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Tag Archives: Serenity

Time with Mother Ungoing

HOURGLASS ON A BEACH OF THE RED SEA, EILAT

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There has been a certain velocity to my life.  A lot of going and going and going.  I was on an anti-anxiety med a while back and finally went off of it simply because I missed the going.  But it’s been a tortured relationship, me and going.  I have a very hard time ungoing, or even slowing down.  This characteristic is helpful when it comes to professional accomplishment, and even in some aspects of house and home accomplishment, but it is rather an affliction if one wishes to avoid burnout or stress, or to live life more fully. (I don’t say anything about “balance” here largely because I believe it to be an elaborate hoax, a sham manufactured for purposes of blaming individuals for the high-intensity, over-stressed lives in which we must function, and for selling ostensibly balancing products and services, rather than taking a serious look at how social forces shape our lives and could very well shape them differently if we would quit dumping responsibility for social problems in the laps of individuals and families.)

This going is something I acquired from my mother in large part I think, and I’ve been reflecting on this fact the past week after we spent some time together at the beach. I think my acquisition of it is not simply about her having modeled a life of movement but also about genetics too a bit.  I’m rather wired toward movement, as she is; she seems to have acquired this wiring from her father. We were sitting one morning down at the beach, having coffee in aqua adirondock chairs and coffee mugs that matched them, and I was making some list of something—lists of somethings being an anchor for my life—and she made a comment to the effect of “You are always thinking.  It’s no wonder you accomplish so many things. And then you do the things you were thinking about. I can’t think and do that much.”  I replied, “Well, now, maybe.  But you’ve lived most of your life going and going.  Where do you think I got this from?  I learned this directly from you.”

That conversation made me think about her life as having historically been perpetually in motion. And about how sometimes she was hard to be with, given all that motion.  And about how one of the advantages of her slowing down some at this point in her life is that there is more stillness and more opportunity to be near, and tranquil, and in deeper communion with her.  I thought too that it must be hard for my own children to be with their mother, given all my motion.  About the very real possibility that there is little opportunity for them to be still and tranquil with me.  And I’m wondering if I should be doing something about that, or if it is a matter of life stages and transitions that evolve on their own.  I suspect the answer lies somewhere in between.

I do have very vivid memories, despite my mother’s inclination toward movement, of time when we’ve been still together.  I remember a period of time just before kindergarten, when we were home together; me playing and her near, and she made my lunch in my new lunchbox and thermos because I insisted on practicing with it before I went “off” to school. I remember too the times, I suppose around the same period, that we got “up in the bed” for a nap in the afternoons (I realized recently that in our family one gets “in the bed” at night but “up in the bed” during the day) and she would read to me from our red hardcover book of childrens’ stories.  I loved the sound of her voice, there with those stories, and too when she sang hymns at church.  I get misty-eyed thinking about how her voice soothed me so.  Those hot south Florida days on our screened back patio and up in the bed are placid in my memories.  I remember fondly too the times, when I was in elementary school and she would drive on field trips.  She didn’t do them all the time and maybe not even often, but I liked having here there, much more than she liked me volunteering her for the job, I learned.  Ours was a time when parents did not feel compelled to attend en masse their children’s every activity like field trips.  (Oh for the days.)  I remember a day of errands when we bought donuts and ended up eating the whole dozen by the end of the day, just the two of us.  A ridiculous indulgence that we still talk about in mild disbelief. I remember a time when she would go jogging and I got up with her a couple of times to jog with her in the early dawn.  When I was fourteen she took me to a fancy restaurant and we had cold daiquiris and hot popovers on pink tablecloths.  I remember too that she took me to my first gynecology appointment and to get contraception, and that she drove me to my college orientation and we stayed in the dorm room together.  And now I add to that list, which gets longer as I tap my memory, our recent trip to the beach, where we talked all the way down there and back as my son slept in the back seat with his iPod. Or maybe it was mostly me talking.  And we ate hard boiled eggs and PB&J and grapes and apples and cheese.   And we laughed and we laughed as we always do.  I hope my own children can build a list from their memories of unruffled time with me.  I suspect it won’t be a long list but I hope it doesn’t leave them pining after time with their mother, ungoing.

 

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If By Serene You Mean

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My life is a big fat mess of contradictions.  Yesterday was illustrative, but really you could pick any day.  Any day at all it would be, well, either a bit fat mess, or a big fat mess of contradictions. But probably never not one of those and hardly ever not both.  Anyway, so yesterday.  I’m sitting on the couch with the fireplace burning, my Scottie dog, named Fiona (Queen of Scots), sitting at my shoulder on the back of the couch; I’m leisurely grading papers, my son’s in the family room watching TV on his holiday break, I’m drinking a hot and robust cup of English Breakfast tea—ball, not bag.  The serenity of this image belies the high-pressured deadline confronting me of submitting my final course grades online, particularly in light of the fact that I’ve underestimated (perhaps grossly) the time it would take to read the final papers and calculate final grades so my plan to ‘wrap this up’ in the morning and do some shopping later is a total wash.  The clock is ticking, the morning is as good as gone, and I. must. stay. focused.  

