Dreaming of Water

by Abby on August 1, 2016

“Mama, sometimes I dream something that happens in real life.”

“Really?” I don’t tell him then, but this has happened to me, too. A room, a rug, a place—snippets of subconscious that come to life at a later date. A flicker of recognition, a feeling of déjà vu. Where have I seen this before? Oh, yeah. In a dream.

Just the other night I dreamed that a friend lent us her vacation house for the weekend. On the outside, a completely ordinary looking suburban home. In the back, however, a screened porch looked out onto a small beach, little waves lapping at a shore just inches away from the house in that skewed distance of dreams.

I dreamed—dream—of a house by the water, and here was a house by the water. Only you’d never know it. I never knew it. In my dream, I knew this person, even knew of the house, but it wasn’t until I was in it that I realized it was on the water. It was there the whole time, and I never knew how close it was. How close I was.

Days later, back in reality, it was a long, dreary Saturday. Summer days running together, nerves and patience running thin. Heavy air, dark moods, thunderclouds looming. Someone remembered hearing about a secret swimming spot. Should we go? Should we try?

Rain misted the windshield as we drove north, the car loaded with inflatable tubes. We followed the texted directions to the best of our ability. This exit? The next? Left? Into a cornfield? They must have meant right. Past a farm, down a winding lane. Is this a two-lane road? Was that thunder? Should we turn back? We’ve come this far.

Oh, look. There’s the parking lot. Yes, this is it. It’s stopped raining. Down this path. There’s the river! Look at that bridge! This is cool. I can’t believe we never knew about this. It’s so close. And we didn’t even realize.

The skies opened and the rain pelted down. The warm rain and the heavy air and the cold river combined to create an otherworldly mist. It surrounded us as we waded knee-deep into the leg-numbing water. It drifted past as we launched our tubes into the current. “Oh, well, we’re already wet, right?”

Tubing in the mist

“Mom, I call this place the Mystical Forest. We are explorers.”

We drifted downstream, past fallen logs and mossy banks, narrow tree trunks stalking towards the stormy sky. We got out only when we heard the rumble of thunder, taking cover under the open hatchback, gobbling pretzels and giggling.

When the downpour passed, we waded back in. Drifting, twisting, turning, tipping, then striding back upstream to do it again. Intrepid explorers. Seeking adventures, weathering the storms, living our dreams.

Tubing in the mist, 2

 

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Reflections on a Decade of Motherhood

by Abby on June 8, 2016

My oldest son turns 10 today. I started blogging when I was pregnant with him. I’m glad I did, because I have a record of my thoughts and feelings as I made the transition to motherhood, memories that otherwise would have been blurred, misremembered, and even lost entirely to sleep-deprivation and aging brain cells.

Newborn firstbornYou know how some people claim their baby slept through the night at 6 mos. old, or that they loved every second of their child’s infancy? I have cold, hard proof that isn’t true. But I also have proof of the small, fleeting memories I would have forgotten: the unblinking, dark-eyed gaze of my solemn newborn, the clean-laundry smell of the sunny nursery, the impossible softness of the soles of tiny, bendy feet that have never touched the ground.

I also might have forgotten how funny parenthood can be. Like how no one warns you that the baby might pee in his own face, or that your toddler will have long, dramatic tantrums over the shape of his grilled cheese, or that your almost-10yo will randomly ask you, “Mom, do you think when birds burp it tastes like worms?”

I would not have forgotten how hard parenthood can be, but I may not have remembered the specific rage you can feel when a nosy stranger makes a critical comment at exactly the wrong time—say, as you’re wrestling your toddler into the car seat for the fifth time that day and are grasping at the end of your dangerously frayed rope. I may not have remembered how hopeless you can feel when your child begins to understand death and has LOTS of questions about it late at night.

I can trace my journey over the past 10 years from those universal new-mom fears about whether the baby is sleeping and eating enough and being irreversibly damaged by the background noise of the “Today Show” to the more specific and personal worries that older children bring. Is he making friends? Is he struggling in school? What do I tell him about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, where babies come from, and when? And what about THE INTERNET?!

I went from over-preparing for a birth I couldn’t control to feeling constantly underprepared for navigating my child’s dental care, schooling, emotional wellbeing, and screen time. I have now settled into another, different state. Acceptance? Surrender? Wisdom? It depends on the day.

