever my oldest ran away too far. We trudged up a hill, our meanderings leading us to the beach, to my beloved Chesapeake.

And there were waves. Not the normal gentle nudges, like those of a lapdog. These were Golden Retriever waves. Crashing, Wind swept, full of salt and danger and light.
We rested by the water's edge. I held my boys close, as the surf splashed our faces and arms. Then, I stood up. I waded in.

The water smacked my legs, drenching my yoga pants and shirt. The boys ran toward me. Youngest gripped my hand, as each wave pounded his frame. "I won't let you go," I said. I was grateful for my sunglasses, as I blinked back the tears, "I will always be here for you."

"Okay, Mommy," he said, "Jump! Jump! Jump!"

My oldest rode the waves, body-surfing for the first time in his five years. For the first time that day, I smiled without trying.

Because this is what a lifetime of liturgy does to a person, I remembered my baptism. I closed my eyes and felt the water, and remembered that I am never truly alone. That family and love and the grace of a spontaneous morning swim are stronger than hard mornings and illness and Daddy being gone a lot to see Grandma.
We walked home, sodden but light. I gave the boys baths, and we washed away all that clung to us.

And then, finally, joyfully, we set out into the world.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Simple Touch. Freely Given.

Several years ago, my mother had sudden and violent vertigo. In just two cruel days, she was unable to write her name or speak without slurring. Doctors tossed around bits of terror...Multiple Sclerosis. Lesion. Giloma.

I was on the East Coast, hearing this all from the phone. Wondering when I needed to get on a plane, mourning the grandchildren I feared she would never meet.

Meanwhile, Mom's best friend, Maril, walked into that hospital room. She rested herself on the foot of my mother's bed. She opened her purse, then removed a tube of creamy lilac lotion.

And as my mother drifted in and out of sleep, she massaged my mother's feet. Simple touch. Freely given.

Mom got better. Simple words, but perhaps the greatest miracle of my life.

And now, my husband's mother is ill. My other mom. 

On Sunday,  she rested on the couch, floating in and out of sensation.  My oldest son massaged her legs.

He's five. He touched with small fingers, used to climb trees and make fortresses of sand. For twenty minutes, his energy ebbed and receded, his little waves of devotion.

"She needs to sleep," he said, "And so I helped her."

Simple touch. Freely given.

This is what we are called to do. This is what matters.

We take care of each other. We give freely.

And we are humbled.