24 Jan 2017
To my son,
On the place we call home,
It is 1:56 am, and a white light spreads over my eyelids. I hear the familiar sound of pee hitting water, haphazardly. Then silence. I lay on my side with my eyes half open now, listening, waiting. Until I finally see the silhouette of your tiny dreads sticking up in the light of the doorway.
You peek into my bedroom with squinted eyes, and say something I cannot decipher. I mumble something about turning off the light, and urge you back to bed, not wanting the hard-earned sleep to slip from my eyes. You turn from the doorway, take a few steps to the bathroom, flush the toilet, turn off the light, and shuffle back to bed. I turn over on my stomach to ease myself back into unconsciousness.
I wonder to myself, if a good mother would have tucked you back in.
I close my eyes instead, and begin thinking of you. I wonder what you think of me. What you will think years from now, when the scales of naiveté finally fall from your eyes.
Will you smile when you think of me?
I’m not as nurturing as my mother. This is why you cry for her when you fall.
You look for her softness in the dark of morning, and in her bed, you press your five-year old body against hers.
Sometimes I hear your feet pitter-patter, across the hardwood floor, headed in the direction of her room, and I feel relieved.
Six months ago, it was just you and I. This was back when the pitter-patter of feet beckoned a day of packing lunches, pulling off urine-stained sheets, pressing uniforms, pushing paperwork, punching clocks, putting you to bed, and in the solitude of our two-bedroom apartment, we pushed and pulled on each other like two broken magnets. You pulled for every ounce of attention. I pushed you away.
“Just go play with your iPad for a little while. Mommy’s tired.”
In the days when little girls played MASH or when young bellies fluttered with thoughts of the children they would bear, I fabricated dreams of motherhood. I did what girls were supposed to do. I figured, I’d have three children one day. Two boys and a girl.
But my future children were only imagined numbers and genders. They had no faces, thoughts, emotions, personality. I could not imagine my long eyelashes or their father’s brows pressed upon their tiny faces. I could not tune my ear to the distinct sound of their cry. These children were quiet. They did not ask me to make pancakes at 5 am. They did not test my boundaries. They always did what they were told. These children had fathers who took them fishing. These children fit in with their peers. They were never told they had Autism or ADHD. My imaginary children never had needle after failed needle stuck through their fleshy wrists or plastic tubes pushed through their noses and throats. They never made me cry out in utter fear and exhaustion, alone, behind the curtain of night.
I never imagined what kind of mother I’d be. I didn’t imagine it even when you came pushing through my uterus six weeks early with fists and elbows piercing the air. Your father and I were unprepared. I lay with you in the hospital, while he went home to set up your crib. He read the directions for the car seat while I fumbled through the process of changing your diaper. The nurse taught me to clutch you like you a football so your lips would attach properly to my breast. Your head wobbled side to side, mouth wide open, as you frantically searched for the nourishment only your mother could provide.
I never imagined a thousand poems would escape from my mind the second I laid my eyes on you. I watched as you slept and assumed you were dreaming memories from that special place before your star fell from the sky.
But tonight, as I lay here, grasping at the last remnants of sleep, I reflect on what kind of mother I am.
Should I have tucked you back in?
I know that you sleep wildly, twisting the sheets from between the mattress and the metal frame. The longer side of the sheet now draping over the short side of the bed. I know that you rarely pull the covers up properly after rising from your bed. One of your legs sticks out diagonally, though, the covers are pulled up to your chin.
I ask myself, what my mother would have done.
On my bed, I feel anxious now. In only a few hours, before the sun is just a pink line in the sky, you will be on my bed, recalling dreams of sharks and demanding waffles and showering me with kisses.
You are a tornado of energy and conversation, and I am a woman molded in the experience of solitude.
You have a brilliant mind. Always questioning and wondering. Wandering, peeking through narrow spaces, seeing things I have forgotten; your hands clumsily reach for things on top of dressers, open boxes and jars and drawers and doors; you push your body over pillows and under beds and tables, through hangers of clothes and crawl on floors, and spin, and leap, and run around anything wooden and rectangular.
In the confines of plastered walls, where we are entertained with, beckoned to, and distracted by electronic tablets, televisions, and computer screens, we seem to constantly pull, push, stretch, bend, and fall over each other. I lack the patience to play with toy dinosaurs and sharks. You lack the desire to be your own source of entertainment. I lack the interest to hold conversations about imaginary creatures and inanimate objects. You lack the motivation to play quietly while I work. Behind these walls, we are two vines strangling each other.
But there is a place where we thrive, where we gel to each other like sap on wood. In this place, we find ourselves mesmerized by specks of lime-colored lights that float and flash through tall grass in the velvet night; we slosh and sink through banks of clay, then air-dry our red-stained feet while lying suspended in time and space, rocking back and forth, sun beams sparkle through limbs and leaves; we stay up late to gaze at stars and watch the fire light the flame of adoration and adventure; in the morning, we wake to birds and walk barefoot in the cool of the day, and in this place, we quietly know each other.
Each time, we return to our place in the forest, you cry out, “We’re home” and I know exactly what you mean. Home is where you feel free. Where you can lift up rocks, and reach for limbs, and swing on vines, and climb up trees. Home is where, together, we face our fears of the dark, of lightening, of spiders, of bees, and especially, of each other.
Home is where motherhood feels natural to me. It feels like sitting on the dock at sunset, eating cherries and spitting out the seeds. It feels like falling asleep to crickets and to tales of ghosts and monsters and whispers in the wind. It feels like sitting on the back of our pickup truck and swiping at insects while we eat our chicken wrap sandwiches. It feels like you grabbing my hand as we walk through the woods, and telling me, “I’m the best girl in the world.”
I never wanted to write on motherhood. But I realize now, it’s the most important story I have to tell.
It is true that writers unravel themselves on the page. Each word brings us closer to a truth we subconsciously may or may not believe. When I asked myself whether I should have tucked you back in. It wasn’t a conscious thought. It was a feeling. A knot in my stomach, a quiver down my spine. It was a fuzziness in my brain, a stare into darkness, a sigh.
In the middle of my feeling through what I was feeling, a sentence shot through my mind, and I leaped to catch it. I grabbed my phone and typed the sentence I needed to remember. My eyes squinted in the soft light of my phone. I could not see the words as I quickly pat the keys on my screen.
I wrote about the fuzziness in my brain and it led me to you. It led me to the forest. It led me to myself.
For months, I had been searching for a story to tell. But every word seemed forced, every sentence seemed bare. If it had not been for the light shining in my eyes, I fear this is a story I may have kept inside.
I am not aware of any mechanism that can be used to spark the initiation of free-flowing ideas and articulations. It is only at the most inconvenient times and places that my thoughts become words.
And in this case, these words helped me to see my impulses clearly.
Why did I quit my job?
Why did I run to the wild?
Before that night, I had been trying to come up with a definitive answer to give to those who may inquire. It was not enough to say for freedom, to rebel, to forge my own path, to prevail.
The answer was a feeling. A knot in my stomach, a quiver down my spine. It was a fuzziness in my brain, a stare into darkness, a sigh.
It was the vision of our bodies, a knot of vines, tendrils winding and spiraling around each other.
It was a voice inside leading me to a life where instead of pushing papers, we push our dreams, instead of gazing into the light of machines, we gaze into the light of the stars, instead of catering to the whims of the average life, we cater to the passions that press us forward, keep us climbing, and make us feel at home.