My (now) occasional columns are originally published on the Armchair Mayor News, this one included.
I saw the tiniest hummingbird the other day, while on the morning hike. No bigger than a (small) dandelion flower, it was hovering around a Saskatoon bush. I got home and promptly put up the red hummingbird feeder in the backyard.
I wrote this back in 2016 and it’s just as relevant today. Of course, little boy was being dropped off to Forest School back then, and now he is a teenager taking himself places. But the rest is all there…
It’s only fitting that the robin came flying by the side of the car as I am driving slowly on the dirt road after I dropped little boy off for Forest School somewhere in the grasslands for a day of exploring.
It is March 8th, and that’s Mother’s Day back where I was born.
No bells and whistles, no marketing campaigns to make you buy this and that for mom. Flowers, yes, the grownup men bought flowers for their wives, and kids like me picked snowdrops, tied them with a nice little ribbon and presented them to Mom. No Hallmark cards, but carefully hand drawn cards featuring snowdrops as well. They were easy to draw and the earliest of all flowers. I always thought that was quite a feat for how fragile they looked.
On July 26, Jessie Simpson will turn 24. That’s also the day when his mom hopes to have him at home for a few days, so he can enjoy the place he has not been able to see but in memory, fragmented as it is, due to the horrendous attack Jessie suffered in 2016 on the night of his graduation party.
Presently he is in the hospital, fighting his way out of a kidney infection that has him in pain and nauseous. Just a few weeks ago, he had yet another seizure which his mom witnessed.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday May 13th, 2019.
A few days ago, I read an opinion piece about Mother’s Day. The author, a teacher by profession, argued that less emphasis on the joy of Mother’s Day in the school environment would spare some kids of the heartbreak they experience as they do not have an all around loving and warm mother figure, whether due to social circumstances, medical or any other. The many reminders almost seem cruel, the author pointed out. I nodded in agreement as I read the piece.
To my Mom, on her birthday. She was there, every day, wearing her beautiful coat with grace…
Motherhood has no manual. Which is why snuggling next to your little ones and reading say, Charlie and the chocolate factory, on a grey subdued Monday late morning is the thing to do.
‘Can we nibble on some chocolate while we read,’ lil’ boy asks, a sweet mischievous smile pinching the corner of his eye.
Sure can. I used to eat slices of bread layered thick with butter while reading Heidi (by Johanna Spyri). I was about lil’ boy’s age, 11 or so. Reading and munching on whatever Heidi was munching on felt as if a giant hand deposited me right in the middle of the alpine meadow among Heidi’s goats, staring into a crimson sunset that had the divine power to put your heart in the right place for years to come. A well-placed lesson in magic if you will, which lil’ boy reminded me of by asking to nibble on chocolate while reading.
Two pieces of dark chocolate each, we dove under the yellow wool blanket, losing ourselves in Roald Dahl’s unique and clever writing; contorted, invented words painting word pictures weird and fantastic. We let the drizzle of synonyms peppered throughout the text to roll off the tongue, laughing ourselves silly and reading the sequence again and again until curiosity calls for the next paragraph to be read.
We read, eating chocolate and forgoing lunch; snuggles and chocolate for lunch, I rewrite the rules.
Motherhood has no rules really, except for one, perhaps. Be present.
The books you read when you sit with the new baby in your arms much like you do with a cookbook once you already have the meal half-cooked, trying to figure out the next steps… well, those are parenting books. Motherhood is a texture like no other, thick and see-through at the same time, fuzzy warm one moment and frosty the next, because life’s magic wand amplifies everything a thousand times when you become a mother. Or so it feels, possibly due to lack of sleep and magnified emotions, but the jury is still out on that.
Though motherhood, mind you, does not happen at the birth of your baby, but at a few pit stops down the road. It happens when you lay in the dark next to your barely asleep babe, wonder and gratefulness filling you to the brim, when worries creep in nonetheless, because somehow though all is nice and quiet and that little hand is curled around your pinky for comfort, which you know you have plenty to offer, worry is the weed that your fertile heart soil keeps on nursing to life as much as it does affection. It happens when you hug your growing child, when you make him a cup of coffee and you sip it together talking about life in the fast lane, which sounds exhilarating to him and scary to you. Sip, smile, sip. Motherhood lives in a cup of early morning coffee too.
