Posts Tagged ‘Childhood’

Aha moments

February 18th, 2009    -    9 Comments



Hey mom, I have an idea to make money.

What’s that?

Let’s invent medicine that really works.

Why hasn’t anybody thought of that?

And that tastes good!

***

Mom, you know what worries me every time I fly?

What’s that?

You know when they say in the event of an emergency landing do not take your personal belongings?

I’ve heard that.

What if I’m carrying my American Girl doll?

We’d get you another one.

Just checking. That’s what Dad said too.

***

Mom, I’m worried about some of the kids in my class.

Why’s that?

Well, they are in third grade already.

Yes they are.

And if they don’t know anything by now how will they ever graduate from high school?

***

Mom, I feel sorry for God, you know why?

Why?

Because he has to create like a billion, million jillion fingerprints.

Too little time, too many facts

February 10th, 2009    -    18 Comments


A nocturne to the strains of a full moon.

Mommy, don’t be mad I can’t go to sleep.

Make your mind empty. No thoughts. No pictures.

You mean like a TV screen that goes blank?

Yes, blank.

I don’t want to grow up.

I’ll always be with you.

How old was I when your mommy died?

Not yet two.

It’s sad that I didn’t get to see her or know her.

She watches you every night when you sleep.

Then she must be watching someone else tonight.

No, she’s right here, waiting for you to go to sleep so she can come to you in your dream.

Mommy, don’t be mad I can’t go to sleep.

Are you nervous about something?

Yes.

What is it?

We have a timed test tomorrow and there are too many facts.

Facts don’t matter. Make your mind blank like the night sky. Without the moon.

Mommy?

Yes.

I really love you.

I’ll always be with you.

When girls collide

January 14th, 2009    -    6 Comments

When your daughter’s new doll is 18 inches tall, and your new daughter was 16 inches tall, the brief span of Daddy’s Girl fits entirely around the length of an American Girl. Are they one or are they two?

(Mommy saved her baby clothes, and her baby didn’t save a trace.)



Bearded lady

December 14th, 2008    -    3 Comments


Mom, you know what’s great?

What’s that?

Some people don’t think Santa Claus is real, but he is.

Who doesn’t think he’s real?

My friend Marjorie. But that’s just because she didn’t get a laptop last year.

(When you tug, it hurts.)

It felt like a chain around my neck, but it wasn’t

November 9th, 2008    -    15 Comments


There are many, many things that are dear to me, but one of the dearest is a reader.

A dear reader contacted me with this finding, a sterling silver “breakfast cereal necklace.” Yes, that very breakfast cereal that is so dear to us mothers, dear because it infiltrates and overtakes our lives and carpets and tabletops and carseats, ground into dust on floorboards, sofas, strollers, and high chairs, hidden in tiny fists and under tongues, carried in ziplocks, diaper bags and purses, never ever to be without until the day they disappear for good.

They disappear. You can try to cast them in silver and string them around your neck, but they disappear, and that’s what makes them precious, our Cheerio days. They disappear.

This is a road that is neither solid nor silver, and all the more priceless for leaving no trace.

Thank you, dear reader.

By any other name

October 22nd, 2008    -    6 Comments


Children’s books that forever changed my life.

Of course, you say, of course she’d like that book. She chose the name.

My daughter is named Georgia, but not for the artist O’Keeffe. My daughter is named for two great-grandfathers on both sides of her family. One an architect; one a farmer.

So this book, once again, is rather for me. Georgia O’Keeffe is my namesake, my mentor, as an artist and an independent being. As a heart and an eye and a hand that saw the big truth in small things.

My Name is Georgia
A Portrait by Jeanette Winter

Her entire life story is told in these 48 pages of spare text and evocative illustrations. Her own girl, with her own way and her own way of seeing. Drawn by the urge to meet the faraway up close, to render mysteries plain and true so people would see.

I went to the New Mexico desert.
So far away that no one ever comes.
I was satisfied to be all by myself.
I did things other people don’t do.

I painted my sky BIG,
so people would see the sky the way I did.

Find the fearless footprint, hear the song of truth and echo it back over the mountains. Paint your life BIG so people will see.