The Baby WhispererSome days I feel like I am woefully under-qualified for this motherhood gig. I can no more diffuse a 7yo’s tantrum over having to go to piano lessons than I can set parental controls on a Kindle. (That is: not at all.) Other days, I think that raising humans is what I was meant to do. My children are healthy, intelligent, loving, (mostly) joyful people who eat vegetables, don’t litter, and are kind to babies and animals. I’m rocking this!

At one point, I feared I wasn’t “ready” to have kids. Ha! Are you ever? I thought, “How can I teach someone All Of The Life Lessons if I haven’t even figured them out myself?” Well, I’m glad I didn’t wait, because here it is a decade later and I still don’t have life figured out. But I was wrong about the life lessons, and who would be teaching whom. Mostly it’s my kids teaching me, but I have realized I know some stuff too. Like how to make a paper pinwheel and a face out of fruit. And that everyone gets sad sometimes, friends do move away, and dogs and people die and everything will still be OK.

Chillaxin

They teach me that you can be really, really mad at someone and even scream and stomp and say horrible things, but that you still love them. And you can apologize with a hug or a misspelled note. They teach me it’s OK to be yourself, and it’s OK to have fun, and it’s OK to put on your pajamas and cuddle up on the couch at 4pm if you feel like it.

I do not mourn the loss of their babyhood or wish I’d cherished it more or that time would slow down. We can’t control time or our children or the rest of the world. But we can choose when we want to slow down, what we want to notice and remember, and what we want to share with the world.

Happy Birthday, Miles. You’ve made me a better person and our little corner of the world so much brighter. I love you.

Me and my boy

 

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On Cute Baked Goods, Folding Thongs, and Perspective

March 20, 2016

Somewhere along the line, women’s perspectives got majorly messed up. I’m not naming names (Sheryl Sandberg, Marie Kondo), but somehow we have absorbed the barrage of information and opinions coming at us and emerged with the idea that all successful women are killing it at Fortune 500 companies and folding their thongs. (Seriously! There’s a […]

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I’m Breaking Up With Winter

February 16, 2016

Winter and I do not get along. Oh, it starts out promisingly, like a new relationship. Those first fleeting flakes, glistening romantically against the evergreens. The cozy fires and hot chocolate. The sledding and impromptu get-togethers with neighbors and friends. It’s invigorating. A break from the routine. But then things start to decline. One snow […]

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The Blizzard of 2016 in Emojis

January 27, 2016

You may have heard we got some snow here in the Baltimore area. Up to 30 inches, to be precise. But on Friday when they cancelled school I was confused. Because there wasn’t any snow. Yet. So I cleaned my house and invited the neighbors over. Fun! By Friday evening the snow was falling fast, and […]

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‘You Might as Well Dance’

January 14, 2016
Thumbnail image for ‘You Might as Well Dance’

My last living grandparent passed away last weekend, just a couple of weeks after he celebrated his 103rd birthday. I’ve written about my grandfather before. He was a great storyteller. One of my favorites was about the time he ran away from summer camp and supported his solo adventures by entering and winning dance contests. His […]

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A Book for Creative Types Who Believe in Magic

January 6, 2016

I don’t buy many hardback books, let alone the week they come out, not because I don’t like to support authors but mostly because my shelf-space is already overcrowded with the entire Captain Underpants series and a perplexing number of nonfiction books about LEGOs. And also, because I don’t usually re-read books after I’ve read […]

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My Year of Saying Yes

December 29, 2015

Typically, women are told we need to learn how to say no. We do too much, take on too many things. We feel guilty if we don’t, and resentful when we do. Having just run through the holiday party/cookie exchange/teacher gift/charity giving gauntlet, I can certainly understand the importance of saying no. It’s just SO […]

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What’s Your Holiday Face Look Like?

December 14, 2015

Sure, sure, the holidays are the happiest time of the year. For SOME of us, anyway. I mean, when you’re a kid, what’s not to like? There’s candy! And cookies! And presents! Who cares about cavities or credit card bills when you’re a kid? Also, all the presents you ask Santa for are FREE, didn’t […]

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A Thanksgiving to Remember

November 30, 2015

“We’re going to South Carolina for Thanksgiving!” I announced to my surprised but willing family. I’d caught wind that some relatives were gathering at my cousin’s house in Greenville, where he’d recently moved. I hadn’t seen him since his wedding. I thought, “Hmm, I also have this friend in Charleston… might be fun to get […]

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