the dandy dandelions are baaaaack and we are celebrating them! i cannot help but smile looking at dandelions. i have a rich history with them. i suppose many moms do.
so, for many reasons – the bees included – we won’t be quiiiite as obsessive about ridding our lawn of them. not to mention, they are stubborn and will likely return despite any attempts to mitigate them. i have found taproots of great length underground – dandelions aspiring to be large carrots, channeling the subterranean tenacity of root vegetables.
but – in the end – even with this year’s gargantuan effort to have nice grass and earn the respect of the GrassKing, we need our pollinators and we need flowers for tiny toddlers to pick. so, we will dial it back a little bit on total eradication and live in the memories of fists full of dandelions.
they will bloom pink. hot pink. soft pink. their scent will waft across the backyard and fill the patio with sweetness. peonies are this graceful gift of spring, blooming once a year and stunning the universe with rich layers of soft petals. were there to be a time-lapse camera on the peony, what would be the soundtrack of this wondrous flower?
this peony (and a smaller one next to barney) is truly the star of the yard. without much help from us, its beauty will reign supreme over all the grasses and all the hosta and all the day lilies. it is – despite all efforts by dogga – a survivor. and every year we marvel at how much bigger it is growing and how healthy it looks.
a quick google search reveals that peonies symbolize romantic and non-romantic love, as well as friendship and happiness. ours, blooms waiting, was a gift from dear friends, transplanted from their yard, a haven of flowers. it is stoking up energy; its gorgeousness is innate.
there is a new baby coming into the family. a baby girl. the other day i had the absolute delight of seeing the ultrasound of this baby merely four months from her premiere appearance. stoking up energy, dreaming about wearing hot pink onesies and puckered vintage polly flinders dresses. yes. wondrous stuff.
i remember that feeling. thirty-three years ago yesterday my daughter was born. pink quickly became her color. i know now’days there is a movement to have babies in monochromatic tones, beiges and earthy tones, greys, muted colors, gender-neutral. but back in the day, i celebrated this beautiful beloved baby girl with the pinks of the rainbow.
and so, each year, right about the time the peonies are getting ready to burst forth, i am celebrating her birth-day, celebrating the hot pink of her zeal in life, celebrating the opportunity this universe gave to me – to be her mother. to be the mother of her little brother, whose toddler color was blue-jean-oshkosh-overalls. the fragile blooms a dominant force in our yard, their presence in the world a dominant force in my heart.
apparently, tucked into the dried grasses next to breck-the-aspen-sapling and surrounded by fallen leaves and mulch, the mama bunny tended the nest for about a week. it was the first time we had had a bunny in the backyard. squirrels and chippies and many birds and even a fox, but no bunnies.
there was a day we saw the bunny for the first time. she hopped and scooched under the deck, hiding. we saw her at the base of the birdfeeder, munching. and we saw her nibbling on the green sprouting up around barney.
and then, there was the day we realized that this bunny, that hopped to and fro in our yard, especially around dawn and dusk -scooting away from dogga and under the back fence – was building a nest. we didn’t see her leap a binky into the air – all four paws off the ground – but we imagine she must have been about-that-happy.
and then, the day we peeked under the grasses to see two tiny bunnies scrunched together, their little bunny-bodies breathing quickly, rising and falling, rising and falling. life is amazing, isn’t it? we went on high alert for these sweet little babies and, for the next week or more, mostly went out with dogdog to be sure they were safe.
and then, the day that i looked out the back windows behind our metal frame headboard and saw a tiny bunny hopping along the fence and heard a noise. i ran through the house and out the back door to see dogga carrying one of the bunnies in his mouth. he dropped the kit, who scampered off unraveled, as soon as i said “drop it!” so i was relieved. but still. i felt a sense of parenthood for these tiny creatures. “keep them safe” became my mantra. i celebrated their little lives and kept tiny pompoms close at hand as they left the nest and went to explore the world.
it’s impossible to keep your children safe. you do the very best you can while they are in your care – growing up – but they go to school, to sports, to music lessons, to playdates, to after-school jobs, to stores and concerts and parties. you can’t be all those places, so you have to learn how to let go a teeny-weeny bit. they begin to drive and you have to learn how to let go a teeny-weeny bit more. and then, they go to college maybe or move out maybe or both. and you let go a teeny-weeny bit more. and then they move away and your heart breaks and soars, both – even though you will only talk about the soaring – even though they know the breaking part. and you let go a teeny-weeny bit more. ahhh. it’s not easy, is it?