My earlier favorites are shelved here, here and here.

On little cat feet

October 21st, 2008    -    12 Comments


Children’s books that forever changed my life.

It turns out I have an affinity for things French (besides fools and fries). Today I send you in the direction of a cat that travels, in the inscrutably self-actualized nature of a cat, across the entire country of France to find his original home.

This is the sweetest, shortest evocation of a spiritual sojourn that I have ever read.

The Cat Who Walked Across France
By Kate Banks
Pictures by Georg Hallensleben

Kitty lives in a stone house by the sea until the day he is shipped north, with all the other lifelong belongings of the old woman who once scratched his ears and stroked his back. Soon he is forgotten among the unclaimed and disused. Until one day he leaves.

Children playing ball would chase after him. And the cat would scurry up a tree. But when he nestled in its branches, he would remember the tangy smell of lemons ripening on a branch under a window at the stone house by the edge of the sea. And he would move on.

May we all move on through a life as lush as the French landscape until we reach a wide open front door, settle into a warm, familiar spot and come to rest, knowing we are home.

Earlier recommendations here and here.

The last to leave the shelf

October 19th, 2008    -    8 Comments


Children’s books that forever changed my life.

I often tell people that every book they read to a child they read to themselves, and therefore not to miss the urgent message that is being delivered into their own hands, from none other than their own lips, and through their own eyes.

Of late, as I’ve recounted, the shelves of my daughter’s room have been cleared of those things that never had much to give or from which every use has already been wrung. A few children’s books remain, all of which my daughter has outgrown, none of which I have or ever will.

This week I’m going to recommend them to you. Some are rather obscure; others, not. Each of them arrived into my hands and heart when I needed them most. Every time I read them is precisely when I need them most. I entrust their magic to you.

Pierre’s Dream
By Jennifer Armstrong
Pictures by Susan Gaber

Pierre is a lazy, foolish man who has no job, no interests and no hobby besides sitting under the olive trees in the afternoon thinking of dinner. That alone recommends him as a hero to me, however in this telling he does far more. He falls asleep, and he begins to dream a dream of fantastic proportions and unbelievable feats.

“Very realistic,” he murmured. But as it was his dream, or so he thought, he had no fear. “For of course, I can wake up at any time,” he reminded himself.

Pierre taught me to stop distinguishing between those things I only dream of doing, and those I do. He teaches me still. The distinction, you see, is only fear.

Pierre’s dreams are very realistic, and so are yours. Wake up and surprise yourself beginning with this book!

One step to normal

October 14th, 2008    -    8 Comments


When girls turn 9 quite a bit begins to change and you may no longer see so intimately eye to eye. Then you realize they’ve been waiting all their lives to have the high ground under their feet.

Me: You are growing so much! (With poorly masked dismay over the rapidly outgrown clothes, the discarded toys and the little girl lost.)

Her: Maybe that means I’ll be a normal-sized person some day!

***
I don’t have to tell you that she already fills the sky and outshines the sun, but normal is good enough too. Normal will do.

Otherwise occupied

September 18th, 2008    -    21 Comments

I’m breaking my silence for a bit of nitpicking, which I’ve gotten pretty good at.

Quick! Give me two words that unnerve you more than:

Great Depression

Terrify you more than:

President Palin

Paralyze you more than:

Hurricane Ike, Josie, Kyle or storms beginning with the letters LMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Nah! Bring on all those lightweights!

It’s HEAD LICE, the mantra of my week in the here and now. Should this catastrophe ever befall your household, smack dab in the middle of your self-imposed meditative solace, I will tell you what works (two treatments, four comb-outs, and ferocious use of scissors; spending eight back-breaking hours over two days peering through a magnifier at each of 100,000 hair strands; and doing five loads on hot at the laundromat because the WASHING MACHINE BROKE last week). Here’s what doesn’t work (anything less because believe me I tried).

Friends, I want to attest to the power of prayer, because little by little, things are looking up.

And my neighbor survived the train crash with the blessings of two broken ribs, a broken leg and a completely intact sense of gratitude. May we all be so rich.

