all mother, no hood

September 14th, 2010

I think I’ll set my alarm in the morning, she said.
It was the last night before the first day of fifth grade.
I think I’ll get dressed before breakfast, she told herself.
A starting day delayed by state budget cuts and teacher furloughs, compounded by peculiarities of the calendar, had me bracing for a hard reveille on this, the 14th of September already.
I want to be early.
I was still in bed when she tapped me gently on the shoulder. I opened my eyes to see her beside me in her new, first-day dress, hair brushed, jacket on, standing noble and ready, like Liberty herself.
She whispered.
Good morning, Mommy.

This is the kind of day that jolts you into a reality so easily forgotten – a cataclysmic moment when you realize life’s perpetual motion, when you experience for yourself the awesome rush of the scientific fact that there is no such thing as solid ground. There is no permanent state, no place to dwell. Here we are in the middle of motherhood, and there’s no ‘hood to hold onto. We are all, indeed, the mothers of exiles, heartbreakingly homeless and free.

As so often happens without accident, my friend and fellow author Amy Tiemann is musing about this very topic today, and you should read her here and respond here. We should all read and wonder and weep, but not in grief. Our children grow up. Do we?

We walked down the sloping sidewalk to the fifth grade bungalows and she leaned in closer.
I’m nervous, she said. I’m terrified, actually.
I assured her that this, yes, this, would be her finest year, her greatest time, her crowning glory. I have no doubt it will be.
Her friends in range, she walked faster in front as I hauled the sacks of school supplies to her classroom. I lost her in the surge.
Georgia, I called out, do you need me?
She turned back and waved.

I’m crying now, but not in loss. Crying is what mothers do with the fullness that can’t be kept, with the love that never ends. Cry, and wave, and hold a flame along the way that grows longer away.

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  1. What a perfect way to describe those tears.

    Comment by Amie aka MammaLoves — September 14, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

  2. I read that last line over and over again. Beautiful truth.

    Comment by Mani — September 14, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  3. and the funny (not hah hah) thing is-you will feel this very same way if they are 8 or 28! I know-cause I still do and revel in each continuing step they take toward their adulthood and life.

    Comment by silvercrone — September 14, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  4. Karen, I am still in amazement of the way that “the final chapter” of Momma Zen can really and truly be reread anew and rewritten every day. Sending love! Amy

    Comment by Mojo Mom — September 14, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  5. Tell GG I want to see a photo of her in her first-day dress. Beautiful post!

    Comment by Tricia — September 15, 2010 @ 2:03 am

  6. My daughter’s birth was a comet that streaked across my emotional sky, and then, just as quickly as she burst into my life, she began to arc away from me. My process of letting her go began the very instant she was placed in my arms. It has always been my job to hold her with hands that are open.

    Comment by Carol — September 15, 2010 @ 2:47 am

  7. Gorgeous. “Crying is what mothers do with the fullness that can’t be kept.” Just lyrical and playing a song my soul knows well this week.

    Looking so forward to the Retreat on Saturday!

    Comment by denise — September 15, 2010 @ 2:50 am

  8. Oh Karen, you always get to me! And, those very emotions have been coursing thru me with great intensity. Gratitude…

    Comment by Kathleen Van Dusen — September 15, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  9. Oh, Karen. Bless your heart. All this nervous energy that I can’t put my finger on, that yoga didn’t settle down – here it is in your post. Now is it streaming down my cheeks. Thank you.

    Comment by Rhea — September 15, 2010 @ 4:47 pm


    Comment by Joanne M — September 15, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  11. This post spoke to my heart with a smile and some tears of remembrance —
    Thank you, Karen, for painting this picture;

    Comment by Mary Petro — September 17, 2010 @ 12:37 am

  12. I did the same only a couple of weeks ago as I sent my oldest off to kindergarten. It always reminds us doesn’t it, how fragile the moments are and yet how exquisite.

    Comment by Christine — September 17, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  13. Yep, that’s what those tears are…raining the sunshine of my heart right down the canvas of my cheeks. Thanks for helping me say it.

    Comment by rebecca — September 18, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  14. You inspire me.

    Comment by Swirly — September 20, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  15. With first days in school all over the world, this is a very nice article. Thanks.

    Comment by Paul Brennan — September 20, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  16. Oh Karen, what lovely lovey words. Thank you. You brought me to tears.

    Comment by Lisa — September 23, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

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