our daughter drove across the country last week. from the east coast to the mountain west. by herself in ivy, her suv. i remember my sweet momma calling me as i drove long-distance, alone. i both loved it and didn’t love it. i tried to remember this as my beloved daughter drove, not wanting to be annoying, as is so easy to do. i sent her texts cheering her on and held big space for her as she traveled. she was constantly on my mind. i know she knows that. “keep her safe,” i implored the universe. (and how many times have we all said that about our children, i wonder.)
she arrived without harm or incident, like the bunnies running along the back fence and zipping underneath. i am grateful. i can only keep her close in-heart.
and each and every day – my mantra for my girl and my boy is the same – “keep them safe”. my pompoms are at easy access as they explore the world. they are all-grown-up. the nest is empty but i quietly binky – like ecstatic bunnies – every day thinking of them.
and in the way that getaways slip into the wind, i know that this one will as well. time spent in the snowy up-north will slowly peel off and fly, seeds for the next time, the next few-days-away, the next memories.
this weekend we’ll have dinner with our son. he owns a new home – his first – and this will be our first actual viewing of it. i can’t wait! time spent with our adult children flies all too fast. already it’s been six months since i have seen our daughter; already it will be three months since we saw our son. their lives are busy and active and they are not in the same town. their homes have been anywhere from an-hour-and-a-half to twenty-seven hours away. it takes time and planning. and life is full of things – many things, for all of us – that take time and planning.
in what will feel waytoofast, our time spent together will zoom by. visiting and catching up and doing the yes-of-course-i’m-staring-at-you-i’m-your-mother will be followed quickly by goodbyes at the door and me, as ever, wiping happy (and wistful) tears as we drive away. and the tiny layers that comprise this time will feather, drifting into air streams where our mind searches for details and they are just a little further out than we can reach.
the wind brushes past us and time passes in its grasp. we – as ever – attempt to hold its filmy contrails, but time and vapor cannot be held. they are part of the wind that swirls and we simply are witnesses to its magic. we experience, we create memories, we stand next to those memories and gaze back as time’s half-life multiplies before our eyes. on friday, we are astounded by a long week’s end. on our 60th birthday, we are astounded by the six decades. as we sit at our child’s table, we are astounded by their maturity and place in the world, their mark.
we – and the stars – float in the basket of the hot air balloon of the universe and – if we are wise enough – glory that we are part of it.
“my do!!!!” he insisted. there is nothing like a two-year old insisting – with all his might – that he will do it himself. he is extremely capable – strong, smart, wily. somehow you forget how much energy a tiny child has…it just goes on and on and on until it suddenly stops and sweet sleep takes over. amazing stuff. my little great-nephew’s curiosity is divine and his giggle contagious. his stubbornness makes me laugh, but mostly because i can stand back and watch his momma and daddy handle it. their turn. and i am thrilled for them.
even though he was figuring out how to climb the jungle gym in the playground, we were there to spot him. as he learned, our hands were firm, guiding him. as he figured it out, our hands were lighter, still there, but just poised and ready. much like all of parenthood, i’m figuring out. you hold on tightly, then just firmly, then lightly, then you let go, but you are poised and ready. and, just like j, they don’t turn around to see if you are there. they just keep climbing the jungle gym steps, anxious to get to the slide, anxious to explore the rest, anxious to play with the other kids. you are simply the spotter. somewhat invisible but always there.
at the end of the days there – with this marvelous two year old – we were really tired. his spurty focus of energy staccatoed our day as well and, now that my own children are grown-up adults, was something not as familiar to us. our days are more linear with less punctuation, if you will.
but i laid awake at night anyway. i rambled through thoughts of the days when my daughter and my son were little ones with “i do” on their lips. it brought me to places i remembered clearly and places that had slipped into corners of my memory. i missed them and wished that thirty years ago cellphones had had cameras and the ability to make videos. carrying around the 35mm camera and the vhs/8mm videocameras was cumbersome; today’s parents have so many ways to remember every single thing that happens.
my niece and i talked about how motherhood has changed everything. and i told her that will never change.
she will always – now – wake thinking about this little person. and she will always – now – go to sleep with him on the blink of her eyes. she will hold tightly and then firmly and then lightly and then – in achingly beautiful and hard moments – she will let go.
but she will always be his spotter, visible or invisible, noticed or not. he may not turn around to see her there, but she’ll be there.
it’s a little foggy. childbirth is like that. cloudy memories.