Motherhood swells inside like a high tide when you allow your children to remind you of sweetness and soft presence when your rough edges dig too deep into their being and yours. It shapes you as you snuggle close, so your heart can hear theirs. Motherhood is what happens when you pack emotions and vulnerability and rawness in what seems to be the most fragile space of all: you, your heart and whole being.
You wade through tough times by holding small hands in yours, stickiness notwithstanding, relishing the trust and the reality of being inundated with much more love than you ever thought you’re worthy of. Humbling.
Can you still be loved just the same when you’re turned inside out and raw as can be? Can you you’re your children just the same when they show the raw sides?
Motherhood is not being given to us so that we can excel at being gracious. It’s a ‘come as you are but be willing to grow after you pick yourself up (again)’ kind of deal. You get a fair shot at learning balance and finding your way in the dark, stubbed toes and all. What’s left to do? Dust your heart regularly and show up every day, vulnerabilities and all. Come as you are but willing to grow.
As for rules, it’s up to each of us. We write them when we lay reading under warm blankets with our wee ones, snuggled closely, so our hearts touch theirs. When we finally understand that humbleness, love and fierceness can live together in harmony, much like those art projects your little one kept adding to because ‘look, Mom, there are so many colours and shapes.’ So it is, motherhood bestows colours and shapes and they are all thrown on thick cardboard, glue oozing from under bits of paper until everything is sticky and memorable and ready to occupy space on your fridge door.
And one day, many years later, your wee ones will be grownups and realizing it was all true. All that magic, all that fuzzy warm stickiness. All that rawness and love squeezed into the most fragile yet most resilient package of all. You, as a mother, wearing a coat you adjust daily until it fits. And it will.
It’s only fitting that the robin comes flying by the side of the car as I drive slowly after dropping off little boy for Forest School. It is March 8, and growing up meant Mother’s Day. No bells and whistles, no marketing campaigns or Hallmark cards, just carefully hand drawn cards, mostly with snowdrops because I loved to draw them and they matched the small bouquet in my hand.
The connection between the robin and my Mom was made shortly after her sudden passing almost ten years ago and it will never change. You could say I have a comfort bird. Well, I needed one.
So, the robin. I stop the car and step outside. I sit by the side of the dirt road close to the tree where the robin is. I listen a while, catch a burst of song that gets mixed in with the symphony pouring down from all the trees and realize that it’s the swiftness of it before it mixes with the others that makes it more precious and it’s all the sounds engulfing it that make it complete.
It’s March 8 and sunny.
Some years ago someone abruptly asked why I am attached to a relic of the communist regime. Ah, nothing like the political smears spreading over a day that politics should stay out of. The answer is in the renewal celebration surrounding me.
Where I sit by the side of the road there’s fresh bold new blades of grass, so green they look surreal, each carrying gifts of morning dew. That’s what the day is about to me. Life.
Earlier in the car little boy made my heart dance and my eyes tear up. ‘Mom, you know mushrooms look fragile but they are not. They can break through concrete if they have to. Plants too…’ It is so, isn’t it?
You’re only as fragile as you believe yourself to be. If you let your instincts guide you, then you can break through barriers that you never thought you could break through.
And it’s not about whether you are fragile or not. We all are in some ways. Yet trading it completely for what’s perceived as strength alone is not an option either. True strength is tender-hearted and comes from packing both strength and fragility for the road ahead. That’s how you grow to see the human, not the deeds, celebrate their presence in your life and learn about courage.
That’s how you learn about worthiness. When you can see past the obvious, past of what is easy to see. You learn to appreciate those moments of solitude when you look in the mirror asking ‘where to from here?’ only to realize that by asking the question you have stood your ground and you did not hide the fragile bits. Yes, it takes courage to ask. And it takes courage to follow the road that comes without directions except for one: Trust yourself.
That’s why I celebrate motherhood today.
Today is when I think of the journey so far. The sea of memories lapping at the window of my motherhood hut, where inadequacies and victories lay together, amassed during a time that happens too fast.
Today I sit here by the side of the road and allow no hurry. I think of the boys, their boisterous presence at times and then again, their revealing of softer sides so often when they whisper their own inadequacies, their discoveries of things that tug at their hearts, the questions that often come with tears. Together we learn to see that we’re the same, bound by love. Sometimes, stepping on each other’s toes reveals that no dance is perfect and pain spares no one. clenching your teeth in resentment is the wrong path. Smile through tears. Be grateful.
