Showing posts with label personal-essays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal-essays. Show all posts

Why I'm Marching.

Today, as the inauguration of the 45th president was happening live in Washington D.C. I sat at a dining room table ironing vinyl letters to the front of a cotton t-shirt. The girls and I are marching in the Women's March tomorrow afternoon in Atlanta. We'll be wearing shirts that we made.

When I became a mother I always knew I wanted to be the kind that had long conversations with my child. I enjoy being generous with how I inform her. Only now, she is 2 and catching the meaning of things faster than I can frame my explanations. I struggle to know which conversations we are ready for.

I see my role in parenting as a steward. As the person who illustrates what a choice looks like. The adult who makes moral responsibility appear on a blank page. I am the one who can draw kindness and make it real, for my daughter who eagerly waits to see what she can make out from the strokes I am placing in front of her eyes.

As her mother I am the steward of her right and wrong.

From the comforts of our home, where the tv chirps the rhymes of Daniel Tiger to the beat of a dishwasher being unloaded, and the chaos of our day is trying to get the toddler to eat her fish sticks instead of cramming them into the pocket size hole in her booster seat, the 3 bedroom world she knows well is control by us; it has minnow size rights and wrongs. It's out there that my explanations feel inadequate. Out there, where the questions get a little harder to answer as her eyes grow wider. In this very real world, I feel cheated of words for how to respond when she asks me about the man on the park bench, and if he is sad.

But that doesn't mean I stop talking. I'm convinced this bold and uncertain world is ever in need of our motherly conversations.

When I heard about the Million Women March happening in D.C. I was moved and excited, because I believe this march is a conversation that needs to be heard. Because when hundreds of thousands of women, men and children plan to show up in their cities to unite and voice their concerns, you better believe I'm going to pay attention. Because our explanations can only serve us if we are truly willing to listen. Because I'm not going to pretend I know your story. Because my best explanations include everyone. So yeah, I'm marching. And though I couldn't physically make it to Washington, uniting in my own city of Atlanta with my neighbors and friends feels pretty darn awesome too.

I watch my 2 year old collect new understandings at an exponential pace. This makes me realize that I too must continue to engage intentionally with the things that are hardest to understand about our world. I have to show up and at least try.

Because what scares me more than a difficult question, is the silence of misunderstanding. As a country, we can't afford to have that happen.

I'm looking forward to the day when Florence reaches the age that we talk about history. We'll talk about the Women's March that happened on January 21, 2017, and, as her mother, I can say I was there.


The Dream Boy List

In high school my girlfriends and I wrote a list of the things we wanted in a man. We called it the "Dream Boy List". It's merely 10 pages were lined with elaborate qualifications for the perfect dream boy that our 16 year old hearts were holding out for. Of course, the list detailed each and every one of our absolute non-negotiables. It included important characteristics like, "wears hemp necklaces and converse shoes", "listens to Dash Board Confessional" and "is fit but not too fit", as well as some more minor qualities such as, "is kind to children", "isn't awkward" and "treats his mom well". It was a master list. We spent countless afternoons with our feet kicked up, hair flattened out on the bed delighting away at our curated dream boy. We had no idea what men are really like. We had no idea what love is really like.

In college my list had evolved a bit. This time it wasn't typed out and stapled pages for girls to pass around at a sleep over, but I had a mental list. I had a visual outline. I'd know if it "felt" right. I had learned a few things in my dating years. Red flags are pretty easy to spot. Texts but doesn't call. RED FLAG. Only calls late at night. RED FLAG. Doesn't ask you anything about yourself. RED FLAG! Asks you to drive and gives you the wrong directions and wants you to pay for your own movie ticket. RED. FLAG. I was getting closer to cracking the man code, but I still held tight to my superficial ideals. I still wanted him to dress in retro t-shirts and have unkempt hair and like camping.


When I met Alex he had no hair. It was buzzed down to a dull brown stubble. He was wearing sports clothes. He had never been camping.

The thing I didn't know before that I know now is that it's actually the unexpected things that keep you, the things that sneak up on you when you're not looking. It might have been that Detriot Tigers hat or the manly beard that first got you, but it's the Dad that donates to the boy at the door whose raising money for his baseball team that keeps you. The boyfriend who cleans the house to welcome you home that makes you collapse into him. It's the things you can't anticipate that you actually fall for.

When people who haven't met Alex ask me what I like about him, often I find myself sputtering off silly things, but truly I think that's when you know you've got something good. The big normal stuff becomes lost next to all the tactile, intimate moments you've shared. Your view of them becomes something no longer separate, but almost a part of your own reflection, impossible to depict with any real amount of clarity.

The night I gave birth to our daughter, Alex was by my side. In the months leading up to that night, I had gone through the various scenarios in my head of how he was going to handle this humanly chaotic, intense process of child birth. I warned him that it would be quite grotesque, that I would probably be quite frantic and moody and everything that a laboring woman should be. I knew medical things made him nervous. He nearly fainted in the hospital room while visiting after my dad's heart attack. I gave him the pre-approval to excuse himself out of the labor and delivery room if he needed to. But that night he didn't need to leave the room. He didn't get nervous or anxious or worn out. He stayed and smiled and spoke only enough to keep me remembering I could do this. In my desperation, between the wails and the moans, I remember looking down at his hands around mine thinking, these were meant for loving me. 


