Category - Motherhood

The toughest job I’ve ever had but also the sweetest

1
Movie Date
2
One Year
3
Acting Boy
4
Days Creep
5
The Difference Is…
6
Paper Places
7
Knotless
8
Loving You
9
Moving on
10
Equinox

Movie Date

John still eats the same five things but lately has added popcorn. He loves popcorn. After school, he asks: “Watch movie in the basement and eat some popcorn?” I smile and oblige.

He gathers old friends together, a tall boy and his basket of buds from a wide swath of eras. This  boy, this boy who never really got pretend play, has lined them all up in front of the television to watch a movie and eat some popcorn.

You know, pretend play.

I am grateful. Day #2.

One Year

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?
In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.
—From Rent, Seasons of Love

One year. One long year measured by tears and anger, pain and sorrow and yes, love. You could not take that away — it blankets and comforts me when the chill of you blows in and I am stronger for it. Two boys, amazing beings I could never have imagined and will ever adore. Autism is nothing in the face of this. Divorce and the end of us is nothing in the face of this. This is pure and honest.

When one door closes, another opens. I’m so glad to close this door, this door on one year, one year without you.

Acting Boy

Dude! My son is an actor. He sports dark shades and a blazer with a button-down. When we first started searching for an outfit for his “fancy clothes” cast party, he sobbed. I was confused at first, what is so anxiety-provoking about getting dressed up? He confessed, finally, “Alright, Mom. I’ll tell you the truth.”

Pray tell.

“I’m not a fancy clothes type of guy.”

I laughed aloud and hugged him, because Dude? I’m not a fancy clothes type of gal either. How I understood him right then. I reassured him he could wear khakis and a nice shirt if he’d rather. Friends dropped by with a bag — a jacket and tie, which Sam refused to look at. As the day got closer, though, curiosity got the best of him. “Can I see the fancy clothes?”

His eyes big, he said “I’d like to try it on.”

Days Creep

When your marriage ends you look within. You struggle, you grieve, you mourn what you thought you had and then you mourn that you never did. Days creep, creep by — every minute drips with heaviness. Once there was never enough time — now the days are long, the nights longer and sleep is something that happens for other people. You awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., rise and pad through the rooms of your home. You stop in your boys’ bedroom doorway and listen to their gentle snores.

You cry a lot and often.

You stop eating. You lose an unbelievable 20 pounds without even trying. You can’t even cheer the silver lining of misery. The long days stretch to weeks and then months. You are in the thick of it and it is crazy time. CRAZY time.

Then one morning, so many months later (eleven!), you wake up and the clock says 7:10. You are sleeping again and the first thought that assaults you is not the shock, not the sadness, not the pain — finally. Instead you think about the day ahead, lunch you’ll have with a dear friend, a walk in the park. And even though you are still in the thick of it and will be in the thick of it until you are pronounced Done, you get on with it and you thank your lucky stars that at least you are alone, at least you are no longer a bit player on the stage of a lie.

You are done being a puppet in his drama. You are like a bird with a broken wing — you can’t yet fly, but at least you are intact.

Surely the end of every marriage that ends is unique. Obviously none of it is pain-free. Holy fuck, is there pain. But some people drift apart, some people are on the same page, some people see it coming.

You were blindsided. The truth you uncover is unfathomable, impossible, and flies in the face of every I love you. You remember the day you took vows in front of everyone you loved and while marriage is hard, no doubt, you worked at it and assumed the man you chose, who chose you, would work at it too. You assumed because you trusted. You did not know, how could you? — that your trust was simply his carte blanche.

Along the way to this morning — this morning when you awake to sun pouring in your window at 7:10 — you will learn many things, not the least of which is that some people deserve an Academy Award. They’ve charmed their way through life; taking, always taking, because it’s easy and they can.

You vow never ever to trust like that again. More than a decade of deceit, of platitudes and false moments. How you loathe the fact that this will always be part of your story. You are hurt and you are mad and you ache for your kids whose lives will forever be altered by these events.

But most of all, you are strong. You always were. And in the way that counts most, you are free.

The Difference Is…

The lights off, I tuck you in. Your eyes, heavy with sleep, struggle to stay open. You ask me in your sleepy voice, “Why am I different from other kids?” I ask what you mean and you say, “You know how I get frustrated easily and I can’t catch a ball… and sometimes I talk different?” I explain that everyone is unique and everyone has things that are difficult. Some things are because of autism and there are wonderful, awesome things about you too. You ask me to please enumerate them (and you say “enumerate” in such a way that I laugh and immediately oblige).

