I've been reading through the archives of one of my old blogs, Diary of a Single Mom on the Edge, which I wrote for ClubMom back in 2006-7. It was my first paid writing gig.
There is some good writing there. I'm going to share some of my favorite bits here.
Motherhood is an especially difficult set of expectations to overcome. We are told constantly not only how we are supposed to act as mothers, but what we are supposed to feel. The first thing we are told is that we all want to be mothers in the first place, that it's our best, most natural role. That's the first lie, and it all goes downhill from there.
—from "Post Halloween Stress Disorder," November 1, 2007
A woman came into the Press yesterday in motorcycle gear and a helmet, which she never removed. Someone had told her about a place that had free calendars with local art represented each month, and when she saw that we were a press she thought that it might be us. It wasn't, and we directed her to where we thought she should go. She thanked us and walked outside. I hesitated a second, but then followed her out.
"I wanted to see your bike," I told her.
"Do you ride?"
"No, but I've always wanted to learn." It was always one of those things that I thought I might do after Hijo moved out. It always seemed so far in the future. Not anymore.
"Do it!" She smiled at me. "I bought my first bike when I was 50. I love it!"
So many possibilities for my life now. So many ways to shape it.
I ran into some neighbors at the local market; their son is the same age as Hijo, and going to the same school. When I started talking about the difficulty of sending Hijo off, the other mother started tearing up. I was grateful to see her tears, to have my own sense of grief echoed. I have been mostly a mix of excited and sad, but as move out day approaches, the sadness is coming to the forefront. Facebook shows me a photo of Hijo at ten, and I burst into tears at my desk, knowing there are so many moments that are gone forever, moments that I won't even remember.
I wish I'd been more present, wish I hadn't always been so exhausted. I wish I had the chance to do some things over. I'm a better parent now, but it doesn't matter.
It's such a strange thing to be a mother, to grow a child inside of you, to feed him from your body, to know, finally, how much love you are capable of. And then, because you've done a good job in spite of all the mistakes you've made, he is excited and ready to go. You are excited for him.
And so you dream of motorcycles and camper vans, you dream of traveling and never staying too long in one place. You dream of all the places you might go. Because staying put in the little house that was yours and his for so many years seems like something you cannot quite make yourself do on your own.
I returned to Morelia. I traveled through time and turbulence and I sat at a table in the Portales drinking coffee with my son who would not exist but for that city. I cried. I cried when we arrived, I cried when we left, I was overwhelmed with moments of joy and tenderness many times. I couldn't remember where things were. My memories did not follow the map of the city, but were layered one on top of the other like the blocks of stone that build cathedral walls. Or perhaps more like walls that have fallen down and the stones topple over one another in piles and pyramids.
Nobody remembered me or cared very much when I went to visit the school where I taught English. I didn't really expect to be remembered, but I felt let down all the same. Alejandro teased me about expecting nothing to have changed when I was sad that the tables at the Portales weren't still covered in the same colorful tablecloths. I kept calling him by his father's name.
We stepped off the plane, and there they were, Alejandro's grandparents, and his aunt Laura and her husband. We were greeted with wide open arms and kisses, everyone so happy to finally meet this grown up child that they had only ever seen photos of, the son of their only son. We shed layers of clothing and walked into the bright sun, smiling for photos.
They fed us delicious homecooked food, corundas, pozole, enchiladas, sopes. We sat in hot living rooms and made small talk. I re-learned to ride the combis, the public transportation system made up of hundreds of mostly VW vans painted with different colored stripes representing routes. We took the Rojo 1 from our hotel to Angela and Daniel's house. They gave us gifts; they showed us the pictures of Alejandro as a baby, and of my parents, and of Alejandro's father and a younger me that they had on their wall.
I was reminded over and over that I have so much, and I waste much of it; they have little and they share it. But what I wanted was to give Alejandro a deeper, truer, richer sense of who he is and where he comes from. And now he has that. Morelia and the people there are a part of him and always have been but now he knows it, he can feel it in his bones.
This is the exact place where I sat when I met Alejandro's father. This is the place where he began. It does not remember me anymore, but it has learned his name; Morelia recognizes him as one of its own.
I miss writing here. I miss having something to write about, as if something has shriveled up inside of me, and just lies there, wrinkled and dry. I want to pick it up and soak it in rum. Let it get plump again.
All these big life transitions are heading toward me. One I can see clearly: Hijo will graduate from high school and go away to wherever he goes. The other is impossible to predict. But someday, maybe soon, maybe several years away still, my parents will both be dead. I will have this terrible freedom. I have to figure out what to do with it.
Do not reminisce about your first crush
in junior high, the one who sat behind
you in L.A.S.S. and always liked other girls.
Try not to wince at the orthodontist's office
when they show him the wires and talk
of wax and rubber bands and how to brush.
Instead make fart jokes and refuse
to remember what cut you.
You two have your own language now,
fearless as the deer in the yard
who prickle and leap
away from danger
without the need to think.
We gathered stones on the beach
looking for lucky ones, a single
stripe around it like a hug.
A dark flock of seabirds sped
tight and low to the water
wings like leaves
shimmering in the wind.
Each rock he picked up
was cooler than the last, look
mom, and look, and look now!
I'm keeping this one, and this one too,
until our pockets were heavy as suicide,
our palms warm and sated.
he remembers the date.
"Aluminum!" he cries,
highlights an element
by the sharing of electrons.
Hijo's dad hasn't been doing so well. The poor economy has affected him a lot more deeply than anyone else I know, which is not surprising given that he is an uneducated brown man who, although a citizen, still speaks English with a heavy accent and has a penchant for crazy ideas.
He's been sketchily employed for the last few years, getting hired for temp jobs or as a contract worker if he's lucky, but then getting laid off. For awhile he attended a local community college, seemed to be gaining some good skills, but he dropped out before he completed the program, his benefits had run out.
As far as I know right now, he has a job, but no permanent home. Hijo has seen him less this summer than at any time in his life.
Like most parents I make many sacrifices, big and small, for the sake of my son. But just how far is one expected to go?
What, exactly, do I owe Hijo's dad?
Everyone knows that the first rule of trying to avoid rain while on spring break is to stay in the Pacific Northwest and, most especially, to head for the coast and then the rainforest. I have proof that this is rock-solid adive:
See? The Washington coast is always sunny and gorgeous in early April.