Cracks inside

Look at how grown up she is.
Parenting is both an endless allelujia (credit to Newman and Hank for my favorite Christmas card message ever, ever, ever) and an endless goodbye. Every single day I wrestle with my fears about the passage of time, my anxieties about failing to make the most of this one life I have.
Grace informed me tonight that there are only 10 more days of Beginners. Somehow this just causes cracks inside, brings tears to my eyes. There is something about Beginners: my first child in her first year of “real school.” We are beginning. We are almost at the end of being beginners. This brings to mind, naturally, that marvelously bittersweet and neatly poetic quote by Churchill:

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

To opt for chaos

Snowed in today. This is for real: snowing sideways this morning, now sleeting hard and cold. I have been puttering around the house most of the morning, doing laundry, reading, cooking. I made nut brittle, spiced pecans, and chocolate cherry cookies (really more like little bundles of yumminess, not really cookies). It is a no-holds-barred TV day. Surprisingly relaxing, when the children aren’t trying to kill each other.

Lacy sent me a great book about pregnancy and early motherhood that I loved (thanks, Lace!). I am following it up with a collection of essays on the same topic by some of my favorite writers. It is a trip through some familiar, soothing words – an excerpt from The Blue Jay’s Dance by Erdrich, and some of Adrienne Rich’s journal entries that I quoted in my thesis. Nothing better on a day like today than the well-worn, deeply-known cadences of sentences and paragraphs I have read over and over again.

“Life seems to flood by, taking our loves quickly in its flow. In the growth of children, in the aging of beloved parents, time’s chart is magnified, shown in its particularity, focused, so that with each celebration of maturity there is also a pang of loss. This is our human problem, one common to parents, sons and daughters, too – how to let go while holding tight, how to simultaneously cherish the closeness and intricacy of the bond while at the same time letting out the raveling string, the red yarn that ties our hearts.”

“In talking to other women over the years, I begin to absorb them somehow, as if we’re all permeable. Some days, I’m made up of a thousand mothers who have given one ironic look, one laugh at the right moment, one exasperated wave, one acknowledgment. Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythm we collect and learn, as much from one another as by instinct. Taking shape, we shape each other, with subtle pressures and sudden knocks. The challenges shape us, approvals refine, the wear and tear of small abrasions transform until we’re slowly made up of one another and yet wholly ourselves.”

both Erdrich, from The Blue Jay’s Dance

“To opt for kids is to opt for chaos, complexity, turbulence, and truth. Kids will make you love them in a way you never thought possible. They will also confront you with all the painful and unsavory emotions that humans put so much energy into trying to avoid. Children will teach you about yourself and about what it’s like not to be up to the demands of the most important responsibility you’ll ever have. They’ll teach you that you are capable of deep compassion, and also that you are definitely not the nice, calm, competent, clear-thinking, highly evolved person you fancied yourself to be before you became a mother.”

“I also think that kids are the best teachers of life’s most profound spiritual lessons: that pain and suffering are as much a part of life as happiness and joy; that change and impermanenence are all we can count on for sure; that we don’t really run the show; and that if we can’t find the maturity to surrender to these difficult truths, we’ll always be unhappy that our lives – and our children’s – aren’t turning out the way we expected or planned. Life doesn’t go the way we expect or plan, and nobody’s perfect, not ourselves or our children.”

both Harriet Lerner, from Vulnerability and Other Lessons

Our turn to dance

“I am breathless and frightened by the frailty of miracles, and full of the fact of our lives.” – Pam Houston.

That has always been one of my favorite quotations, and I thought about it a lot this past weekend. Gracie and I drove to Jamaica Plain to see Tyler and Lyle Crumley, and some other TPT friends, and we were listening to the (fabulous) CD our nursery school made. As Livingston Taylor segued from Twinkle Twinkle into “Our Turn to Dance” I felt the familiar ache in my heart, the sensation of how I need to be here RIGHT NOW, and how woefully BAD I am at that. The song talks about how it’s “our turn to dance,” and I blink back tears thinking about it is Grace’s turn to dance, right now … that’s all she is supposed to be doing: dancing, laughing, learning, being a child. How quickly these lighthearted years slip by. Already school feels more “real,” more serious, more structured. How fast fly the days. I was thinking about how this is LIFE, this moment, this day right here right now, with all of its joys and sorrows, its choices both complex and simple.
I must have been channeling Catherine Newman, AGAIN, because she remarks on a similar sentiment in her blog this week:

“And I’m remembering an email my friend Brian wrote me a couple of years ago, about his sons: “There WILL be a day when they don’t want to be carried up the stairs … But the idea that the last time will go unmarked and slip away without being cherished just made me so sad.”
I’m trying to hold this in mind when Ben wants me to put his socks on or carry him in from the car when he’s actually still awake or stay with him and Birdy while they fall asleep at night. I feel the familiar ripping-away impulse — the same impulse you might have if, say, a baby had been stapled to your bosom — and sometimes I act on it, whispering, “I’ll check on you guys in a few minutes,” and unwinding the arms that are boa-constrictored around my neck, loosening the very claws of love from the hem of my shirt, trotting out before the poor lonely bed-goers can make their emphatic case for my company. But sometimes I just lie there. Let there not be a last time, I think — a last time that slips away without being cherished.”

Birthday party invitations

Having technical difficulties with first birthday invite, but these are 2, 3, and 4. 3 was supposed to be ponies at Verrill Farm, but it snowed so we wound up at our house with Silly Willy.

Grace’s 5th birthday party

It’s that time of year again! Fingers crossed that this year it doesn’t snow, as it did on Grace’s third birthday party (forcing us inside: twenty three-and-under children in our house – never again). The birthdays at BB&N are heavily clustered in the fall and Grace and I are spending every single weekend for the forseeable future attending at least one birthday party. Many of them are totally OTT. I’m pleased with the relatively low-key nature of an open tent on a working farm and donuts and coffee for refreshments. That’s the only downside to a 10am party – you really can’t serve alcohol in good conscience!