“Well,” I say, “You have such empathy, Sam. You are so aware of feelings — you might say you’ve been an A+ student in feelings.” And I remind you how starting at age two you studied the faces of all the Thomas the Tank engines and named their expressions and spent hours drawing pictures of feelings: Happy, Sad, Excited, Scared, Nervous.

“What else?” you ask.

I tell you that I’ve never known anyone who has a memory like yours. Your memory is astounding. You nod, “My brain is full of many facts.” Indeed. I tell you how I don’t know one single person who can draw our U.S. map from memory and tell me with absolute accuracy which state borders which state. Or who can tell me, when asked, who the 7th president was and whether he was Republican or Democrat and if he liked to eat cheese.

You mention your latest subject: Evolution. And you rattle off hominae and homini and homo erectus and tell me how neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago and we are part of the Great Apes, one big homini family. Ho.

“You see?” I say and touch your face. “Your memory is something special.” You smile but ask for more.

“Okay,” I say, “your enthusiasm is contagious.” And you ask me (of course you do), “Like a disease?” and I say no, no, no. “I mean your enthusiasm is SO great that other people sometimes “catch it”.

“You mean like a disease,” you say — not a question. I sigh, we are trapped in your literal mind. “Yes,” I tell you, “but a GOOD disease — it’s not a disease, but if it were a disease, it’s something everyone would like to catch.”

“Is stress like a disease?” you ask out of the blue. I tell you that it is, kind of, and you tell me that when I’m stressed that I should practice your techniques. “Oh?” I ask, bracing myself. “First you must count slowly to 4 — like this: ‘1…2….3….4….’ You should also smile more because this will trick your body into not being stressed. People like being with people who smile lots.” I ask if people includes you and you tell me it does.

“You are very wise, Sam,” and I tell you that you are more grown-up than most adults.

“Thank you,” you say, pleased.

I think how time is like a rubber band: it stretches from the past to the present, from what I knew to what I know…until eventually it snaps, and in breaking releases me. Today might be my 12th wedding anniversary but I feel a strange release. I feel free, at least more free than yesterday.

The difference is my boys, everything real and true and honest in my life.

Paper Places

Trust:
1. assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
2. one in which confidence is placed

I used to give trust freely, like a gift, but I’m not so giving anymore.

“Mom!” says Sam, “You are QUASHING my CREATIVITY!”

Amused, I ask how cleaning up his mess — the scraps, the tape, the crayons, the scissors — how is that quashing his creativity?

“I need it like this,” he explains. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Trust? Sure — but can we clean up some of it?”

“Now you’re starting to BREAK my creativity. When you tell me to clean up, it is BREAKING me. Don’t BREAK me, Mom.”

Seriously. I sound like a kneecap smasher or a wild horse wrangler — instead of a mom who’s just trying to clean the freakin’ kitchen and make dinner.

I simply do not understand how creativity can arise from this chaos. Even while I see it everywhere: the  complex structures made out of paper and tape, the “water slide”; the “amusement park”;  the “life-size Sam figure” lying in front of my dishwasher — this chaotic jumble of mess is too much.

“Sam!” I try again. “Just clean some of it then. How about all the scraps, we can put them in recycling,” I say, hoping to awaken his earnest “Go Green” crusade, when he will tell me again that he thinks we should ditch our minivan and walk everywhere.

But even as I say it, I realize that I spend far too much time trying to create order from chaos and despite my best efforts, chaos has chosen to land smack in my kitchen and my life. Why fight it any longer. Perhaps the best I can do is grab my own paper and tape and start rebuilding. Trust that a form will take shape.

He pulls me to the kitchen floor, right next to Life-Size-Sam and in front of the Fun House made of orange construction paper. “I’ll show you how the roller coaster works!” How do I not grab the paper car he gives me and vroom vroom it up his paper roller coaster. How do I not smile, here on my dirty kitchen floor surrounded by paper places and crayons and tape.

Always the tape.

Give me a paper house built with tape and conviction any day. It’s the effort and actions that count. Charming words, facile and glib, are like a beautifully wrapped box that is empty inside. Unlike my boy’s paper places, they collapse at the slightest breeze.

Knotless

We are off at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. Being here is healing me day by day, even if this place, like most, is riddled with memories of a life long gone. How do you summarize 14 years of your life, what kind of burial do you give it? I sit by the water and offer chunks of it to the sound. The sunlight ripples on the water and I imagine my old life drift away, dappled and unrecognizable.

Later I lie in the hammock under a canopy of trees, the sky immense and clear. John races around me, up and down into the garden, while Sam reads in the grass (The Evolution of Man!). So much is possible but still impossible is to forgive in the absence of remorse.

