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.
i haven’t stopped. since march 2020 when my son – at the beginning of the pandemic – in an effort to help me feel connected to him and my daughter – suggested we have a shared text with photos taken in our day. a picture-of-the-day. and every day, not-failing, i have sent one since. i am in absolute delight when they now share a photograph on this thread; i know busy-ness and work and life have picked back up some time ago and picture-of-the-day is no longer on their radar. but, because i am a mom – and i know moms everywhere can relate – it’s still on mine. i look for something that somehow represents my day, every single day.
i have to say – this has been a good thing, this intention to seek and snap the picture-of-the-day. i take lots of photos, so some days this is easy. but there are others when my photo is of mashed potatoes or chicken soup or the accuweather tornado watch or glasses of wine at the end of the day. some days are just life. normal, regular, not supersized, life.
the trillium placed itself in front of the fallen log, clearly, on purpose. ready for its photo shoot, its bud profile at this stage resembling a mighty tulip, the toadshade waited for someone to come along and take its picture. and there i was.
that very day i ended up using a graceful fern in our backyard as my picture-of-the-day. the composition was just a little better, the curve of the fern beautiful. but the trillium knew it would end up featured. i had whispered thank you to it after my baker’s dozen shoot. it stood proudly as we hiked away, knowing.
paying attention – to the littlest details of a day – requires intention. i know i could get lost in the other details of our life, the more pressing, the more complex, the minutiae and nuances of moment-to-moment adulting.
but one text from my son changed that and offered me a continuing reminder to find something – any thing – big or little, positive or disconcerting, dreamy or a little bit scary – that was a real piece of my day. it also offered me a chance to physically let them know i was – at that very moment of sending – thinking of them.
i know there are days – i don’t want to think about how many – that my grown children look at their phones and – in unison from 1400 miles apart – roll their eyes as my picture-of-the-day drops in.
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.
in the late afternoon, the sun streams in the west windows and lights up the sitting room. it is the coziest of cozy rooms with the comfiest old slipcovered couch, smushy fur throw pillows, sherpa blanket. good lamps, happy lights and no television make it the perfect place to share time with a book. we love sitting there.
the sitting room had history as a cozy room. many years ago it was the only room in the house with a tv. when my children were little-little they watched mr. rogers and thomas-the-tank-engine and sesame street in there. my son lined up matchbox cars on the rug and my daughter sang and danced with barney and the gang. the little mermaid and the lion king and sing-along songs were on regular line-up. a small room, it was a hub of activity for small babies and toddlers. we danced for hours to the grapevine song and woke up the household on saturday mornings to brother band’s bagpipes.
the giant tv went to the curb and someone picked it up with a wagon and toted it away. the camelback rolled-arm loveseat, much worse for wear, took its own turn at the curb and the old couch from the living room donned a slipcover and – with great effort by my son and me – made its way into the cattycorner.
then, there was a period of time it was a little bit ignored. more of a pass-through than a room, it begged attention, some of our time.
and now, the rickety old farm table is next to the couch and holds an antique clock that magically stopped at 11:11, some dried flowers and charlie – the heart-shaped philodendron who clearly loves being the star of the room. beautiful paintings and an old screen door. and the sunlight greets us every afternoon and each time we walk from the hall into the bedroom or vice-versa.
it is easy to sink down into the couch and close one’s eyes. we know this from experience. it’s a really good nap couch. i wonder how it would have been for two toddlers on the move. i suspect it would have been a good addition back then. funny how cozy takes over somewhere along the way.
loveseats are good – and quite lovely. but couches – the kind you can sink down into – read a book together on opposite ends leaning back on fuzzy overstuffs, under a blanket – are better. looking back i can see that now. smushy > camelback. this would have been a better couch back then. hindsight. sigh.
lounging on the sofa the other day i closed my eyes, but not in sleep. for a moment, i could hear the tiny voices of my children – decades ago – as they played on the rug and sang along, “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”, “under the sea”, “i love you. you love me”, “colors of the wind”. wistful moments. time flies by. our home holds us, ever-watchful.
i looked at the changes of the sitting room. a serene spot in the house, a place to think back and re-relish earlier times. times of barbies and baby dolls, stacks of books, matchbox cars and balls of every sport. growing children, dogs, a cat. it was a hub back then. it’s a different kind of hub now. and i’m eternally grateful for both.
