Total Recall

On too many occasions, I’ve walked upstairs to my office or outside to my garage, only to discover upon arrival that I’ve no recollection whatsoever as to why I am there…and yet, with precise detail and sweet emotion, I can describe and remember the minutes and the  hour after the birth of my daughter, holding each of her ten tiny fingers, one at a time, and marveling at the perfectly shaped nail on the tip of each one.  28 years ago this week my heart ripped open and I’ve cared about somebody else, more than myself, every second, of every day, since.  When your heart rips wide open on the day you become a mother, you have no idea really, at all, how your heart will never go back to the way it was before.  You believe that all your parts will bounce back to the way they were, and some really blessed or lucky women do get their previously perfect bellies and boobs back, but for most of us, none of our parts, especially our hearts, are ever the same again.  Sometimes you think you’d like to return to an existence when all you really had to worry about was getting to school or work on time, how fabulous your outfit was,  and how your hair looked, but once the heart is ripped open this way, it is impossible for it to return to its previous state of egocentric self centeredness…

Remembering is sometimes so strange, we can dwell in upset for days or weeks or months during difficult situations or bad circumstances and then the second that things turn around, we forget all of the negative we had been holding onto…and in the case of parenting, I find, as each year passes, that I remember fewer and fewer of the rough times and am able to recall more and more of the smooth times.  In high school we learn about Mendel, his peas, and why we have green eyes, & we learn about Pavlov, his dogs, and why we want praise for good behavior.   In college we learn about Freud and why we want to marry our fathers & we learn about Kant and why we understand right from wrong…but nothing EVER prepares us for understanding what it means to mother, to be A mother.  I know women who had mothers who were world-class worry-warts, and tried to protect them from everything, and I know women who had mothers who chose to protect them from nothing.  I know women who had mothers who never ever punished them, and I know women who were beaten by the very mother who then demanded their love.

It’s EASY to fail your child, let’s face it, we ALL have demons, skeletons, and regrets and it’s often difficult to keep those negatives from tinting and distorting one’s view of the present, but as the days of our lives become memories, it’s often easier to recall the happy, the good, and the pleasant memories…and they color the present in a pleasing way…It’s very hard to be handed a human that can do NOTHING for itself, and take care of it until it can do EVERYTHING for itself…yet we keep doing it, over and over and over…

When your baby is an infant, you watch her roll off the sofa, because that one fall will be enough for her to learn that she can’t go too close to the edge without getting hurt—and a few months later you watch her let go of the coffee table and fall on her way to the chair, because that one fall will be enough for her to learn that she has to balance before she takes a step—and many years later when she is a teenager you watch her fall for a really stupid awful boy, because that bad breakup will be enough for her to learn that she has to look for qualities other than straight white teeth and big biceps to truly fall in love—and a few years later you watch her drive away, in her car filled to overflowing with all the things she thinks she can’t live without, on a muggy mid July morning, hours before the sun has even come up, to move to her new place in North Carolina where her new husband is already there and waiting for her…and you will cry your eyes out as you nervously clean and scrub every single inch of your house, for hours and hours and hours until you get the phone call that she has arrived safely…and all of the sudden you realize, you did it…you took a human who could do nothing for herself, and  cared, loved, and tended to her until she could do everything for herself—and almost ten years later you watch your neighbor every day, your baby all grown up, as she does it too, with two…

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