My son is watching the TV in the other room on surprisingly low volume so I don’t have much in the way of distraction so it’s pretty serene.  If by “serene” you mean having a basement that is flooding downstairs and a backhoe in my yard getting ready to dig up all the new ‘landscaping’ (I use the term loosely)we did this spring to get down to the pipes that are busted, and all of this to the tune of a couple grand the week of (our version of) Christmas.  And the wet vac humming loudly downstairs sucking up what turned out to be 15 gallons of water (every drop of which I paid for in my oddly high water bills of late—apparently not odd enough to prompt me to figure out what the problem was, mind you, but odd enough for me to think: that’s odd, as I’m authorizing the check) in a desperate attempt to save the 1 year-old carpet that I recently replaced after the LAST  *@#^&  flood down there caused by a broken water heater.  Or something.  I can’t remember—all the broken water thingys are starting to blend together in my mind…the slow leak on the icemaker that occurred over the course of months and months creating mold that dudes in hazmat suits had to come in and fix…the day I walked down the basement stairs to find deep water.  And a container of lip gloss floating by.  I can’t remember if it was ankle-deep or knee-deep but I remember that stinking lipgloss for god’s sake and the thousands of dollars it took to fix the problem of our house sitting atop some water reservoir something or other.  All these are different houses, mind you, but wow, I’ve had it with water problems.  And that’s what makes me glad I’ve got a leaking in-ground pool.  But I digress…

I’m trying not to think of the fact that my parents were here in the midst of the last water fiasco, walking on saturated carpet in the guest room where they stay downstairs and me doing a fair job of not being humiliated by the whole thing.  I’m trying not to think of the fact that they’ll be relegated similar circumstances in a couple of days if we can’t fix the current problem.  I’m thinking about how much it stunk down there during my parents’ stay—that wet, mildly sour smell, not really offensive so much as just stinking unpleasant.  And this thought is awakening my olfactories just enough to note that Fiona, Queen of Scots, still at my shoulder, stinks.  So there’s another thing, and another bill I have the fortune of dealing with this very hectic week.  But I am pulled from my reverie of stinking carpets and stinking dogs by my son’s entry in the room.  “What are you watching in there?” I say, making relaxed conversation in an attempt to trick myself into relaxing and having not learned from my near fatal attempt at relaxed conversation when I asked him last week about the book he was reading. He’s watching Myth Busters—a science show that we both like and he especially likes, largely I think because they do a lot with explosions—and No Dog Left Behind (I’m wishing my dog and her stink could be left behind) which is a show, he tells me, about marines in Iraq rescuing dogs or, to use his summary, “like all these really big guys playing with these little doggies and it’s really cool.”  Then suddenly though not surprisingly the conversation switches to “Can I light this candle for you mom?” The trained maternal mind fills in the missing parts:  so I can run my fingers through it and burn bits of paper in it which you’ll try to ignore until you can’t anymore and just snap ‘ohmygod what are you—STOP IT!’    “It’s no problem, mom,” he says.  “No,” I say, “the only problem is that you are standing there, not dressed, in track pants only [despite what our friend this morning called a ‘balmy 24 degrees’], and there are people we don’t really know coming in and out of our house [trying very hard to make me miss my deadline] and you need to be dressed.  “How about if I just stay on the couch with a blanket?”  “How about if you get dressed so you can actually get OFF the couch?”  The phone rings and it’s my partner and I wave my son off to the upstairs.  I recount the uninteresting details, badly, of the copper piping and the ‘pinholes’ caused in this kind of copper piping over time by our city water—I’m pretty excited about the city water in my English Breakfast tea as I hear myself recount—and besides by this point I’m boring myself to death.  And anyway the volume of my son’s television shows now seems disturbingly loud so I end the phone call and start to say something to him but then realize that it’s not that the volume on the television that has increased; it’s that the motors on the backhoe and the wet vac have turned off.   But before I can tell him to turn it down to accommodate, Fiona has slipped into some psychotic episode, barking crazily at the backhoe guy who, it should be noted, has been here for quite some time but who she keeps seeing another new stranger at the door.  Ohmygod, “Fiona!  Seriously?  Dude is hooking us up here.  Back off.” 

So about $1400 later the pipe is ostensibly fixed, and if you don’t come too close you can barely tell my yard was hosting backhoe services most recently (pay no attention to that now-crushed liriope).  Today the basement doesn’t seem to smell.  Images of floating lipglosses and moldy walls are receding.  Grades are in (6 minutes late but who’s counting). My partner is taking Fiona to get her hair did.  Target let me return the peacoat I bought two months ago and have been meaning to take back every since but could not stinking get there until last night. My holiday shopping and wrapping are in terrific shape and I’ve made round 1 of my annual holiday cheese Danish.  The downstairs is still trashed but a lot can happen between now and Friday.  Then again, a lot can happen between now and Friday…

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2010 in Families, Feminism, Motherhood, Parenting

 

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