Why I Wait





I



I often get up before sunrise. 
I head to the coffee pot, return to bed with a book
and a pen and paper and my computer. 
Sometimes an idea has me and I get right to it. 
Sometimes I waste time looking at things that have 
nothing to do with my life.

After an hour passes, I get out of bed to walk 
to my daughter’s old room.
How can I have a daughter with an old room?


It is mostly empty except for the stuff
she doesn’t want or stuff she doesn’t 
know how to classify
In her new life as a college student.
It is stuff that is hers but isn’t.


We don’t know what to do with the room
and there is no rush.
There is still time for her to return.


But I go there to look out her window.
It shows me what is up, 
how the world will unfold today.


I get the first peek of gold or red or purple or pink
and then I make my move.


I pile on clothes over pajamas and grab my old phone.
Most times I forget my license.
This is trouble because I speed.
I am in a hurry.
I don’t want to miss it.



II


I often drive to my favorite lake. 
I park the car, heart racing just a bit.
I scan the horizon and see the first lines of color emerge.
Soon my heart is calm.


I get out.
The cold air, 
the quiet, 
the frost making my steps crunch on grass. 
All of it says “hello”.  
I am alone.


It seems silly.
I have probably taken 
the same picture 500 times,


But each time I see something new,
feel a bit differently about the view I am taking in,
and I am compelled to document it. 


III


"You drove to the lake just for a picture?” my son asks around an egg sandwich.


“Yes.”

“Cool, but why?”


I’ve been wondering that myself, 
why I don’t want to miss a sunrise. 
It happens everyday.
I tell my own kids, “There is always tomorrow.” 


But is there? 


It’s starting to feel cavalier.


I carry too many stories under my breastbone.
Stories of pain and loss and fear and shattered dreams.
It seems foolish to think I will get one more day 
and so why waste it by not waiting for the sun to rise?


The payoff might seem small. 
I don’t have a good camera.
I have no ambitions that will bring me
money from my photography.
I share on social media, a concept
making me less social it seems. 
The space it takes up in my phone--
I guess it’s big according to the messages
I receive, but it doesn’t feel big. 
It feels like nothing I can detect.


Except that’s not entirely true.


I notice that my breath slows.
Everything within me relaxes. 


My eyes feel supernatural
seeing something others cannot. 
A wisp of cloud in the shape of lips, 
the cut glass sheen of a barely frozen lake, 
the smoke stack sending curly puffs up into 
our bluffs against the purple sky.


 All of this physical proof I was there, 
waiting to see what was on offer for the day.


IV



I imagine my own funeral,
wondering if it can happen at sunrise. 
It seems to me planning for that is like
asking for it to rain, a bad omen. 
I don’t want that.


I don’t want anyone to wake up on that day
unable to see that I am still here. 


In grief it’s hard to know the sun 
will appear again pushing
away the clouds and showing off
its true colors just for you.


But it’s true.

I will be here if you wait.

I Was Only Waiting for This Moment to Arise

On the morning before we left  for Chicago, my girl slid into my bed just as she did as a toddler, a preteen, a distressed young adult. I smelled that skin and hair and felt her soft fingers curl around mine. I was not prepared for this gift.

And the the truth is, I am not prepared for waking up on this day to take the dog out for her morning stroll. I see the car my kid has driven for the last two years and my first thought is, “I wonder what time she got home?” until I slowly adjust my thinking. We left her in Chicago and I won’t know much about that anymore.

As much as I’d like to interweave my story with hers, I cannot. It’s not that they aren’t related, but at some point the narratives have to split. 

I think that is the real trick to parenting. So much of my own experience gets mixed up inside the individuals I am trying to raise and it just doesn’t work. These little people have to be themselves. It’s what parents want- that discovery of who they are and then the becoming and flourishing. 

At least that is the hope.  

But silly and wonky person that I have turned out to be, it has taken me awhile to figure this out. It's cruel joke that just when I am finally getting the hang of it, it is time to let go.

I know I have been hurtling toward this moment the whole time, but still the drop-off in the college dorm is shocking.

I keep thinking of these lyrics. I keep singing them to myself except I am changing the “You “ to  “I”.

I was only waiting for this moment to arise.

There was a time I never thought I would be a parent and then I was. It seems I have floated from one shock wave to another.

And so I am allowing my heart to grieve what is no longer. I am letting it be ok to examine the patchwork of my parenting life with my girl and let it fill me with joy and sadness and regret and everything in between.

