4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I thought of this thing today, but then it left my mind. It left my mind amidst the tumble of things I’m supposed to be doing, the school auction, the art show, even the writing I’m trying to do. I forgot what I wanted to write because I was thinking about something I wanted to write.
Life is like that, especially these days.
But I think the thing I was thinking about had something to do with making a mark and remembering this time.
Which has become my refrain, remember this time.
I’ve always tried to record the people and places and thoughts that mattered, suss out the meaning, the why and how, the hidden metaphor that will unlock the secret. Mostly it was about my family, my childhood, my parents, my siblings, the lessons I’d learned from watching them and loving them.
And then for awhile I didn’t write much. I mean, I typed into a computer for work, blah, blah, blah Minoan Architecture, “I recommend Johny Do-Good for acceptance to Your Super University without reservation…” and so on. But I didn’t write about things that really mattered to me. In some ways even my art found this holding pattern that felt pretty safe, exploration within a limited system of marks and symbols.
Then the babies came and it was this tsunami: feelings, relationships, reflections, flashbacks, metaphors begetting metaphors. I was running up the hill from the mile-high wave, then running back down to gather what I could from the ocean floor, then back up the hill. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
And sometime last year I realized I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten every last bit of everything.What with the running up and down the hill, being chased by the wave, chasing the wave, all in the care of these crazy-beautiful, ever-demanding beings, I had no idea how I got there, up the hill and down again.
I couldn’t remember how I breastfed two babies while watching an eighteen-month-old and still taking care of the home. Did my Mom come? Did I run every day? Did I walk? How did I pack everything in our home in order for us to move while caring for those babies and the toddler?
Then I got pregnant? Was that me? Who gets pregnant when they have three kids under the age of three? Someone who’s about to have four kids in thirty-six months, that’s who.
And then the water got faster and the hill got higher. Right? That’s what I hear, anyway. But I don’t know. Because I don’t remember most of it.
But what I know, is this: right now, this time in my forgettable life, this is important. I have files filled with notes for teaching Art History, so many digital files in fact that my computer complains that that my start-up disc is full every time I try to run two programs at once. And yet, what I think is really important, for me, and maybe even for these four beings that my husband and I made, is right now.
I looked at Cabot’s face today as she whined, and for once I responded with pure love rather than the annoyance that only a 24/7 whiner can elicit. I picked her up and kissed her belly, the belly that is now literally almost bigger than my belly. Then I lowered her into a hug and put my face in her hair, which even dirty, is this smooth delicious sheet of perfumed gold. It’s heaven on that head, I tell you. I was transported by that little head. What is this moment? How many mothers just sniffed their child’s heads and held their warm, purring bodies? Just now. Now.
And I realized that although teaching and being an artist was important, and being a daughter, and certainly a friend (who would I be without my friends?!) and of course, a wife (!), being a mother to these four rapscallions is just absolutely, positively the large important thing that I’ve got going right now. Even though I don’t remember it. And it’s generally crappy and dirty. And they might not remember it. And what they remember might make a therapist go hmmm.
At one point I thought I started blogging so I could tell people I was still alive, that I still had a voice, even though on some days it seemed that no one was listening. Maybe I did it so I could prove there was worth here, in these lost days of wiping butts, blowing noses and doing seat belts and laundry, laundry, laundry. Plus there was the need for court-approved proof that I took them to farms and libraries and swim lessons; there’s that. And of course, there’s just the joy found in the act of writing, there’s just me enjoying painting these things with words.
But above all, I think it must be that these little beings are growing into adults who will do things, become presidents or cabinet-makers, marry or partner or become hoarders in the Pine Barrens (it’s a family thing). They will teach someone or raise someone, certainly love someone. And the garbage that is their now, the kernel of that yet unwritten future, that is the thing I wanted to remember.
I want to save whatever I can for them: their crumbling baby teeth, the old family Bible, the dog-eared black and white photographs of their grandparents as babies, the tiny preemie baby hats that wouldn’t fit a doll.
It started here. You began here. This is important.