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This is a piece I wrote in the early pandemic that I thought was about parenting but now see as also about aging and the challenge of accepting the inevitability of change. When I wrote this, my son was 6 and on the precipice of big kid-land, a land he now lives comfortably in, with me still figuring out how to be.
Last night, as I sat on my son’s bed and we began our evening prayer, my daughter yelled for me. “Mamaaaaaaa” she called three times in a row. Pause. Three times more, louder. Calling for God knows what. I had already been in there for at least 30 minutes.
Kai said stoically, “You should probably just go in, Mama.”
“I don’t think so. She needs to learn to go to sleep on her own.”
I snuggled him further into his blanket, tucked his stuffed Cat into his arms, and started over with the prayer.
I was in the middle of listing out all the people who love him when her yells escalated: “I NEED YOU NOW MAMA! WHERE ARE YOU?” I paused and sighed. I knew it was just a ploy to keep me there longer, to have a few more rubs on her back, another Frozen song poorly but sincerely sung.
“It’s ok. Go.”
I went. She was fine—no traumatic nightmare—she just wanted me to snuggle her and sing to her one more time.
I sighed, “I have to help Kai go to bed, too, Lulu.”
Then I sang and snuggled until she was calm enough for me to extract myself.
When I came back into his room, he was surrounded by all his lovies, his massive red stuffed snake draped around his neck like a shawl.
“You can go now, Mama. I’m thinking,” he said.
“Ok.” I kissed him on the head, said “I love you forever” and went, closing the creaky door behind me.
I stood outside his door on the landing. I felt that If I put out my hand, I might be able to touch the wall going up between us.
The realization was like smelling the salt in the air when I’m not quite to the ocean, but close enough to sense it faintly stirring.
My grandpa used to award a quarter to the first one of my siblings to smell the ocean each summer when we were driving to Cape May, New Jersey. That was my quarter moment: the first time I felt an intimation of what was to come.
Kai was my first baby. I almost lost him twice when I was pregnant, and had to be on partial bed rest the last few months. These days, he draws his own graphic short stories, plays the piano, makes friends easily, but is still learning how to manage his tidal wave anxiety.
He’s asked so much of me for years that I’ve prayed to be needed less often. Now, I’m afraid of when he’ll stop needing anything from me at all.
Standing there, I could see all the “Go, Mamas” in our future together spooling out, getting so much bigger than the “Come back, Mamas,” the “One more song, Mamas.”
And I stood on the landing for a while longer.
Links for you of things I’ve been reading, listening to & loving lately
Rejoice, for there is a new Corina Zappia essay at LARB (!!!) and it is brilliant and hilarious and you must read it NOW: “The One-Way Ticket to Barcelona”: “What grown-ass 32-year-old-woman says to herself, “Well, if it happened to the Baby-Sitters Club, why shouldn’t it happen to me?” But, if it happened to the Baby-Sitters Club, maybe it could happen to me?” (I cannot wait for her book).
“Something was happening. Maiden-becomes-crone, sure. Destabilizing, yes. But it was also an experience of transformation, of refinement.” I loved Anne Helen Petersen’s piece “Are You In The Portal?”
Dolly’s 9-5 got me through the last few letters of recommendation I wrote for my seniors this week (shout out to everyone writing letters of rec this season—we need a new system for this, but in lieu of that, I’m struck by what a labor of love and paying it forward it is and remembering how many mentors have done this for me)
Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” jumped magically onto my Spotify playlist & damn this song makes me want to shimmy down the street.
This piece by Heather Lanier on protecting your creative self stayed with me: “She is a very weird roommate in the house of my being. I honor her first, though, because in the end, she has always saved me.”
I loved & connected to so much in this piece by Sarah Menkedick, “Weirdo: Embracing Weirdness, Wendell Berry, and Hikes”: “Elena and I embarked on the frenzy of preparing for swimming and gulping down food and doing the 9,861 hurried things we’ve trained ourselves to do in the afternoon. But I carried the silence from the hike in me like a secret. Old things. Slow things. Ethereal things, difficult to name, measure, and teach.”
I was a virtual visiting author for 3rd graders at a school in Maryland on Friday, and I read them a few poems before we wrote our own and one was “The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye. I love this poem. We talked about how it shows one of poetry’s superpowers, which is to use your imagination + words to overcome something difficult. I also love this “Trilingual poem” she published on IG (scroll through images to read it).
Bess Kalb’s writing cuts to the heart and I loved this piece she published this week, “Please speak up for us.”
What you may have missed here:
Ross Gay’s “Syntax of Care” & my trip to Lit Youngstown last week
I’m reading poems with Sharon McDermott and M. C. Benner-Dixon at White Whale Bookstore on Thurs, Nov 16th to celebrate the launch of their new book of craft essays, Millions of Suns: On Writing and Life. Come join us!
The Patricia Dobler Poetry Award for women writers age 40+ who have not published a full-length book of poetry (chapbooks and self-published poetry books of any length excluded). Deadline is this Tues, Oct 31st!! For more info and to submit, here’s the link. Kayla Sargeson and Allison Joseph judge.
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