Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dreams of Forgetting

When I was a kid, I had a dream (or at least I’m pretty sure it was a dream) that my parents forgot me outside and I spent the night on the back porch with the dogs. This was one of those dreams that you are certain actually happened. Even in the face of all contrary evidence, I was completely sure that I had actually slept curled up with our dogs on the concrete in the back of my childhood home.

I can still to this day remember the most vivid details of this dream. We had just gotten home from a trip to Target and I was dawdling on my way into the house from the car. My parents went in before me. When they were both in the house, they simply closed the door and locked it. They then proceeded to unpack what we had bought at the store, get themselves something to drink and go into the living room to watch TV. I started just by knocking at the door, confused and even mildly amused that they weren’t listening. That progressed into loud pounding at the door and yelling to let me in. After doing this for about 15 minutes or so, I remember the knowledge sinking in that they had simply forgotten me. They weren’t being mean or intentionally ignoring me, they had simply forgotten my very existence.

I resigned myself to sleeping outside with the dogs, Winnie and Lorien. I even remember asking them if they would share their food with me, I remember the taste of dog food and the way it crunched in my mouth. I remember the door mat we had then. It was one of those mats that looks like someone cut up a tire and then strung it together with pieces of metal to form an almost chain mail pattern. I remember it being softer than the concrete.

It wasn’t too cold that night, but cool enough that I had to cuddle in between the two dogs to stay warm. I slept fitfully, thinking that my parents would surely come look for me. Morning came and my dad came out the back door to let the dogs in, looked at me and said “What are you doing out here?” I came back in the house and that was it. No one ever talked about how I had just slept outside with the dogs.
I remember being a kid and not ever telling my parents of this dream because I truly did not know if it was real or not. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I finally told my mom about it. She was completely aghast. Mortified even. I was embarrassed and taken right back to being about 8 years old, totally mystified at why my parents would forget about me. I asked her in a very small voice if it had actually happened or if it was just a dream and she almost yelled back that it was just a dream.

The perfect detail still makes me wonder sometimes though. Even though I know it’s ridiculous.

But to this day, I am still afraid that those closest to me will simply forget me. That we won’t talk for awhile and I will call or email them to check in and they won’t answer. Not because they don’t have time or don’t have anything to say, but because they’ve simply forgotten who I am.

Then this afternoon, I walk upstairs and look outside onto our deck and there is my son. Curled up in a little ball, not moving. I rush outside thinking something has happened to him, and he was sound asleep. On the deck. By himself. With his little blue and yellow gardening gloves still on his hands.

I picked him up and took him into his bed to continue sleeping. The whole time fighting tears because in my mind, I was once again on that concrete porch in the back yard, completely confused at why I had been forgotten. I noticed I was whispering under my breath, “I’m so sorry sweet boy.”

I fully expected him to wake up and be really upset. When I asked him what happened he said that he was just waiting for Dada to finish mowing the yard and he was tired. So he wasn’t forgotten. He was simply tired and fell asleep. But I just can’t shake the feeling now. That black, completely still feeling of being forgotten. Of being stood up. It’s a cross between being embarrassed and angry and sad, all at the same time. And I’m terrified that for just a moment, my boy, my beautiful boy, had that feeling.

But he woke up and was greeted by his baby sister trying to poke him in the eye. He awoke with a smile. Knowing he was loved and taken care of. And I am left with the greatest hope of any mother, that my fears do not become my children’s fears.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Definition of Mother's Day

Mother’s Day was yesterday. I’ve spent most of today talking with all of my other mother friends about how our days were. How sweet hubbies and kids were or what utter slackers husbands turned out to be. Got me to thinking how strange Mother’s Day has become.

In theory, it’s a day to celebrate mothers for everything they do for each and every one of us. What it winds up being though is a test. A test for husbands and fathers and children to see what spectacularly wonderful thing they can concoct to lavish the mother/wife in their lives. A test for mother’s to see how we’ll react to whatever is presented to us.

My first instinct when thinking about what I want from Mother’s Day is a break. I want a quiet house with no children, no husband. I want to recapture a bit of the freedom I had before I became a mother. What strikes me is how strange it is that on the day created to honor mothers, I (and most of the other women I know) strive to forget for the day that we are mothers. We want a day that takes us back to our before motherhood being. We want to sleep in. We want breakfast in bed. We want quiet and freedom and simplicity.

How strange is that? So I wind up feeling like I should instead spend the day with my family being the best mother I can be. That in order to celebrate my being as a mother, I need to be actively mothering. In every minute of the day. And so wind up at the end of the day very tired and moderately resentful that I didn’t get a day off. What is it about mothers, and women in general, that we spend all day asking for, and fully expecting to receive, what we want and need of our children, husbands, friends, coworkers and bosses, but even if we are know what we want and need for ourselves, we are completely unable to ask for it. Let alone expect to receive it.

When I was younger I was so full of expectations for myself, and was utterly unafraid to demand that those expectations be met. While I am still unabashed in my expectations of others and when it comes to responsibility and being a mother, myself as well, I find that I no longer expect myself to be happy, beautiful or excited about any of it. There was a time when I expected myself to not only succeed in everything I did to the highest extent, but to do it with style. Now I just try to get my teeth brushed everyday.

When did the ideas of mother and beautiful become mutually exclusive in my mind? Why I can’t I celebrate my happiness in being a mother on Mother’s Day instead of only that which I’ve sacrificed and/or worked myself to the bone for? Mother’s Day has almost turned into a day to glorify the martyrs of motherhood instead of truly a day to celebrate the being of mother.

I want to celebrate my ability to grow, carry and birth a new life. I want to celebrate my ability to soothe with song and breast in the middle of the night. I want to celebrate my ability to guide with strong voice and body. I want to celebrate the gift of my children and what they’ve given me.

I want to look in the mirror on Mother’s Day and think, celebrate yourself you beautiful mama. And then I want to believe it.