jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Sleeping Children, Peace, and Other Thankful Thoughts

Tim brought Mica to me last night. I was in bed.

Mica, asleep  November 2014

Mica, asleep
November 2014

We were watching television, the president juxtaposed against Ferguson, burning cars and police in riot gear throwing tear gas, scared they wouldn’t make it home alive to see their spouses, their homes, their children. I sat shaking my head, hand over my mouth in disbelief.

And as I turned away from the television, I saw Tim standing next to me, holding my boy, all  pale flailed limbs, utterly still in slumber. Tim set six-year-old Mica in my arms. I wrapped him in my favorite soft blanket and he curled up like a snail’s shell on my lap, folded into himself. His face was entirely angelic, pale and smooth, translucent, the faintest blue where it wasn’t pink. He nuzzled into my shoulder, like he once did when I’d hold him during the night to breast feed him when he was a baby, like they all did.

Those evenings we’d sit cuddled close in whatever room was the nursery, me tucked into whichever pillows were softest and kindest at 3 am. And I’d sit breast-feeding my babies, their smacking lips and stroking fingers and fluttering eyelashes, me so tired, and them so greedy and luxuriously sated. So safe. Then I would stagger back to bed.

I’ve always wondered how my parents didn’t know what would befall them, how my mother couldn’t see the wreckage, the difficulties that awaited her around the bend. I wrote once that in those old black and white photos I could almost make out the silhouette on the ground, cast in tree’s shadows, of the plane overhead that was about to explode. That the metaphorical fuselage would rain down on her was so apparent to me in those old photos, especially her pregnant with her firstborn, my brother Butchie, who would require her care for 50 years. How could she not know? How could she not know that these things would crash down on her, on all of us?

Mom  1961


Now I contemplated these hurting people in their faraway city, with my only literal connection, distant relatives living somewhere out in Missouri and a blogger acquaintance on the police force outside the city of Ferguson, and yet, and yet. I felt scared. How could we get through this night safely?

How could we sleep tonight safe in our beds, with translucent babies, now grown into young children, so safe and sound, 1,200 miles away? How could we deserve that? When there are all those people mostly young but some old, who can’t conceive of peaceful protest because this is not what they’ve known, peace. These people who have lost so much, or never had it, or are so tired of having it stolen away, shot away, that they’d throw a brick and light a building on fire because the plane has already crashed, keeps crashing, was always crashing. That absence of peace was always there, only now we are seeing it, writ large in flames and tear gas and a weeping mother. We all should have known. It is time to know.

I’m afraid I can’t explain this feeling of unrest. These fragile children of mine are too healthy and happy and perfectly flawed. Even my mother never had that. This could end at any moment. This will end. Life has taught me that.

So today I went to the childrens’ Thanksgiving assembly, the one where the teachers performed a song from Guys and Dolls and one from West Side Story, dancing, playing steel drums and 27 Jennifers on four acoustic stringed instruments. We sat in the front row on the floor where the pre-k and the kindergartners and the first graders sit. My seven-year-old sat on my lap and the twins snuck away from their teachers and smashed themselves close to my legs. I sat sniffing his hair and stroking their backs, holding their arms, laughing in his ear.

“This is bliss,” I whispered. “This is pure happy.”

No matter how transient and tinged with regret for the losses, I am thankful for this, my fragile, nearly translucent children, my husband, our sense of home.

This Thanksgiving I wish for everyone peace, security, and moments of such pure bliss that we can all  momentarily forgive the shadows sliding along the ground before us.


One of those bliss moments, in bed with my son  2014

One of those bliss moments, in bed with my son

8 comments on “Sleeping Children, Peace, and Other Thankful Thoughts

  1. Sing Better English
    November 26, 2014

    Thank you for writing that. And for putting a link to the policeman who blogs. I don’t know what else to say, but I wanted to say that.

  2. Home That We Built
    November 26, 2014

    Peace and love to your family! You have inspired me to go and spread love and peace onto my family at this hectic times and times of unrest. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Tandi
    November 26, 2014

    Peace for all. And security and pure bliss.

  4. donofalltrades
    November 27, 2014

    Jen, you have a beautiful family. We’re both lucky and don’t need to be ashamed of it. Have a great holiday! Talk to you soon!

  5. kellylmckenzie
    November 27, 2014

    A good part of my morning so far has been emailing back and forth with my siblings about my cousin’s son who is gravely ill. This post could not be more timely. We need to treasure these moments, these windows of health. Thank you.
    Wishing you a very Happy and heartwarming Thanksgiving.

  6. Burns the Fire
    November 27, 2014

    Beauty. Thankful. Love.

  7. talesfromthemotherland
    November 29, 2014

    Man, you break my heart with every post. Every. Post. Thankful for that. xo

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2014 by in Memory, Surviving Motherhood, The Children and tagged , , , , , , .

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