4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I was talking the other night with an old friend. She was feeling sad, and bad, and blue. The holidays, the dark winter days, family pressures and perceived failures seemed to have piled on. I was with her. Nothing becomes everything in the vacuum that is our collective mind. But as we talked, I got to thinking of recent posts from blo-ends (blog friends) of mine.
Jennifer Balink at Jenny’s Lark and Dawn Landau at Tales from the Motherland had made these ten minute lists of appreciation. Such a beautiful thing, ten minutes of appreciation. Every time I thought of their posts in the weeks that followed, I’d be lifted as I began to make my list in my mind. I suggested to my friend, against my more cynical nature, that an actual list of thankful for all the wonder she is and all the fabulousness she creates could be a true tonic for her soul.
And then today, Jenn Berney at Goodnight Already, wrote a beautiful reflection about joy, or should I say, JOY. Yes, I thought. Today we should be grateful. Today we find the joy.
So in this season of list-making, of sleep-deprivation and over-imbibing, sick kids and perhaps a tad too much family, of thankfully no tragedy, but then again, always the faint shadow of Christmases past and those who have gone before us, I give you my list of thankful.
Now can all my kids please watch a ten minute Veggie Tales video and let Mama write, for the love of Larry the Cucumber and all that is holy?!
1. I am thankful for my daughter’s delicious belly, the skin that feels like real silk velvet, looks iridescent in its pink blue whiteness and smells always like vanilla and earthy melons and heaven.
2. And for laying in bed at night with my oldest son, wrapped in his baby blankets and surrounded by stuffed owls as we read books, difficult books, like Orwell’s 1984 or the Giver or Out of My Mind, and we talk about big ideas like war and civil rights and humanity. We are ensconced in this womb of thoughts and comfort and love, and for this tender place, I am so thankful.
3. I am so very grateful for the way my middle son adores me, comforts me. In his deeply complicated, stubborn, electric and dreamy mind, he has affixed me as the icon of comfort and goodness, even when I am neither of those things. When he argues and answers back and flies off the handle, minutes later he is making only for me a minion purse out of paper scraps. And oh, how he cuddles, how he holds my hand.
4. And his twin, who is vastly independent, figuring out the world in these giant strides, devouring books, desperate for her alone time, playing soccer like the confident badass little girls I always wished I could be. I am thankful that at the end of her warrior Joan of Arc/Hannibal days, that all she wants is for me to lay next to her for three minutes and sing her a song, rub her back, hold only her.
5. I am thankful for my husband who works his own warrior badass days, but then comes home to me every night to share an insight, seek advice, imagine an adventure, a future special moment for the two of us, or all of us, one that involves the arts, culture, the ocean, luscious food, experiences shared. He bought me New Years socks yesterday because they said Solemate and because they were mismatched. Such love.
6. I am thankful for my mother, how she always shows up for me, although awkwardly, and how I hear her voice in my head for days after our last conversation, how she lopes along on autopilot in her survivor way, and then suddenly surprises me with a rare insight that makes me suspicious that perhaps she, too, has been considering these deeper meanings all along.
7. And the rest of my family, those I have acquired through marriage or godmothering, those who make their way north to love me and my children at Christmas or Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, and of course, those who have left this life before me, but not without planting themselves in my heart first.
8. And my friends, oh, how I am thankful. They are like these glowing lights in the distance on a pitch black lonely North Jersey highway, when the tank of your 69 VW Bug has been reading E and you try to coast down hills to save the gas, when you don’t know if you can possibly make it home and then there it is, lights glittering amidst the otherwise barren landscape, some caffeine, a sweet treat, and the gas you needed to get you through, push you forward, make you invincible again. I don’t know what I would do without our stolen walks, our beach days, boot camp in someone’s backyard, comments posted, texts and phone calls from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wahington D.C. or right down the road.
9. I am thankful for my skin and bones. Even with the osteopenia and the collagen leaving the building, or maybe because. Maybe because I have resented this sack of flesh and blood for 30 years and now I realize, she deserves some praise, some respect, some love. These skinny calves and big feet, unremarkable boobs that maybe sag a bit now, but that once fed a colony of children, these little arms that can move mountains for those I love, even the love lines on my face my son lovingly traces with his cool fingers trying to push them smooth, there is beauty in all that. There is strength.
10. I am grateful for the fact that I have lived a life that still allows me to believe that I can do anything, that anything is possible. That my education, the people in my life, whatever god-force-life-source that connects us all, even my country of birth have allowed me to envision myself as capable of anything. Except maybe basketball and modeling. But everything else? Fair game. In a world where so many, especially so many women, are allowed so little, that I am allowed so much is a gift; I must remember that this is a gift.
So that’s got to be more than ten minutes. But I’m not done.
I’d add NPR, my alma mater, homemade granola, excellent babysitters, prosciutto, my paddle board, new sneakers, good neighbors, my minivan, play dates, walks outside, good health, fine medical care, teachers who love and cherish my children, a roof over my head, the ocean, the ocean, the ocean, and enough. I am beyond grateful that when I stop and think, take a moment to shut the to-do list down, I am thankful for enough. So very, very thankful.
Here’s to your ten minutes of thankful in the new year. May we all keep adding to the list.
Sushi, footy pajamas, Bruce Springsteen, flannel sheets, people who read the whole post and comment, Legos, Children’s Tylenol, crockpots and root vegetables, Cabernet Sauvignon, and singing Auld Lang Syne to my children in the dark last night with the starlight night light shining on the ceiling and the sound of their collective breathing my accompaniment… And on… And on….