It creates mindfulness.
Motherhood invites to that. I said yes a long time ago when my boys were born, and then more so after my Mom left. Waking up with less became determination to see more.
That’s why celebrating the day quietly by the side of the road makes all the sense. It’s not about giving the day a name because it’s not the day itself but the people who make it worthwhile. Hence the futility of pulling the politics curtain over it and burying it in righteousness.
Today is not about politics but about finding the space and time to see. Today is about saying ‘Thank you’ to my Mom, remembering what vulnerability and strength look like, put them back in my satchel as I carry on with the journey and telling my boys:
‘Yes, I’m showing up every day for the most difficult job in the world.
Yes, there is always room for better but that’s why tomorrow was invented and that’s why we have hugs.
Yes, I go to the bottom many times and each time I push myself to the surface again, I take another deep breath and say ‘again!’ as if I am having the ride of my life. Because I am, and every moment of it is worthy it.
If I say that time seems to slow down just so that we can realize how fast it goes would make your head spin. I’ll say it anyway. It is when I stop for a few moments that truth dawns on me: time stops and runs fast at the same time. What side do we choose to see? Why?
I took shelter this morning from the running seconds in the glow of a hill peeking from behind layers of red-leafed trees. Crisp fall air and morning golden glow married for a few blinks. I did not get my camera because I would’ve missed it all. The irony…
I need to remember to stop myself from taking photos because then I succumb to the muteness of just staring at it, forgetting that words can paint the wonder if I want to keep it with me forever. This morning I will look and remember.
I want to remember today and the short-lived glow on the hill because of how rushed and rumbling yesterday was. I want to remember how dark blue the clouds were this morning, every bit of their darkness making the glow stronger… Darkness allows for the glow to exist. That is what I want to remember today by.
Clouds behind the glowing hill. The darkness that we run away from, not realizing that it is the contrast that make the colours dance with our eyes.
The boys will wake up soon, they’ll ask for breakfast and a walk, we will step outside like we did two days ago and the trees will snow leaves yellow and red as we walk to the hobbit paths where there are still dry berries on naked branches.
‘Who wants to try one?’ The boys conjure the same faces they do when I eat seaweed out of the ocean. An amused, cutely and only seemingly appalled ‘Mom!’ pinches the morning air. One boy declines with a scrunched up nose, the other with a head shake. The loving scold of children who love silliness and love seeing us paint our faces with it. Be silly. Glow with it…
I want to remember this time with them. The slow mornings, the hurried ones, the ones too loud and the ones so quiet even whispers are forgotten…
I want to remember that it is in the togetherness that limitations are revealed, that we are to learn about ruffled feelings and how we can write words on them like they are pieces of paper that hold our very soul bits. I see growing boys crumple them up every now and then and throw them to the other side of life. I see them pout in sorrow shortly after and say ever so gently ‘I wish that didn’t happen…’
But life does happen, and we happen with it, growing and glowing and we do so. We can choose to see it or skip over. It’s only when we choose the first that we learn how our hearts grow roots in each other’s through forgiveness.
It is in togetherness that vulnerability shows up not to shame us but to remind us of being human. Of minding too much, of not minding enough, of trying hard and not succeeding but not giving up regardless.
We cannot wish for anything to not have happened.
The glowing golden hill, the dark clouds behind it…
I want to remember and tell myself on days that seem to lose their glow that it is all worth it. When the eyes cannot see it, then I’ll remember to close them for a bit, find the light inside and use that to see the path ahead.
On days when clouds abound, I will remember that brightness exists regardless; our eyes are limited in seeing it, while our souls aren’t. Which one are we to trust fully?
I want the boys to know the answer. I want them to know that time can be made into brightness we take with us from one day to the next. That we are often tempted to forgo the glow of today and trade it for the darkness of tomorrow. Ungrateful it may seem, it is but human. Learning takes time. Repeat enough times until you learn…
It’s what we make of it… I remind the boys when the going gets tough. They trust and try and sometimes trying asks too much of them. I know that feeling too. I come to learn of it when my own feet get tired and my will frustrated… All purposeful, all necessary.
If I remember the glow of today and how short-lived it was, not by looking at a photo but by reading the words it summoned, I will shape time and its finicky nature into hope that will help me find the way. Tomorrow, the day after and every day after that. Repeat until learned.