in the stunning way of time – and how it flies – it has now been thirty years. today.
my baby boy was placed in my arms thirty years ago. it’s astonishing. i remember everything and i remember practically none of it – it is all blurry.
what i do know – just as i knew in 2020 on the thirtieth birthday of my daughter and the thing that i knew in 1990 my very first day of motherhood – is that it changed my life.
and every day since.
there is little that can color all your days, for most things are fluid and we roll with it all, hoping there is a next day – to right things, to stand back up, to move on. but motherhood doesn’t play by these rules. if you are worried about your child – regardless of their age or stage – it stays with you. it is – for me – one of the first things i think about when i wake and one of the last things i think about before sleep. it is that which will keep me pondering in the night. it is that which will find me deep in thought in the day. there is really no stopping it.
so, my sweet momma, now i get it.
all that worrying you did, all that championing, all that abiding silently by and waiting, all those pompoms – i get it.
the last time i saw my own sweet momma she was sitting on the edge of her bed, a little later in the morning than usual, still in her nightgown, going slowly, but – mostly – concerned we were not yet on the road, driving I75 and I65 and I94 back home. i don’t know if she knew that 18 days later she would be on a different plane of existence. she just worried about me…all grown up and, yet, her little girl.
i get it.
these amazing children – now both in their thirties – are still the same people about whom i have always wondered – about everything – from the tiny to the gigantic – if they need snacks, if they are healthy, if they are happy, if they are feeling valued, if their work feeds them, if they feel reciprocal love and care in their relationships. they are forging their way in the world – making a difference that only they could make – shining their own stars – with their own brilliance and their own wit and creativity and humor. life is fluid clay in their hands, fresh silly putty out of the container, playdoh with the most extraordinary cutters and fun factory presses. they are right close to the ages i was when i became their mother. in a foggy blur of time. how does that happen?
the tree seemed to be alone in the field, nothing beyond it. but because we pass that field and that tree often, we know that is not the case. it is just very, very foggy and so we cannot see.
i look back and back and back. i can’t see it all; it is foggy and very foggy and very, very foggy.
but have no illusions. you cannot purchase them in december. at no time – when i have gone searching the stores in december – have i been able to find them. for they are already all gone, scooped up by zealous ornament-gatherers, present-wrapping-embellishers, holiday-magic-creators.
so if you want them – these delicate snowflakes that sort of resemble the ones people used to make of string and flour or glue and glitter – you need to plan ahead. you must be ahead of the curve, at the front line of festivity-planning, your dollar bills in your hand as you troll the stores, scooping.
i purchased numerous packs of these one year. it was a time of transition for me. i had realized that i, actually, didn’t really like tons of bright red and green together and that christmas was fraught with all kinds of stress for so many people, including me, and i just wanted to simplify a little bit.
it started years ago when i decided not to ornament-decorate the tree. we kept it a little more natural with just white lights and it felt serene when – late at night – we’d turn off the light fixtures in the living room and just sit, keeping vigil with the tree. we are still trying to keep tranquility at the center. i’ve added tiny pine trees – sans anything. we’ve added branches and white lights. and we’ve added snowflakes and silver balls.
one of these days i would like to have a big retro tree. i’ll add all the ornaments of history to it – a tree full of salt dough stars and bells and paper mache snowmen, treasured gifts from family and friends, former students and choir members, memories to spark stories for hours. though i haven’t hung it in years, i can see the rogers christmas house ice skating ornament clearly in my mind’s eye. and small pine, a reminder of the sweet story my children and i loved.
and one of these days i would like to have another big retro tree. it will be decorated with old delicate mercury glass ornaments of my sweet momma’s and poppo’s. i remember these, as i take them out of the box, like it was yesterday. i remember decorating the tree on abby drive and my dad painstakingly adding tinsel, one strand at a time, christmas carols playing in the background. i was a child and lots of it was magical, but even then i could feel the holiday stress, expectations, frenetic energy.
the last time both of my own beloved children were home together for christmas was 2014. they have been living far and wide on mountaintops and in big cities and, with limited time off, haven’t been able to make it. we’ve celebrated on the phone, on facetime, on zoom, and we watch them open presents from our couch. a couple times we had real-life moments in chicago with our son and last year we sat with him on a restaurant patio, clustered under gas heaters in 17 degrees in january, having dinner and watching him open gifts in a time of pandemic. it is with great anticipation we wait for his arrival later this week, an opportunity to hug on him and his boyfriend.
