The Same Story

Mothering is a prolonged goodbye. For many it lasts 18 years. Others have an abrupt ending at 5 years or 23.

trying to avoid group photos

trying to avoid group photos

My grandma called me a child when I was maybe 22. I defensively retorted I was not a baby. Grandma, in her wisdom, shared what I would learn to be true—7 or 72, I would always be her child.

laughing too hard to run away

laughing too hard to run away

I have a grand selection of fine friends who forgive me my dislike of this day. They forgive my bland vanilla wishes. My mother grieves along with me.

And a little girl who believes mommies are the gift, brings a rose to me for reasons she can’t yet grasp. A mama’s thin smile is all the conversation needed, one that is whispered above the child’s head.

This is my third attempt to fulfill a request to tell a story. Usually I can give it a day to breathe; ruminate a bit. Come at the theme sideways, talking low in an attempt not to startle my memory or the subject matter.

 This is as good as it gets with this crew.

This is as good as it gets with this crew.

Not this time.

I cannot tell a lie, especially not today. Today is not the day to disappoint my mother. So I can’t tell you what it is like to be a mother in extreme poverty. My heart won’t let me walk that road.

Fifteen years ago, I put a tiny baby back in her bassinet and walked out the door of the Missionaries of Charity in Chennai. I called my mother from the deck of the Universe Explorer and I cried. She told me I couldn’t leave the ship and fly home with a baby. She was right.

On that day, I was no more ready to raise a child alone in the US than I would have been to stay in India to serve at the orphanage. Though I wanted both.

I’d share with you the photo of me and baby M., but the snapshot, like most of my life is buried in a storage unit across town. First world problem.

I can’t paint a picture of life as a mother in Uganda or Guatemala, and I can’t tell you what Mother’s Day means to me. I’ll have to believe that my own mother will forgive my failing an assignment and these three will forgive me for not understanding their world.

Jospeh, Uganda

Silvana, Guatemala

Nelson, Ecuador

Lessons From the Pool

I’m humming it but I don’t want to write it.

The truth is, there is a lot that can happen, that needs to happen, between the edge of the pool and Dory’s mesmerizing ditty.

What I hear this morning above the swirl of lyrics is you can’t swim away, or walk away while still holding onto the railing.

I see the child in the pool screaming. Holding onto my neck, or the railing by the steps. Refusing to let go because he knows letting go means going under. Unknown. It requires effort opposite to all of the life he has known.

Before today, before a lesson in swimming or life, breathing wasn’t a thought. Now it is something to consider, to control. You don’t have to say to the child that inhaling under water causes death. He knows.


A Cry Stolen from the portfolio: Show You Yours

Now, on the edge of the pool, you have been asked to stop what you know keeps you alive. This is a lot to ask of a child, regardless of age.

I love being in the water.

I am not good at holding my breath. Which probably says a lot about me.

Holding your breath is one part control, one part letting go. It is knowing that you can’t live holding onto the railing. It is suspending one belief for a deeper knowing.

Today I want to find a way to be in the water. To believe that letting go of the railing will mean I get to do one of my favorite things–be held by strong arms that spin me around like a 4 year old princess.

Because you can’t laugh and feel fear at the same time.

Me, Playing Israelite in the Desert

Twenty days. This coming Tuesday I will have been on this journey 20 days. I can tell you that traveling completely around the globe in 108 days was less tiring.

I have stayed in one house, one apartment and two hostels. By the time I lay my head down Tuesday night I will make that my third hostel. Second state, with an international border crossing thrown haphazardly in the middle.

I have waited and listened. I have written and written. Written alone. Written in a small room full of women also writing. Written in a large room with a new group of women who also sat writing.

Not once in all of that writing did I write the answer, an answer.

But once, in a moment of not listening and not writing, when the clouds were literally parting, I knew an answer. Somewhere in the Skagit Valley, or perhaps just beyond in the stretch of wherever it is in these northern bits, I had my very quiet, non-neon, moment of clarity.

That moment was Friday. Which was followed by the loveliness of the sea in a new city. The wonder of traveling alone and getting to choose it all. How slow to walk and which trinket shop to step into next. I ended the day pushing my boundaries and choosing new people and loud music and the rush of energy to propel me through the mundane task of editing. It is helpful to drown out the nasty critic with the thrum of life around you. Turns out you can just respond to what is there.

All of this is good. Hard and wonderful. Gut wrenching. Invigorating and doubt inducing. And that is where I landed today. The rain swept in and has not stopped. So my mind is making up for all of the sites I won’t see today.

My mind is choosing to paint the sun streaked sky of my Friday bus ride into a lonely delusion.

Miles and miles and days of trust. Open hands filled time and again. And I choose in this cold long day to question clouds parting just for me.

I feel another lap around this mountain coming.