Seeing in the dark

August 20th, 2008    -    12 Comments


It was past midnight when my husband nudged me in the dark. He stood by my side of the bed, fully dressed, and I was confused from early, deep dreaming.

– Can you sit with Georgia? She’s been awake for hours and I have to get some sleep.

I scrambled up. For some reason I felt happy to do it. I must have been dreaming.

In the early days, months and years, getting the tots reliably to sleep is an elusive goal, but one of those goals we keep hammering away on. We think there is some way, some place, some trick to doing it so that it sticks. Many times we hoist that congratulatory banner and do a happy dance: Mission Accomplished! But sleep is like all things, like all mysterious forces and fields. It moves in waves with the moon and moods and invisibilities. Sometimes we hit a patch, like now, when the night’s first nod is a short one, and our daughter startles awake to hours of restlessness.

It’s been a while since I was called up for this tour. Georgia prefers her daddy’s consolation at night, probably because I’m not very consoling when I have to work a double shift. Last night I went into her room and, still half-asleep, stunned her by getting under the covers of her slender twin bed. She scooched over and in minutes we were both sleeping. It was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. But was I sleeping? Twisted onto a sliver of the mattress about a foot wide, ears enfolded on one side by a fuzzy dolphin, the other by a plush poodle, lulled by the gurgle of two fish tanks, I dove into a heavy doze in which I kept repeating in a marvel: I’m asleep, I’m asleep, I’m asleep. Surely, then, I was awake?

In the darkness, much later, the dog put her wet nose to mine and I rose to resettle her into the room where I had enclosed her hours before, the door still firmly latched. Perhaps that part was a dream?

Around daybreak, my daughter began to sigh and toss herself awake. We smiled and giggled at each other. It was barely 6 a.m. I told her that I’d had a good night’s sleep.

– I did too! That’s why I always wake up so early! Because I sleep so well!

This she said without any recollection of her hours of sleepless agitation. Perhaps her wakefulness was the dream? I don’t much care. I just give up, so I don’t disturb the dream. It’s the sweetest dream, and if I can keep from pinching myself, it never ends. Never, ever ends.

Photo copyright: Glenn Millington

Love of our lives

July 29th, 2008    -    7 Comments

This is a snapshot of Georgia, at two, dressed up in what had been my honeymoon nightgown. She claimed it from my closet, where I had let it become dusty and discolored from disuse.

That just about sums it up.

But not really the whole of it, not the best and most of it. Look at her coy and come-hither loveliness. She’s a decoy, my daughter, a decoy luring my husband and me to a place far gone from the honeymoon, a place of love and respect that is no romance, to be sure. But honest, and difficult, and workable. Serviceable, handy, constant, everyday.

That reminds of this post, which I present as a tribute to the man I love.

(I wonder what kind of hopeful, insistent, half-obsessed mother put the potty chair right there.)

Postcards from the ledge

July 27th, 2008    -    10 Comments

I know I said I was going to be posting old stuff while I was away at retreat this week, and I suppose I yet will. But here I am on the cusp, the razor’s edge, of another year passing. When I come back next Saturday we will be days away from celebrating my daughter’s 9th birthday. It is a miracle, but no greater miracle than any other day. Once you get in the miracle business, you see, they just keep coming. Since I am spending a good part of my time missing my family this week, you can join me as I post pictures of what you’ve missed so far.


Here is Georgia Grace as she appeared at her premature birth in August 1999 at 34 weeks of gestation. We would soon pity the parents with those behemoth, 6-pound babies in what appeared to us to be the nursery for run-of-the-mill king-sized kids. They seemed so – how can I say this – big. But she was fine; she was ready for this. As many of you have witnessed since, I certainly wasn’t.

The thought of this day, and every day since, makes me tear up in amazement. There are many parents who know more keenly than I do the cruel afflictions of early-term birth. I weep for the inconsolable impossibilities. And in our case, I weep for the possibilities. I weep for the whole unknowable universe of it. The waiting and yearning, the coming and going, the missing, yes the missing, reminds me of this post, one of my first, which remains forever true. I’ve never lived any day or place that I wasn’t waiting for her all night. Missing is what it means to love.

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