There are things that I would put on my list now, if I was to rewrite that dream boy. My new list would include an archive of things like,
Responds to me in Spanish when he's half asleep.
Makes up a dorky new nickname for me on a daily basis.
Will always beat me at Geography even though I have a degree in it.
Will always win at Risk.
Makes eggs for breakfast everyday. Everyday.
Gives me history lessons about the city on our afternoon drives.
Wears flip flops in the shower.

These are the things I never knew I'd want. I couldn't have written them down in a list. Their value would have been unknown to me then.


On Having a Family of Girls

They are three of seven. My mother has seven granddaughters. We have no grandsons, not one boy to rustle the feathers, to chase the shrieking white-haired sisters as they scurry through the grass. It's a beautiful evolution actually, a formation of swans in a stream. From the beautiful first born, my niece, Adelyn, to the newest granddaughter, my daughter, Florence, we've welcomed each little face as it emerges with it's own kind of grace and beauty. Nodding in amazement as the "sisters" of our family appear, one after another. Adelyn, Sierra, Lauren, Emily, Yahwen, Julie, Florence. 

I wanted to surprise my grandmother when I found out I was pregnant. I flew to Minnesota and waited for her champagne Buick to greet me at the airport curb. I waited until we were out of the car before telling her I had news and she should sit down for it. I handed her our first ultrasound picture, the black and white marbled baby that would be her newest grandchild. She looked up at me through wet eyes and said, "Do you think it will be a boy?!". I did. I thought it would be a boy.

When Alex and I found out we were having a girl, I was a mess. I hadn't imagined what a daughter would be like. I was thinking trains and planes and dirt bikes. I was thinking he'd be a little Alex. I hadn't seriously considered my chances of having my own daughter, an almost sacred thought. 

My great-grandmother ate butterscotch candies. She was the last living family member to speak fluent Norwegian. Her refrigerator was a mosaic of pictures, layers of  Kodak faces, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, almost all of them girls. I believe she is the beginning of all this. The Lake Itasca. I remember studying the blue veins on her under-circulating hands, looking back they look more like a map of tributaries; she had the next generation of little women flowing on the backs of her hands. 

I can't imagine holding any other little person, now. Florence is my girl. She was always coming. Last week at church we dropped Florence off at the nursery. I received a text about 15 minutes into the service, "Mom, can you come for Florence?". On the walk over to the nursery, I'm trying to consider the possible scenarios. Is she screaming? Is she hurt? Will she recognize me right away? When I get to the door I see one of the caretakers swaying around with Florence in her arms. She's crying a rather subdued cry, but it's insistent. I'm surprised that the lady doesn't hand her over to me right away, instead, she asks how to make Florence feel comforted. "Ah-umm", I stutter. I've never had to explain it in words, I've already forgotten my learning process. Now, my hands swaddled without thought, rocking is almost a habit. "I think she likes this", I say holding her upright against my chest. I bounce with my knees. But part of me knows it's not just the right hold or the bounce that calms her down.   

As I go into her room to pull her awake from her nap, I peel back the blanket that has loosened and wiggled up around her warm cheeks. I stand over her for a moment remembering what a fellow mom told me once, that every mother needs a daughter. I smile. My daughter is number seven.  


Atlanta, a first glance

I remember standing over the kitchen sink, looking across the counter at Alex, the both of us letting the fullness of our recent decision to move to Atlanta sink in. "Only two years", we both said nodding, agreeing our move away from our beloved city (Austin, TX) would be short-term. We packed up our 2 bedroom apartment in one week and watched it all be sloughed away into the backend of a moving truck. We boarded a one-way flight with toothbrushes and an air mattress, and 2 hours later we started life in Atlanta. 

It's pretty strange how abruptly life changes shape. 

The first thing I fell in love with in Atlanta was the flowers. This one specifically, the yellow lantern magnolia. We have a pussy willow tree outside our balcony, it started blooming the day we moved in. It's a blessing we moved in March, in the spring. Who isn't motivated by the grass greening up and the birds singing again? Actually, the birds can quiet down a little on Saturday mornings, please.

One of our favorite spots is the belt line, a wonderful paved trail system circling the heart of the city. Once a railroad, the belt line is now a heavily used walking/biking trail that is revitalizing saddened areas of the city, the whole idea was one grad student's thesis

The beer is tasting good. Something we've enjoyed about being in a new place is learning about the local microbreweries and ordering something new every time we go out. I'm limited to one pint since I'm breastfeeding, I milk that one beer like honey. We've liked what we've tried from Sweet Water. *Edit, we're both limited to one beer now, Alex has decided he's going to get that washboard stomach he's always wanted. 

We live three blocks from downtown and although it doesn't share the warm buzz of Austin's downtown, there are some fun attractions. We're saving up for tickets to the Aquarium, which is supposed to be pretty extravagant. 

Amidst all the new surroundings, there's home. All my favorite moments are here. Mornings with Florence under the covers. Bath times in our sunny little tub. Humid afternoons with national geographic and microwave popcorn. And coffee table dinners (we haven't bought dining chairs yet). We're still in the first phase, but things are starting to feel right. I'm soon to do a little apartment tour, a glance into life as a stay-at-home mom, and how to make do with the furnishings you have.