I think about what I knew and what I know and the two blend together into one big knot and all I want is to be knot-less, to be stripped of all I knew and all I know. You can’t stay away, you’re drawn here. He’s no prize, I want to tell you. Who does what he did and for so long. Who does what you did and for so long? Well, then. I guess you’re each other’s prize.

In the meantime, I hold my children close and try to love the hurt out of them. Some days I think I am that powerful. Other days I know the truth. What else is there to do then, but to work this knot, worry and work and pull it. Try to untie it, turn it over and over, until the knot is undone, until I am undone and in the undone-ness, done with you.

Knotless.

So here we are at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. We create new memories. John runs barefoot through the tall grass, his long legs wet with dew. He stops and turns his face to the sun, does finger puppets in the air. Sam goes fishing with my dad and despite the frustration of waiting… waiting… is so happy when he catches his first tiny fish. I watch my two long-legged boys, so full of love and joy and know that even if undoing this knot takes days, months, years — they are my prize.

Loving You

We sit here and talk about your day. New camp, new experience, new fears. And you whisper, Her name is Mimi, your smile shy. She cried at drop-off and I ask if she did better as the day went on. She was sad, you say. You were relieved you weren’t the only one anxious about a new experience. You tell me about her long yellow hair and how she wears it pulled back in a ponytail. I ask if you and Mimi became friends.

Not yet, you say. You tell me that you’re both getting used to each other first — in your minds. That tomorrow, perhaps, you will be ready to move forward — that tomorrow, perhaps, you’ll be three quarters there. We’ll smile then speak when it’s time. I see how earnest you are and am impressed by your insight: this is how it can go, after all.

Then later, Mommy can I marry you one day?

No, sweetie. It doesn’t work like that. And I tell you how one day when you grow up, you will meet someone who is just right for you, who you will love and who will love you too. And you’ll get married and maybe have kids and Mom will be here (Down the street? Next door?) and I’ll also be known as Grandma if I’m lucky.

But I’m worried. I think I’ll lose you when that happens. Impossible, I say, and tell you about all the many types of love in the world and the love you have for your mom (and the love she has for you, dear Sam) is Forever.

Mommy is forever here loving you.

Moving on

Tonight cackles with the past. I walk through these rooms, this house, this shell and remember bathing you side by side in the pink bathtub, rumpling your hair with towels of stripes and frogs. Back then you slept at the other end of the house in beds under tents, the end where the fire broke out four years ago tonight. Such sweet little boys (of course you still are!), but you were only three then. I remember how you piled onto my lap to read a goodnight story, your hair soft and wet — your father on one side, me on another.

We love you if not each other.

I kiss you both goodnight and tell you how very proud I am of you, how independent you’ve both become. Sam, you see my face and say, “Does it make you sad too?” and I tell you that indeed it does, but that it’s happy-sad, a mix.

I realize, with a start, that this is it exactly. “Do you know how much Mommy loves you?I say. [THIS big, as big as the universe…?] you answer with a question. “Even bigger,” I reply and you laugh.

Later I watch you sleep, your faces pressed into pillows, almost eight. I know it’s pointless to ask, but how did time creep up on us like this? The things this shell could share if sharing were possible. Here we are then, a family of three roaming rooms on our way to somewhere new. I am haunted by the memory of who you were, who I was. This shell, this shell that is no longer a home, has many secrets to tell but I’m no longer interested in the telling, just the moving on. 

Of course in the moving on, there is the telling.

Equinox

Walking to school this morning:
“Mom, isn’t it a gorgeous spring day?” he says, swinging my hand. Yep, I say as I sidestep the worms. The worms, dear god, they’re everywhere. Sam looking up, Mom looking down. Sam looking forward, Mom looking back towards the car.

I suggest we still have time to drive, but he ignores me. We are halfway there, after all. “Do you know what today is?” he asks. “It’s the Spring Equinox!” It is? I thought it was tomorrow, I say, resolute. We will walk to school, okay. I am being walked to school.

“Mom! Winter left the stage at 11:59 p.m. last night,” he tells me. I picture an actor dressed in white exiting a scene and laugh. It left the stage? Where did Winter go? I ask.

“To the southern hemisphere, of course,” he says, as if everyone should know this. I think I know this, it sounds right. “It’s Fall there and Winter is waiting for them!”

I tell him that we are lucky that we have Summer waiting in the wings for us then, and he agrees. “The birds are happy too, they will begin their migration,” he says.

We arrive and I have forgotten the worms and the clouds. My boy, he is my sun.

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