Without pretense or masks, they had held the clear vision for me all along. Love. Fun. Freedom. At four and eight-years-old, they stood so firmly in their truth that I couldn’t help but remember mine. So how did I manage to frequently sidestep their system of joy? They need too many band aids, they call my name ten times in sixty seconds, they race past, knocking each other to the floor, bonking heads and crying fowl. I’d neglected me somewhere in the wild whirling circle of their childhood. While life was curling around their tie-dyed colors, I was sometimes lost in the gray.
Two years ago, as I lay on my bed at the B&B, my eight year-old’s voice sprang through my cell phone. As Spence listed the memories of his day with Kyler and Daddy, I pushed off my socks and found sticky rice smashed on the sole. Earlier I’d peeled off an old Scooby-Doo band aid from the inside of my shirt. My husband had once come home from work with a teensy white baby sock clinging to his pant leg. Our children left their mark on every step we took. Every single day. Thank goodness.
Although I was enjoying Spencer’s gabbing, as I lay there dreamily, the night was tugging at my eyelids. It’d been an exhilarating day of writing, communing, and sharing with my sister writers. Then Spence suddenly asked, “So, Mommy, are you having fun?” “Well, yes I sure am,” I said in utter surprise. He was wondering about me. That was about as new as I felt. My boys didn’t normally ask, “What would you like for lunch, Mom? Can I get you some lemonade? Do you like that book you barely get to read?” They hadn’t asked questions until then. Until I’d said Uncle.
It all started when I’d signed up for my first Women Writer’s Weekend Retreat at the NJ shore. I’d plunked down my wad of money (eek) and then questioned my judgment. Who am I to take a long weekend at a lovely bed and breakfast? By the beach. Alone.
But drained and depleted, I was no good to anyone. My family needed my strength, my soul’s fire. So did I. Taking care of my own needs was, in fact, a gift to my loved ones. Until I’d stepped away, I’d almost forgotten that my family deserved the whole me. Not just the one chasing dust-bunny dreams. Not the one spread thin between fluffernutter and bread. Not the waiter, the maid, the chauffeur and the healer. They needed the one who ached to march down the Champs-Elysees, the fierce Amazon warrior who lived off the land, the Anastasi spirit perched up in the rocky sky. The gal who just wanted to finish a book.
After two days at the retreat, I was feeling reconnected to the pulse of life — I breathed in the sacred lineage. I felt, all at once, the oneness. The legacy. I was poised at the water’s edge on an primeval shore. I was deep in the fossil of a pregnant mastodon, in her breath alive on an ancient wind. I was a part of all that had come before me and would flow past. Man, I felt sappy.
There far away, at the beach, I’d come clean. I realized I could marry the magic to the mundane as long as I gave my solemn promise. When I return home tomorrow, I told myself, and I’m settling an argument about who gets the bigger cookie, I will remember that I am all of it. I am both the grain of rice stuck to the bottom of my sock and the power and majesty of a mastodon.