Monday, September 28, 2009

Big Boy Beds and the Big Bad Wolf

At this moment, my two-and-a-half year old son, Noah, is visiting the Land of Nod as he dreams away his nap time in his "big boy bed." The crib has been disassembled, stored in a cold corner of the garage and replaced by a seemingly enormous, solid wood set of bunk beds.

As many parents do, I am dragging my feet as I watch my two angels grow so fast. There is a cohabitating excitement and reluctance in my mind and in my heart as I witness my sons graduate from toddlerhood into boyhood, knowing that eventually it will be into manhood.

And so I irrationally, immaturely and irrefutably resist this inevitability and shy away from 
the Big Bad Wolf that is time.

"Time" is a word that sounds exactly like what it means. It is short, abrupt and a little harsh as it begins and ends with a consonant sound. 

Likewise, the passing of time can seem unrelenting and a little grim--something we feel we need to protect ourselves from. Summer abundance fades into the winds of a colder autumn and we try to comfort ourselves with warm, savory food and bulky sweaters. Wrinkles form and we smooth on Oil of Olay. Children grow and we frantically take photographs, trying to capture it before it slips away.

It is the constant paradox of parenthood: the thrill of observing young tots sprout up and the fear of the day when it will all be over. It seems odd and ironic that something that is natural can be difficult.

Yet, I plan to savor it as best as I can. To seek out the joy in it. What else can you do?

Charlotte the spider may have said it best in Charlotte's Web, one of the most insightful stories about childhood, growing up, and how all good things end while life remains unsypathetic, bounding forward.

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time

He turns the seasons around
And so she changes her gown
But they always look in their prime
They go on dancing their dance
Of everlasting romance
Mother Earth and Father Time

The summer larks return to sing
Oh, what a gift they give
Then autumn days grow short and cold
Oh, what a joy to live

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Reliving of Childhood; Finding Magic Again in Circuses and Santa Claus

The smell of hot popcorn filled our noses. The long line of families anxiously pushed along, children hoisted up on their father's shoulders. Anticipation permeated. My son's hand filled mine as we waded through the crowd to find our seats--my mind brimmed over with the knowledge and appreciation that I had an evening ahead of me in which I would experience one of my most favorite, most-loved aspects of parenthood; the reliving of childhood.

The "Greatest Show on Earth" was just a short, excited drive from our home, north of Seattle, and we had tickets. My husband, Jason and I, were thrilled to have the chance to take our two sons, Joshua (4) and Noah (2), to the spectacular Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus!

And what a show it was. The cotton candy was ignored, not being able to compete with the flashing lights, the theatrical music, the clumsy clowns and the parade of elephants, horses, zebras, tigers and dogs. Pastel-colored spun sugar was no match-up for the alluring spectacle of magic and fascination displayed before us. Like a child, I let my eyes be fooled and my mind be tricked. What had been a recent growing cynicism inside of me was left at the door along with the world of grown-ups. I only kept in touch with that world for one moment as my eyes wet over with such motherly joy as I observed my children encounter such awe and delight. Then I realized I was actually about to cry at the circus and fought the tears back.

To me this was a hidden part of becoming a mother that I was completely unaware of--a surprising gift that I receive over and over again. As my abdomen swelled with my first pregnancy, I understood that I would love my children more than myself, that I would find joy in their joy because I loved them so much. But I could not foresee that it is so much more than that. Their joy truly is my joy. So much that I can even try to bring them happiness out of selfish reasons, for I genuinely feel their mirth as my very own.

Furthermore, as my sons have met the magics and wonders of childhood, so have I lived them now more fully than I had during my own youth. Let me tell you now with utmost sincerity and honesty that when it comes to the magic of disappearing acts and Santa Claus, I believe.

As testament to this, every Christmas season I read The Polar Express with wee ones on my lap, succumbing to tears on the last page:
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
I will go even further in saying that as I've grown old, my faith is even deeper and more fervent than it was so many years ago. I no longer search for any signs that I may be naive, no longer rummage through my parents' room for clues to this mystery, no longer am I worried that I am being hoodwinked. And no longer is my belief just the effect of what my mom and dad have told me; no longer is it just a source of fun and entertainment and presents.

No, for now my trust in that which I cannot see has deep purpose and meaning. And I experience this purpose as the ringmaster wills a tiger to vanish, as Joshua discovers under the tree the exact Tonka crane that he asked of St. Nick.