I am fighting to stay inside my broken heart a bit. Not to dwell exactly, but to give it time to feel what it must so I can take my next step forward.

I have watched so many do exactly what I am doing now. I have listened and read all the touching tributes and essays on how to prepare.

But the truth is, none of it really has prepared me.

And so the gift I am giving myslef is to be ok with what is in my heart right now.

Here is this song, for me and anyone else who needs or wants it. It is for this moment, one full of hope and sadness and joy and letting go.

Blackbird
The Beatles

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird singing










Baby Steps



In baby steps she is leaving me.


Oh, I know she won’t ever leave. My heart is a sealed vault full of infinite love and space for my child.


But she is leaving.


In an effort to finally establish order in her room across the hall from us it became easier to set up shop temporarily in the spare bedroom in the basement. I have a feeling she will not return to her old room. 


The closet is mostly bare. So many empty hangers, the clothes sifted through, scrutinized by having hard talks with self about the current realities and styles. I chose this? What was I thinking? It doesn’t fit. Will it ever fit ever again? 


Sorting of the books seems like a potential heartbreaker. Keep them! I wanted to shout. But she was laser-focused and yet my mama’s heart was relieved to note she had a heart too. The Harry Potter collection intact and standing sentinel on her shelf. Classics, favorite books from different phases of life, reminders of her self and all her iterations of self. I am imposing that on her. I am giving her experience words, something I cannot do but I am anyway. I just know I did the same. I still do. Sometimes you will lose yourself and it’s good to have a path home. This is what I want to say but do not. I find mine in books. I can look at each spine and remember who I was or who I am now and link the two by remembering what came first and what lead to the next thing. It’s why I always have a copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It’s about finding voice. I found this book when I was 12. I still have it as a reminder, a golden path home. I want to tell her all of this, but I do not. It’s her time now, a time for self-discovery.


On the top shelf of her closet stand 30 Nutcrackers, various styles, all bright if not a little creepy. Am I the only one who finds Nutcrackers a bit creepy? The years are scratched on the bottom in black or silver Sharpie. Each year, a different character, a different cast, a different role. Out loud she says, “I don’t know how I feel about these.”


Of course. Isn’t that life? Not sure of how you feel? It gets twisted. I should be sentimental, but I am not. But maybe I am not quite ready to part with them? It’s ok. No decisions have to be made. I mean, you are leaving, but not for good. Here is where I have to tread lightly. She is an all-or-nothing sort of girl. This is good for making high academic achievements, good for diving far into a hobby, good for making a clean break. As a mom, I have always been trying to steer her a little closer to the middle. “You aren’t moving out forever August 21st. You will need a home base. These can stay. We can decide how it feels at Christmas when you are no longer dancing. Feelings shift and change. It’s ok.”


She relaxes as the weight is lifted...no decisions have to be made today. And so they remain lined up, gathering dust, uncertain of their roles in the next act.


The spare bedroom was a clean slate. She set her room up neatly, as a way of imagining how she’d like to live with a fresh new start. As she purged her old room, a new way was taking shape. Amidst of all the discoveries (why do I have so many empty bags and boxes?), a new idea of self was forming.


My mother’s voice wanted to exclaim, “Your old room COULD have been like this new room the whole time!”


But duh. I know how hard it is to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes you just have to leave to see what can be. It takes time to understand what was and what could have been and it’s all ok. She doesn’t need my sadness masked as irritation. She doesn’t need my throbbing and aching heart. 


A few nights ago, she experienced something really difficult. Bob woke me to share that she needed me.


I went downstairs and she was so sad and disappointed in herself. I was steady and strong. I was equal parts amazed at myself and not surprised at all. Because every mother is Joan of Arc, born to lead their child straight into the heart of themselves. That is, if you are willing to listen more and talk less. If you are willing to watch and learn with them and from them.

I have been up for it all.


I wrapped my arms around her. I let her cry. I whispered all the stuff we’ve been learning together through the years. I remained unphased by her humanity and grateful she let me be with her in her pain.


Later she thanked me. Later she said, “I love you mom.”


And so that is what remains for me. I am in her heart too. I am there to remind her of herself when she needs me to.


She’s downstairs now. She is imagining her new life, a new version of herself. The dust bunnies and cobwebs and piles of the future still sit waiting for what will be. What remains and what to take are still very much in question.


I am not ready and I am. I was born to do this.