Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How We Do It: Part XIX of a Series



There was a moment last evening when I was eighteen years old, when I found it astonishing that one of my sons, spooning apple pie and ice-cream into his mouth, laughing with his brother and their friend from across the street, would ask me a question. Can we have more? he asked, not realizing that I was only eighteen years old, not a parent, not a mother. I had just changed Sophie's diaper, and was moving through the kitchen to the alley beside the house where the garbage cans lay. I had to put the diaper into a plastic bag and then dispose of it, and in that moment, moving through the kitchen with a diaper from an eighteen year old, I felt no older than my eighteen year old self, books on my hip, Balzac's Père Goriot, perhaps, or Introduction to Psychology, the crunch of leaves under my feet, deciding whether or not to pass through the Arboretum after dark on the way home to my dorm. My hair was impossibly shiny and my legs long and thin, a curly-haired boy with an enormous dimple would tutor me later that night in calculus and debate with his god on whether or not to take me into his bed, and a boy I would later marry climbed out of another girl's dorm room window with his guitar. No, that's enough, I answered, as I passed back through and grabbed some matches to light the candle in Sophie's room to mask the smell, and neither of the boys, nor their friend, nor Sophie who lay on the bed and looked through me had any idea that the person passing through was only eighteen years old, not a parent, not a mother at all.

34 comments:

  1. oh, elizabeth, i know this feeling so well! i am often amazed that my children think i know things, and quiet as its kept, have always been perplexed that they obey a certain tone i am able to pretend. i love this post.

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  2. well, not obey. but oblige, maybe.

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  3. I love this post and have felt it myself recently passing through my previous lives becoming unhinged untethered from time and zipping backward or forward. Charles Dodgson knew and so did Kurt V. Billy Pilgrim Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

    xoxox

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  4. Beautiful and haunting.

    Yes, Radish King, Billy Pilgrim. I have been unstuck for quite some time now.

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  5. Golly, gosh first off- that picture. I thought for one millisecond it was Sophie. And you are a beautiful eighteen year old/whatever you are now, you are, you are, you ARE!
    God yes, I get so WEARY of being the matriarch, the mother, the old woman who is supposed to be wise and able to handle things when all of the ages I have ever been are inside of me, clamoring sometimes to have another go at it. "Get out of the way, old woman!" they say as they scrabble and scratch to have their say, get their due.
    God, I love this post.

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  6. OMW, this may well be one of the most beautiful and poignant things you've ever written. You are GOOD woman. And you're still as beautiful as that dewy fresh girl in the picture.

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  7. as all your writing is, elizabeth, full of light and truth.

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  8. I thought the photo was Sophie too...but then thought, no her hair is curlier!

    I have this feeling quite often. I'll look at my 14 year old and think, wasn't I just your age?

    I look at my hands and wonder, weren't you just writing papers, and driving for the first time, and holding a boy's sweaty hand?

    Then reality comes around and I remember I'm here, this is the season of life...and in some years I'll be old and think back to this time and wonder where the time has gone.

    Such a beautiful post.

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  9. And if we asked our children, they would not even begin to be able to conjure up an image or a concept of us at eighteen (or us at any other age or station in life beyond being their mother, for that matter). I say, hold your secrets dear and share them in your writing like this so that those of us who know the power of that eighteen year old can savor it.

    Love.

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  10. this happens to me all the time. but i can't put it down even a quarter as eloquently as you do.
    i love your words, lady.

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  11. This squeezed my heart.

    It all passes in a blink. Craziness.

    You were beautiful then and you are beautiful now

    xoxoxo

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  12. as always im left in awe of your writing. I so wish I could have an ounce of your talent bc i feel this way too sometimes, but could never had articulated it so poetically.

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  13. I love this post. I have been going through a bit of a "mid life crisis" lately (cliche as it sounds). I look at my children and think, "Do you understand that I am a person too? Not just your mother. I deserve excitement, passion, fullfillment of dreams... just as you do." My grandpa used to say repeatedly that youth was wasted on the young. Damn...how right he was.
    Kris M

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Kris M! And I say to your grandfather that there's always time!

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  14. The guitar player sounds interesting to me. But maybe a trifle vain.

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    1. Well, I don't know about the vanity, but he was prone to throwing pebbles at my window.

