There’s a battle raging in my belly, but what is the fight really for? I expect few in the battle know.
I once fought for a lover, offered to wear a string bikini & buy him a motorcycle.
But was it really him I wanted? (I’m so lucky I lost that fight.)
Neither do I want my children to never age, to never leave home.
I woke at 3 this morning, 4 am yesterday. I was there when the morning took its first breath and when that breath swept across the land with the rising sun, and I saw it greet the setting moon in the pink sky over the pond.
Though it’s been painful and violent and sweeping, maybe there isn’t a battle inside. Maybe this is what comes from laying a mantle down.
Before my decades as Mother, I cared for classrooms of students (who are parents now themselves), and before students, it was my eight younger siblings and an entire generation of younger cousins.
“Kelly Ann, you’re the oldest, you must set a good example.”
They began to potty-train me before I could walk.
I wore black last Saturday when we moved our chubby-cheeked sky-eyed baby into a dormitory room 100 miles away.
Before leaving home, I hung a black fleece blanket on the line thinking: How fitting.
“We don’t have a family anymore,” I cried to my husband when we returned home to nothing but ourselves.
I refused consolation.
Like the fabric draped over mirrors, this grief, this agony is an honoring of a great passing. A necessary or at least certain tearing of the fabric.
“Let it rip,” my mind says.
“How dare you!” replies my heart. “Would you say the same of your life’s work, or your country or your self? What do you know of carrying a life inside! Of sustaining it at your breast!”
But the ripping has been there since the beginning. The cells dividing. The infant forced from the womb. The first day back to work. The first day of preschool. The first crush. The first death of a pet.
I lay on the couch, holding my belly in agony. I haven’t been able to hold down food since the day I wore black, and a hardly ate in the days leading up to that.
But I’ve figured out what it is about that line from that parenting song by Tom Rush where the son is leaving. It’s bothered me ever since my boys were young, back when this family of four was a forever feeling…
“Goodbye momma goodbye to you too pa
Little sister you’ll have to wait a while to come along
Goodbye to this house and all its memories
We just got too old to say we’re wrong
Got to make one last trip to my bedroom
Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind
It’s funny how the same old crooked pictures
Just don’t seem the same to me tonight
There ain’t no use in shedding lonely tears mamma
There ain’t no use in shouting at me pa
I can’t live no longer with your fears mamma
I love you but that hasn’t helped at all
Each of us must do the things that matter
All of us must see what we can see
It was long ago you must remember
You were once as young and scared as me
I don’t know how hard it is yet mamma
When you realize you’re growing old
I know how hard is not to be younger
I know you’ve tried to keep me from the cold
Thanks for all you done it may sound hollow
Thank you for the good times that we’ve known
But I must find my own road now to follow
You will all be welcome in my home
Got my suitcase I must go now
I don’t mind about the things you said
I’m sorry Mom I don’t know where I’m going
Remember little sister look ahead
Tomorrow I’ll be in some other sunrise
Maybe I’ll have someone at my side
Mamma give your love back to your husband
Father you’ve have taught we well goodbye
Goodbye Mamma goodbye to you too pa”
Give your love back to your husband!
WHY IS IT only the mother who is assigned another object of desire as if a woman is never a subject in and of herself. Either a Miss or a Mrs. Never an “I.”
Yes, I may have food poisoning or even a parasite. I’ve seen the doctor. And I’ve missed everything I’d imagined pouring into last weekend and into this week–from the Boozy Brunch to the Romantic dinner to the hours of uninterrupted focus to swimming with the moon and communing with friends beside the pond.
But have I really “missed” it?
Is that what I wanted?
Is that what was needed?
Aren’t I like Demeter, separated from her child, in a period of necessary darkness.
Isn’t it true what May Sarton had to say, that without darkness, nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.
And isn’t this separation like a flower on a garland lifting up all the other flowers—all the previous incarnations of seed & bloom & leaving—like summer is getting ready to do. Summers past and lovers past and even my own siblings taken from the home we shared and kept apart from one another except for formal, supervised visits in a cold and unwelcoming place. And then the earliest flower of all, Lila, when 4 years and two-thousand miles separated me from the place and the person to whom I most belonged until death made that a fools dream.
Last night as I lay on the couch bemoaning the heat and a diet restricted to broth, a breeze blew through the window above my head and lifted the gauzy ivory curtain across my face, like the caress of a lover, like the first breath of the morning across the land, like a mother soothing a feverish child, like a covering draped over the head of the dead.
My life has held so much loss.
So much love.
To the refugees separated from their children, to my friends posting photos of the first day of preschool or a college drop off on the other side of the country… The flower of my heart is connected to yours.
On that first morning waking without a family, I looked out the window and saw that all the Gladiolas at the back of the garden had bloomed bright white.
College drop-off, Part II: Whose dream?)