I was moved to see my son go to bed with his new hand-me-down shoes from his real life hero. He has an appreciation for gifts. Whatever it may be, it is a guarantee, he will be sleeping beside it at night. As I watched him sleep, listening to his rhythmic breathing, such a tiny being with a grandiose future, I began to reflect. Have I forgotten what it is like to be able to close my eyes and to enter into a place of absolute mystery? To not think about the struggles, the pressures, the demands, or the plans of tomorrow? To embrace the actual moment of the now. To relinquish fear? Fear of what? Failure? Disappointment? Success? Approval? I used to believe in the Sandman. I was excited to go to bed because the Sandman would be coming shortly to give me a dream. Perhaps it was my fascination of the 1950′s at such a young age. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Elvis Presley, and Nancy Sinatra, though she was more 60′s, there was a magic to the 50′s. I remember in my early twenties asking my neighbor Fred what era he liked the most. He said, “The 50′s.” As he said it, he left me alone for a moment in his living room. Though he was there sitting across from me, his eyes told me otherwise. He was there, somewhere in the newly development place of newness and excitement and romanticism of 1950. His mouth gave way to a side grin as he reminisced somewhere in the depths of his core. Then he came back. Looked at his hands holding a mass of broken dreams and images of deceased and elderly printed in time, stamped images frozen on black and white photographs. Reality. “This is not the Fifties anymore, little girl, this is a dark day in age.”
There is something distilling with sleep, with watching one sleep. It is a glimpse of the invulnerable, vulnerable and the disturbed, undisturbed. It is a place for the unrest to rest and an opportunity for the one who won’t dream to dream.
Yesterday and today I have been in my head of constant memories. I guess it is because of the weather and the spring is resembling more of summer and it seems my brain was somehow able to consume and store more summer memories than spring ones or fall. 182. That was an important number for me and my childhood friends. It was ingrained into our very existence, it was our world and our safety. Our adventures and our growth. It embraced me as well as nurtured me into a being of calm, hyper, happy and sad. Memories. The memory of hearing of death and cancer for the first time when my close friend lost her grandmother at a shocking young age, and seeing her 20 something year old mom crying to my mother in her kitchen. It was hard to understand at 7 or 8 what was happening and to not understand death only brought more confusion and questions. I remember the urgency of putting on my shoes, but never fast enough with the emotions that came with playing outside with my childhood friends, Jen and Chris. It was pure adrenaline. Then to run up the hill a mere 2 houses away which felt like years to get there. It was exciting. It was fun. The lemonade stands, with the occasional popcorn stand, the dressing in clown costumes and doing cartwheels as the cars drove by, screaming with determination, pleading with strangers to pull over and buy the bestest beverage in the world. The countless nights of scrubbing pitch and sap off our hands and feet. The innumerable amounts of band-aids our moms would go through for skinned knees and elbows, or the painful sprained ankles from falling out of trees, falling off bikes, falling off homemade ramps, or falling off the blow up water bed mattresses their dad randomly would bring home from job sites. The neighborhood parties, barbecues, and pizza nights, slip and slides, water fights, and filling burning barrels with water and remembering myself panicking I could get blood poisoning with all the rust in them. The summer never seemed to end, and probably could have continued for years more if not for transfers, divorce, death, construction, destruction, development and change. The memories are my reminders of the delicacies of the neighborhood, the childhood, and now the parenthood in which I see a repeat in nature as well as with nurture. I understand as I watch my own kids screaming as they scramble to find their own shoes and race outside into the heated sunlight, a canvas waiting, to birth new memories in this new place in time. I feel it, too. The urgency to live. The urgency to play. The urgency to be.
No one really told me or should I say prepared or forewarned me of the pressures motherhood would entail. I remember hearing the horror stories after horror stories of women going in such great depth of detail to be sure I heard every gruesome, grotesque, and squirmish moment they had when each went into labor and then the aftermath of tearing, ripping, being cut, and so forth. The blood, the pain, the sweat, the screams, yes, all were a messy contribution to the delivery of a baby, however, no one cared to shed some light on the pressures of making ends meet, having enough food in the fridge, gas in the car, money in the bank, or clothes without holes or shoes being too small.
I drive a lot on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Ok, it is not that much, but when we share a car and those are the days I have the car, it seems like a lot more than not at all. As I drive, I think. I think and I think and I think. The background sounds of music, kids, and perhaps the odd horn honking from behind, don’t compare to the loud words blaring in my head on cruise control. The thoughts come like a news headline typing words out without a break, without a breather, man, don’t they ever stop, I ask? How can they, they are everywhere. Everywhere I look, I am reminded. Bumper stickers, billboards, restaurants, schools, children, low income housing, fancy cars, dream homes, farms and fields, closed for the season fruit stands, gas stations, pollution, and so many other little contributors to take my attention from reality into some twisted defiling realm where fear lives.
I thought starting new schools were chaotically arduous. I thought Math 11 was impossible. I thought deadlines for essays were brilliantly challenging. I thought the thought of dating was embarrassingly dreadful, except of course, when I met the only man I ever really dated and then married, but all these thoughts and worries, don’t truly compare to the heaviness in my heart I have at the moment of obsessively obsessing for the greatest life for not myself, but for my kids. It is a profound ache, an indescribable longing to touch the hem of God in a way I have never done before, with a faith that can only cripple the fear with an authority to speak the truth despite the dramas and questions that puzzle my being. As a mom, and as moms, we pour out all we have to be all we are. As a university student, I was naive to the responsibilities a wife and mother would have. I would tell my friends, that one day my kids would come home from school to fresh baked cookies on the table and we would sit on top of the table and eat them. Last week my friend asked me, remembering my declaration of freedom, if we have eaten cookies on the table, yet. I told her, “No, the table we have is over 100 years old, I don’t want to break it.” My slight declaration of freedom had been orderly suppressed with caution. When did this happen? Why did it happen? I am not going to blame it on life, disappointments or discouragements, instead I am going to embrace it as part of the process of my maturing and my developing of character. It is part of the small stepping stones designed for me to skip across with renewed advantage and regained strength. Not by my might, but by His.