My faith is stronger as I see my children's faces light up with marveling and merriment, for I choose to believe.

Do you?

In awe and wonder, Joshua experiences the magic of childhood while the ringmaster commands twelve tigers.

Enormous elephants standing on two legs mesmerize my four year old.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Farewell to Superman and Batman - We Will Keep Fighting the Fight

Their legs stuck, stretched and rigid, the two fire-bellied toads lay lifeless over the too-dry small rocks bought from the local pet store. The bright orange markings on their stomach, a tribute to their name, lit with the same intensity as before. But the frogs no longer inhaled their rapid breaths and their eyes receded into their heads.

I knew the cage needed to be cleaned. I knew they needed fresh water. But I was going to put this task off one more day until I purchased another batch of doomed crickets, fulfilling all of Superman and Batman's needs within one afternoon. Too late. As I peeled Batman's dried toes off of the plastic wall, it was obviously too late.

What was I to tell our four year old boy, Joshua? Just yesterday we watched as the frogs pounced the bugs and gobbled them up. Now they were dead. What can you tell a preschooler about death?

And although I am pretty sure Joshua would handle the news very matter-of-factly, I just can't tell him. There is an irrational, overwhelming guilt marching in on me, making it impossible for me to give him the sorrowful news. Why such guilt over amphibians? Why sorrow over ten dollar pets, easily replaced?

Because this summer has contained the most difficult, most heart-wrenching seven weeks of my life. And because those weeks are not over, with not even the mercy of an ending yet in sight. My cousin Alicia, who is more like my sister, has been in the hospital for seven weeks now and we still don't know why.

Countless hours have been spent at the hospital; attending to Alicia, reading to her, feeding her, comforting her, praying with her, hiding tears from her. Many more hours have been spent at home; pacing, discussing her condition over the phone, weeping, praying, hiding fears from my children. And with all of that, I have not always been the mother that I should be. That they deserve.

But just like the demise of loved animals, how do you explain that to a four year old? A two year old? How do you explain a simultaneous present and absent mother?

You don't. You do what all parents do. You hold your children tighter. You read them more stories when you can. You let them eat more ice cream. You tell them that everything's going to be okay. Even though you don't know if it will.

You continue to pray.

And you go to the pet store during nap time and replace those two frogs without your son's notice; because you just can't bear one more thing that you've done wrong, you just can't bear more bad news, you just can't bear honesty in this point of time. This does not need to be a life lesson. There have already been too many of them lately.

I will not sink into despair. I will not drown in desperation, frustration and anguish. I will not give in to the mountain of sadness weighing down on my back.

I will ignore the truth and propel myself forward, grasping slippery hope with both hands. I refuse to lose that grasp. I refuse to lose faith. I will not be broken. I will keep fighting the fight.

And I will check the water level in the terrarium twice a day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mamma Vintage???

When asked to title my blog, I sat staring blankly at the screen, waiting for the wave of inspiration to strike. And then I waited a little more. And a little more.

What an odd and overwhelming request--like being asked to title your life! And not to discourage you from reading my blog or anything, but it's not as if my existence has contained the material of epic novels or anything. Not even close. It doesn't even seem title-able.

But after contemplating my existence a little more, the essence of this blog became suddenly clear. And the title really does say it all (or maybe most) . . .

MAMMA - First and foremost, I am a mother of two. It is my most colossal identity. Like every other mom in the world, my motherhood is at the very core of my being and composes the roots of my reality and of my spirit.

VINTAGE - Meaning classic, nostalgic, traditional, old-fashioned. These seem to be ideas that I very much connect with not only in my maternal instincts, but in most of my life.

mamMa - Why the extra M? "Mamma" is the Italian version of mother. And although I am actually not Italian, I seem to always have had somewhat of a possibly abnormal infatuation with this culture. I used to even lie when asked if was Italian! "Why yes, I am, thank you." But now I am satisfied with just obsessing over this country and fantasizing about the day when I will get to drive along the coast of Southern Italy.

And it is the fascination with this culture that helps me to adjust to my role as Mamma. Whether I have nauseating spit-up in my hair, I am overwhelmed by the inevitable grief of life, or I am listening to uninterrupted whining for hours on end, I will always take refuge in family, friends, love, a large glass of wine and very good food.