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  15. Elizabeth, I read your posts regularly, and though I am often moved by them and always so impressed with your talent for written expression, I have resisted commenting. Until today. As I sit here fighting back tears after reading this post, I must comment.

    I've not commented in the past because I didn't feel I had a right to. You and your lovely family go through so much, and my problems with my own daughter pale in comparison (not that it's a competition or a compare-and-contrast exercise).

    She is 14, and on top of all that comes with being a teenaged girl, which is difficult enough, she has mental health issues and a seemingly never-ending stream of inexplicable physical ailments -- nothing of the devastating, life-threatening, life-changing variety. Just a low-grade, slow drip of phone tag with doctors, appts to drive to, prescriptions to fill, side effects to endure, questions to raise about what is psychosomatic and what is real, and on and on. Again, nothing like what you deal with on a daily basis but it's my world and it's not easy. And, this is on top of a divorce a year ago, so I do this mostly as a single parent.

    As she and I walked back into our home this morning around 4am from the second emergency room visit in six days, all I could think of was being 18 again...or 22...or 30.
    I wanted to ask her how she ever expects me to be able to find a new man to be with (already had to cancel my one-and-only date in many moons due to the first ER visit last week and now might have to cancel another one if she's not well soon).

    I wanted to ask her how I am supposed to earn a living and keep my rather demanding job when I can't get enough sleep to fuction.

    I wanted to ask her if she would pay the late fee on the credit card bill I forgot to pay yesterday because I was trying to work and nurse her and just couldn't do a third thing.

    But I didn't. I asked her if the pain was any better and if she needed water and if she was hungry. And I asked her to take off the clothes she'd worn to the hospital and put on fresh ones to sleep in so I could wash the germs off them.

    And I told myself that dating at age 50 and slogging through my job and paying bills was not going to be my reality for a while - at least until the sun came up. Until then I would be 18 or 22 or anything but where I was. I guess I was there with you.

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Michelle -- and for your kind words. I encourage you to write YOUR story -- your healing story, if you will. Please don't ever feel as if you need to have a right or a reason to comment -- this place is a community and all are welcome! Your words made my heart ache. I know.

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  16. Like Michelle above, I read but don't comment, but today, I just had to tell you that this is the most beautiful post, the most beautiful text. Thank you.

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  17. This photo of you so young and beautiful tilting your head to one side and looking somewhat dreamy. The photo below of Sophie, so young and beautiful, tilting her head to the other side and looking somewhat dreamy. It is like a haunting mirror image, there is something so powerful about these photos. Tell me dear friend was this intentional?

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    1. Yes, I see it now, Lisa -- but I hadn't until you pointed it out. And leave it to you to see the symbolism -- I look on you, sometimes, as a kind of sage -- a wise soul. Thank you, as always, for what you contribute.

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    2. You are too kind my dear. My husband would disagree with your description of me and tell you that I am far too empassionate to be a sage. He would explain how I am all too eager to pick up that sword of righteousness and lop someone's head off. I think he may be right, altho I am trying to temper that emotion in my old age...I am just getting too tired to lift that heavy blade.

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  18. This is so beautiful and tender. The writing has the same feeling as a still night with new snow. Sometimes I feel old, Elizabeth. And sometimes I feel I'm growing younger.

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  19. these are always my favorites of yours. so, so, so, so beautiful. damn, you're talented.

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  20. Haunting and lovely.

    It gave me goosebumps

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  21. yes and yes. Who gave us permission to be in charge of stuff? because whoever did is a fool.

    And yet here we are. I love reading you.

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  22. Gorgeous. Of course he was throwing rocks at your window.

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  23. Wow. That really is terrific. It conveys perfectly those moments when we're suddenly in touch with some deep part of our old selves, a part that maybe hadn't been touched in years, and we think, "How did I get here?"

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  24. eee, love this post. at times i wish i were not a parent at all and could roam the world at my leisure without the worry, the despair, the responsibility of motherhood. xoxo

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  25. Thinking of the Talking Heads Song "Letting the Days Go By." "How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house!"

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  26. Gorgeous writing from a gorgeous woman with a gorgeous heart.

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  27. Beautiful you, beautiful prose.

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