“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.
the box arrived on the doorstep and, almost immediately, the text came. “delivered to front porch,” my sister texted, “hooray!!!”.
this was not a small box. this box had 17 avocados in it. and not 17 measly avocados you purchase at the local wisconsin grocery store. 17 that were grown lovingly on a tree in florida, some of which weigh over a pound. a pound!
beautiful golden-green on the inside, they arrived on a difficult day and were a welcome sight from my big sister. yes, ken’s words – “life’s vicissitudes” were wreaking a bit o’ havoc and my big sister’s avocados were a balm, like his big brother’s reassurances and caring and teasing on the phone later that week.
we don’t live close to either of those siblings. one lives in florida, with a beautiful home and pool in front of a lush swamp and lake and one lives in colorado in a lovely neighborhood with stunning peonies and a view of the front range. we don’t get to see them often. but they have a way of showing up. and, for that, we are grateful.
in this world today with broad radiuses of residence instead of the close-by of years past, it’s not easy to stay engaged with those you love. you wish to spend more time with them – the ordinary kind of moments – to see what life is like, to step a tiny bit into their shoes or at least have a window into their day-to-day. it’s hard to hear of other families and easy sunday dinners, errands with elderly parents, adventures with grown children. i’ve pined more than once to go browse at target with my daughter or have a pedicure with my sister or watch my niece hold and play with her toddler-boy or view a hallmark-extravaganza with my other niece or, even harder, coffeesit once again with my sweet momma. i’ve thought about all the time i spent at tennis courts or in baseball fields with my son and wished to again watch from the sidelines as he bats and runs and fields or lobs tennis balls over the net. i’ve thought about preparation for fall and pumpkins and apple pies and corn mazes. i’ve thought about the famous calzones made in my sister-in-law’s colorado kitchen, the sweet niece who would sip red wine with me and taking a walk around the lake with david’s momma. and then, the chance to see all the rest…our families, friends, newly-found cousins, wider concentric circles still connected but a little further out.
these years have taken a toll. though we have traveled a little bit, it’s not like pre-pandemic. and there is so much to miss when wisconsin is not where everyone is, so much yearning. i know Making Time for others is important and, with work and budget and covid restraints, we try the-best-we-can to do whatever-we-can. it doesn’t eliminate the missing.
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.
the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.
just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.
because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.
and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.
our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.
i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.
i wondered if it was too predictable. each spring, now, a dandelion. each spring, now, the song “fistful of dandelions”.
yet the lyrics – “you remind me of the simple things” – they still count. maybe even more than before.
singer-songwriter: a musician who writes, composes, and performs their own musical material, including lyrics and melodies. (wikipedia)
composer: a person who writes music, especially as a professional occupation. (dictionary)
pianist: a person who plays piano, especially professionally. (dictionary)
i have not written, composed or performed my own musical material in quite some time now. does that change who i am?
when i wrote “i haven’t been playing” a dear friend asked me, “what’s that about?” i didn’t answer. i wasn’t trying to be rude. i just didn’t have an answer. i still don’t.
we, d and i, decided – in a pillow moment one night – to call all the stuff that has happened (to me) since i broke both of my wrists “the burtons” (naming every-single-weird-thing after the brand of snowboard i was on when i fell.) it matters not – the broken wrists, the scapholunate ligament tear, the firing, the oddball itinerant tendonitis, two broken toes, other strange and disturbing body stuff – we are choosing to call it all “the burtons”.
so, i guess i blame the burtons. i wrote, “i’m not sure of much that isn’t different these days.”
i am learning – ever so slowly – that different is ok.
and as i clear out, clean out, declutter, put away all that is no longer useful – i am beginning – again – to see the simplest things that are left. gratitude for those things is starting to overtake any yearning for more. “all the riches i will need today.”
each day now i write. not lyrics. not music. but words. it is part of the natural rhythm of my day and not something i could sacrifice without great regret.
writer: you’re a writer because of the things you notice in the world, and the joy you feel stringing the right words together so they sound like music. (writer’s digest)
“…so they sound like music.”
and one day, maybe soon – maybe after my studio has been cleared out, cleaned out, decluttered and all that is no longer useful is put away – i will put down whatever my resistance is and place my hands back on the keys.