|Oliver, my darling number three|
... isn't that the conceit of mothers -- that we conceal our youth and exist only for our children? It is the province of mothers to preserve the myth that we are unburdened with our own problems. Placed in a circle of immunity, we carry only the crises of those we love. We mask our needs as the needs of others. If ever there was a story without a shadow, it would be this: that we as women exist in direct sunlight only.
When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.
What my mother wanted to do and what she was able to do remains her secret.
We all have our secrets. I hold mine. To withhold words is power. But to share our words with others, openly and honestly, is also power.
from Terry Tempest Williams' When Women Were Birds
I go back, over and over, to verses of poems and passages in novels and memoir that speak to me in the timeless way of touchstones. I've posted the above passage before, but it came back to me this morning when the border between yesterday and now was still blurry. When Sophie seizes, we say, over and over, It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. I say it as incantation, waiting for the seizure to stop, and then I gather her up in my arms and sit with her curled in my lap much as she might have lain when inside me more than twenty years ago. My softness envelops her but doesn't suffocate. I imagine it holds everything. Just like all paradox that we learn to hold as mothers of these children, inherent in that simple phrase it's okay, it's okay, it's okay is holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. Acceptance and anger. Despair and peace. Wonder and disbelief. A long time ago my father gave me a check to put toward some treatment or another for Sophie that I've long since forgotten. He wrapped the check in a small piece of paper that I've kept folded in a little bag in my purse that holds other tokens and charms -- a sort of nest that I've woven and sit in, come back to, over and over. There's a New York City subway token, a small rock that Henry picked up on a nature trail overlooking Malibu and proudly gave to me, a cheap, beaded bracelet that Oliver made in preschool and the silver clip and pale pink ribbon that held Sophie's first and only pacifier, the one she spit out soon after steroids were injected into her body, her screams began and then were silenced, forever. She's never had words. The piece of paper that my father wrapped his money in and gave to me is smudged and soft and creased, the fine script barely discernible, words faded. It says, This is going to work. It's okay. His words. It's okay, it's okay, it's okay. The recent spat with the developer over felled trees, the admonition to be silent, to be less angry, less righteous, less expressive. Their words. To withhold words is power. But to share our words with others, openly and honestly, is power. And yes, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. And it's okay, it's okay, it's okay.