sometimes i wonder if my children would both be more likely to be home here together if their dad and i were still married. i know that holiday magic might be far less magical in a less-than-perfectly-perfect household. the thought brings sadness to my core. i struggle, just like so many, some who are living “traditional” lives, some in unconventional lives, some in times of challenge and some with everything they ever needed. nevertheless, i – like moms everywhere – want the magic to continue, want the dreamy holiday and the warm cocoon of love and celebration. i want to create the quintessential stuff of snowflakes and big family dinners and gingerbread and sugar plums. and i – like moms everywhere – know that i can only do the best i can.
the stats on a blogsite show the individual blogs that have been read. this morning – the day i am writing this for today – there was a post from 2018. i talked about roots and wings and children and yearning. i quoted my daughter stating that i was “high maintenance” and laughed it off back then, comparing myself in my mind to other moms through the years whose behavior i have witnessed as indeed much higher maintenance. for, though the words of desiderata ring true for all of us “do not compare yourself with others, for you will become vain and bitter….for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself” we still do it. we still compare and measure and wish and feel ourselves come up lacking. i also wrote in that post that if wanting more time with one’s children was high maintenance, then i supposed that the adjective fit. que sera sera.
joyce maynard used to write a column – called domestic affairs. she shared a 1985 column on sunday, writing about the attempt to make christmas perfect and the bitter reality of its imperfection and its crazy-making. it is a roller coaster of emotion – this holiday season. and there are times that i sit and wonder, trying to magicalize it for my family, for my children, now adults, who i love with all my heart. i have wanted to help the universe dazzle for their holiday, to make each christmas perfect. yet i know that they won’t be. perfect, that is.
i look around me, around our life. sometimes i think that the raucous sounds of holiday music and cookie-baking and a turkey in the oven and wrap all over the floor are the only things that would make it ideal. and sometimes i know – deep in my heart – that all i want, really, is to love and be loved, to share a little time and know that my presence makes a tiny difference – in the unique way of a snowflake – in the lives of all those i adore.
the old boards creak. and, at night – when it is bitter cold out – they pop, like the sound ice makes under your feet on a frozen lake, only not as treacherous.
in the summer he replaces the deck screws that have risen, stubbed-toe-tripping-hazards, worry about dogga’s paws. in the winter it is clear of all summer amenities. with just the old wooden glider and chair left, it is sans wrought iron, sans outdoor rugs that define its space, sans umbrella shielding our eyes from the sun while we dine, sans old door and happy-hour two-step ladders that hold wine glasses, sans fire column, sans record player, sans lavender and lemongrass. to look outside at the deck – even without snow – it is obvious that winter is approaching, the starkness is blatant and a little sad. we speak of a tree for out there and, if we go to the forest to cut one down we may cut down two and place one outside so that we can see it – lit – from the window.
the old deck has gone through many iterations, first built – by a dad and a grandpa – to help keep tiny toddlers safely playing – a railing all around and gates. a bright plastic little tikes picnic table anchored one end, with a round wrought iron table and chairs on the other end. back then, it was a place for snacks and bubbles, matchbox cars and babydolls, a turtle sandbox, and children dancing to a fisher-price cassette player.
the toddlers, past toddling, grew fast and, eventually, the railing and the gates were removed and the deck, still with the same wrought iron table, was open to the backyard, easy access to the swingset and the fort and, then, the basketball hoop.
years later, with the addition of the stone patio, it would be the place people would gather – for fourth of july barbecues, for the-big-dig day of the pond, for slow dance parties, for pre-wedding gatherings, gatherings for any reason. the old wrought iron table, another coat of rustoleum black paint, still holding vigil for food and gaiety.
and then, since it had no railings, it became the perfect place for ukulele band. folding metal music stands and bag-chairs, edge-of-deck-sitting, clothespins and laughter, there was no stopping the fun, the music-making and community, and, after, all would gather around the old wrought iron table and gnosh on schnibbles everyone brought along, to prolong time together.
during covid the deck became a place of comfort, a necessity for peace of mind. we slowly researched and watched for sales and added pillows and rugs and an umbrella-that-made-all-the-difference for dinners around that old wrought iron table, a little decor and some clay pots and plants for our outside sanctuary. we took refuge there, from cold days to the return of cold days – outside as much as possible.
and now, the deck is blank again, save for the snowflakes. the old wrought iron table and chairs are carefully stored in the garage and we can hear the boards pop and crackle from inside the sunroom and from here, sitting on the bed, writing this – the grey day outside begging for sun, the old deck waiting to see just how we might holiday-it-up.
