Today I am 41. Last year, I celebrated my 40th birthday with an array of friends and family. This year it was my sister and I and our children. Like every day, today was full of hustle and bustle. Children … Continue reading
As a child I was artistic. My interests moved from one expression to another. At one point I began a vast mural on my bedroom wall. Discovering, half way through, I’m not a very good painter. Still I tried things – like cross stitch and scrapbooking.
In the end I’ve pretty much landed on writing. My first great success came in grade 5. I wrote a thrilling mystery that caused my teacher to label me as an excellent writer. The tale was read at every sleepover I attended that year. My friends ate it up.
I lived in a time without computers, blogs, social media, e-publishing, or any thing like that. I wrote on paper with pens. In high school I took typing courses on electric typewriters.
As a young adult, I didn’t always have a computer though they were much more common at that point. I used them when I had them and resorted to typewriters picked up at thrift stores when I didn’t.
In my early 20’s I began calling myself a writer. The only proof I had were stacks of unfinished stories in piles around my room. There was, at that point, no easily accessible showcase for my art.
Then the real digital age hit. Blogging and social media became mainstream. And I was busy being a mom. I’m still busy being a mom.
Writer isn’t a word I use to describe myself these days. Single mom, adoptive mom, foster mom are the titles I hand out when people ask who I am or what I do. Even my book centers around that theme.
But every once in a while that dream of writing for real slips into the forefront of my imagination. I could have lived a different life. Sometimes I can see myself at the window of a small European apartment – not Paris, somewhere very obscure like Zvolen. I imagine writing all day while overlooking a little courtyard. Then I would eat bread and cheese, drink some wine and read what I’d written before falling asleep. Waking, I’d do it all over again.
Once upon a time, my life did look like this. For a brief period I lived alone. Working in an office Monday to Friday, my weekends and holidays were spent writing and drinking tea. I have a few stories that survived from that period.
Occasionally, I wonder what could have happened if I’d really pursued writing. Yes, I was devoted to my craft as a young adult, but I’ve mostly put it aside now.
Around this time every year either my mom or a friend offer to take the kids overnight. Last night was my annual day off, as I’ve come to think of it. Raine and Athena went to my parents’. I braved the bad weather to see an afternoon matinee on my own.
I wanted a diversion. Big Eyes, the new Tim Burton film, was the only thing that appealed to me. Instead of simply distracting me from the cares of life, the movie reminded me of the artistic lifestyle I once lived. I admired Margaret Keane’s dedication to her craft.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve not been so faithful. Leaving the movie, I went to visit a friend. The evening and following afternoon stretched before me. I considered pulling out a novel I’m nearly done writing.
In the end, I brought my friend’s 3mth old foster baby home with me. I held him and prayed into some situations he’s facing. We watched crime dramas on Netflix. I brought him with me to church then did dishes and laundry while he napped in a vintage pram. Just saying the word pram makes me smile. It was all very lovely.
Then my daughters returned. And everyday life resumed. Maybe I’m not a writer after all – or at least not right now. For the moment, I’m a mom (who occasionally blogs).
My mom has started a tradition of taking the girls shopping shortly before their birthday. They’re allowed to pick out their own birthday gifts. Last year, before her 4th birthday, Athena didn’t enjoy the shopping trip. She couldn’t understand why only she was going. Without her sister or I along, Athena was very shy and withdrawn.
This year as her birthday drew near, Athena reminded my mom she needed to take her shopping. With joy, she looked forward to their time together. “And you’re not coming,” she told her sister. “Just me! Only I’m going!” Athena said with a smile.
The Sunday before her birthday, she went. Athena wanted to go to my parents’ house first. My mom had a friend visiting from England. That surprised Athena but it wasn’t long before she was comfortable. Athena devised a plan for lunch – bagels with Nutella and sliced strawberries. Apparently it was delectable. “I made up my own recipe!” Athena told me. Often she contemplates being a baker.
After having lunch, they went shopping. Athena returned talkative and excited. Last year she was sullen for the remainder of the day, unimpressed with the gifts she’d chosen and the fact that I’d sent her off without the safety net of our immediate family.
This year everything was different. More and more, Athena’s becoming comfortable in the world at large. When she sees familiar faces at church, she runs to greet them. When friends come to visit she doesn’t want them to leave.
And the girl who hates photos, kept jumping into every shot I tried to take the day of her birthday. I love watching my girls grow and change. I love seeing them flourish as they become confident in their position and the love of those around them. I love celebrating all God’s done!
Thus far, most of my life has taken place prior to social media. I’ve never owned a camera. Even now, I only have one because it’s on my phone. Despite carrying it with me always, I often forget to capture what’s happening.
My youth and young adult life have passed without much to remember them by. I have dresses (most of which I made), some sentimental birthday cards, and a few tokens – like programs from plays. Some of my most profound relationships have passed with nothing to show for it. There’s no card, no scrap of paper, no photograph, no dress that I wore on a special night. There’s nothing. It may be this void that keeps me hanging onto the momentous I do have.
This past week I’ve been sorting through old memorabilia (reorganizing around my new business workspace). I’ve managed to condense the dresses down to one suitcase. My body was once much smaller. It may never be again. I don’t hold onto these garments with hopes of wearing them. They remain – some having moved with me nearly a dozen times – to remind me of the past.
In the drudgery of everyday life as a stay at home mom, those times catch my heart and make me smile. Not that my current life doesn’t afford moments of joy. It does. There are many moments and relationships worth remembering. Still, there’s something romantic about the past. In my youth, I failed to appreciate how carefree life really was. There was a yearning in my heart to get here – motherhood.
I’m here. And it’s glorious – sometimes. Most often it’s simply a great deal of work. Quite often I find myself singing along to the Stars…..”All I want is one more chance to be young and wild and free…..” What would you do with that chance? Instead of racing towards the next phase, I’d savour every moment of freedom.
This is the first time I’m celebrating as only an adoptive mom, not a foster mom. That’s how I first gained the title – mom. Being a foster mom is beautiful and challenging all at once. I didn’t realize how different it would feel becoming an adoptive mom to kids I already loved. It’s been a transition for all of us.
I wonder how my daughters will see their childhood from the vantage of adulthood. What kind of mother will they remember me as?
Although united by the title of “mom”, each of us uniquely defines that relationship.
For me, I tend to get caught up on the natural. I make sure my kids are well dressed, well fed, and live in a nice home. In a way, this helps heal the wounds they still bear from early life. I’ve created a place of stability and comfort to help heal.
There are times I fail in other areas. Sometimes I don’t respond with grace. Sometimes I don’t savour the beauty of the moment we’re in. Sometimes I wish they would just stop talking. I forget how exceptional it is that my daughters adore me and want to interact with me. They crave the love in my gaze. They want to make me smile. They seek to bring me joy.
“This is all I have for you,” Raine said sadly, handing me a folded piece of paper.
A dear friend worked with the girls to give me a lovely potted flower arrangement. But since Raine didn’t buy or create it herself, she doesn’t count that as a proper Mother’s Day gift.
“Your love is all I need,” was my answer.
“Well, you have that,” Raine happily replied.