there is a magazine i look at most every day. it is a simple-magazine publication and features container gardens of all sorts. each time i page through it i see something new, get ideas, wonder about unique re-purposing, changing old typewriters or baskets into succulent planters or large-animal feed scoops or galvanized tubs into fence pots. the photography shows beautiful plants in all seasons of growth and it makes creative juju pick up pace.
we walked slowly through the daniel stowe botanical garden with our daughter and her boyfriend, enjoying every second. the greenhouse was steamy and we got misted as we walked. gorgeous orchids punctuated the tropical plants. we stopped to read information, take pictures, admire textures and the colors that looked like dr seuss had taken crayons to everything.
the monstera deliciosa (or aptly-named swiss cheese plant) captured our attention. nature has a way of making sure that rainwater and dew are properly retained yet the leaves are not perpetuating algae or molds, fungus or disease. amazing. instead, waxy fronds or holey swiss-cheesed leaves let the droplets roll off, keeping them open to sunlight. each plant has its own system for balance, all depending on its ever-changing circumstances.
the day at the garden was over too soon; visiting is like that. there were only a few days and it’s hard to fit months and months of not-seeing into bits and pieces of 72 hours.
i now know why my sweet momma always had lists when i called or visited with her. there were things she wanted to know, needed to know, that she didn’t want to forget to ask. there were tiny and big questions about my daily life she wondered about – the extraordinary and the mundane, my feelings about things happening in the world, curiosities she had about my comings and goings and adventures and challenges and transitions. she just simply wished to hear my stories, have a window into my life. without being too invasive, without crossing the ever-changing-invisible-tightrope-line, she wanted to share in it, be a part of it. i get it.
kc, my bonsai gardenia plant, is difficult, “one of the most loved and challenging plants”. i never know if i am watering her enough or too much, if her brown-edged leaves are due to too much attention or too little attention. she has not had a bloom, though she did have two hopeful buds. she is not easy, but she is beautiful and particular and i am determined. charlie, my heart-leaf philodendron, the other plant that was also a lovely gift from my beloved daughter, is easy. she grows no matter what. she is healthy and thriving. she is green and lush and i can practically see her smiling. charlie is the opposite of kc. treasured plants on our garden table in ever-changing light and seasons as they grow, so much like the diversity of real living, i talk to them every day; i appreciate and adore them. they are lessons.
and it occurs to me that these two beautiful plants, both on the table in our sunroom, are – indeed – the spectrum definition of motherhood, the nature of every single cherished relationship, the easy-hard, the fragile-resilient, the holding-on-letting-go, bursting blooms and foliage or the missing of blooms, the learnings, the balance of unconditional love. perhaps a good addition would be this happy swiss cheese plant, a reminder to let it all roll off and keep on keeping on.
right now – in this quiet early morning – i can hear the chippies at one of the birdfeeders. there’s a certain metallic sound as the seed, disbursed by scrambling tiny feet on the edge of the feeder, hits the metal chipmunk-squirrel-prevention plate below. i’m pretty certain the chippies giggle every time they jump from there to the edge of the feeding trough. there is an abundance of seed in this feeder and they know it, returning time and time again to fill their adorable cheeks, run off, run back, jump, giggle, gorge, run off, all on repeat.
that is what i wish for my children, the imperative: an abundance of seed. to know that there is always more out there for them: more possibility, more to learn, more adventure, more challenges, more successes, more love. to always know that they are rooted and capable. to always know acceptance and compassion and support and fairness. to know that they can be confident in the world, always. to know that, whether they need it or not, i will always be their biggest fan and will always hope for their biggest and littlest wishes to come true.
i knew, even as an adult, that my parents were cheering me on. i knew that they did the hard work of letting go as i moved away. i knew that they were ever-present – and still are. i knew they wished all good things for me and held steadfast during all hard things. their love was a perennial birdfeeder, infinity-abundance-filled and there whenever i needed it.
i used to text both of my grown children every night to say goodnight. somewhere along the way it was brought to my attention that this might be a tad bit annoying. though i, personally, would adore hearing from my sweet momma every single night – especially now – i realized that she would also have respected it had my desire been for her to not continue this practice.
i stopped my goodnighttext practice, but i didn’t stop my goodnights. they are now just simply silent kisses blown in their direction, like dandelion fluff on the wind. infinity-floating and always here.