Today we’re hosting a little Throwback Tuesday on the blog (I know that’s not really a thing; work with me, friend…). With an article I wrote for She Magazine six years ago…for their Celebrate Your Age issue.
I think it’s my favorite.
Lots of life has happened since then. Not all of it pleasant. By the time you’ve lived forty-two years on this spinning ball, there’s bound to have been some trips around the sun that have left you dizzy, dusty, and flat on your butt.
At least, that’s been the case for me.
I could definitely add more stops to this piece…and maybe I will at some point….but as for now, I can still echo its closing sentiments. Six years later.
All of this talk about age has me headed for the hills to reflect and ponder and ruminate and cogitate (one can never have too many synonyms, huh?). I’m going to my reflection place – my mental destination for reflecting. It’s a lot like my happy place. Well, truth be told, they are the same place; I am just reflective AND happy there. I digress.
As the wind tousles my hair (the ceiling fan greatly assists this effect) and the noonday brilliance knocks the chill off the breeze, the sun stands behind me and my back is perfectly warmed – compelling goose bumps to stand at attention on my arms.
The sky is cloudless, revealing a rich blue that is rarely replicated in nature.
There is no noise.
No other people.
I am the population of my happy place.
The lake perfectly mirrors the flourishing hills that surround it. The dock is rocked ever so gently by the movement of the still water. It is a place of solitude. It’s here that I can revisit the shores of my past and stake my claim to my current season.
I launch and paddle intermittently – gliding more than working. I steer in a general direction – unable to see my first stop. It is across the lake – the farthest distance from the dock, but time is easy here – smooth and fluid and painless.
I hear it before I see it and excitement bubbles in my tummy. It’s my fifth or sixth birthday, and I am dancing like nobody’s business.
A campground borders the seam of the land and the lake, and festivities are well underway. I am sixteen minutes shy of sharing my birthday with Independence Day, so the camp residents are in full celebration.
I’m pretty sure that I know the party isn’t for me, but it feels like good times all the same.
The band cranks up, and my insides get the jitters. At the encouragement of my family, I go out to dance with an aunt or some cousins. And if the party wasn’t for me before I started dancing, it is after those folks see my moves. They cheer and clap for me, and I dance in my bare feet for hours, unwilling to stop – covered in dust and sweat. It was my first dance.
I slip back into the boat with dirt creases in my elbows and knees and paddle to my next stop. Once I make land and tie up, I find myself bedecked in cap and gown, preparing to speak at my high school graduation – a few weeks before my eighteenth birthday. It is indeed a time for reflection and anticipation.
As I articulate in my speech, I have observed a remarkable phenomenon at work within my class. The tumultuous times of adolescence have bowed and submitted to the fear of the future; drama is deflated and uncertain days lie ahead.
I am blinded by the beam of the stadium lights, and the echo of my voice makes my delivery awkwardly timed, but I savor the memory. It was my time to be heard.
I find the gown a little too cumbersome for paddling and the tassel from the cap keeps tickling my nose, so I stow them away under my seat. While studying the soft ripples of my interruptions, I quickly arrive at my twenty-fourth birthday.
I’m seated for dinner at a swanky restaurant – feeling quite out of place and anxious – enjoying the experience and loathing it all at once. I unceasingly ask Chris about silverware and etiquette and how to order, for Pete’s sake. At this restaurant – on this day – dessert comes with a proposal on the side. Oh my, it was my turn to be loved.
With some bling on my finger, I stroke on. I lose my bearings a few times – so distracted by the ring and how the sun catches its many surfaces.
One more memory on the itinerary, and it should be just around this bend, tucked behind some brush along the sandy shore.
It’s me and my two girls. We’re lying in a hospital bed welcoming the newest member of our family. I wrap my arms around them both – the three year-old and the newborn – and I try to convey the most complex of emotions through my squeeze – reassurance, confidence, unconditional love. I was almost thirty-two. And it was time for me to give on a whole new level.
A little sleep-deprived after that stop, I’m done visiting. I’m ready to return to the dock, plant in a comfy chair and plug my ears with some tunes. I make quick strokes across the lake and see my destination up ahead.
I step out of the boat onto the dock and unexpectedly look straight down the barrel of my thirty-sixth birthday.
No fear here.
I reach around and disarm it.
I am not afraid.
My past makes me passionate about tomorrow. I want to dance ‘til my body gives up. I want to be heard. I want to love and be loved like crazy. I want to rise continually to the challenge of giving on a whole new level. It’s a glorious day to be me, and I say – bring it on![Images: Thomas and Dianne Jones]
I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you’re faced with the choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
After totally emptying the contents of her backpack on the kitchen counter: folded papers, notebooks, drawings, lip gloss, pencils and erasers, folders, candy, and candy wrappers, she unearthed the disc and enthusiastically and impatiently begged to watch it immediately on my computer. Fighting the urge to be highly annoyed by the instant mess that had spontaneously erupted before my very eyes, I consented.
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin’ til you find the window
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
The class movie began, and I felt my breathing quicken. My eyes felt hot and full, then brimming over. I stood transfixed, watching Nicholas reading a book, Savannah on the computer, Brad pledging to the flag, and Olivia doing the limbo at the class luau. And my Carson. Living her life. Doing her thing. Apart from me.
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish
Both of my girls thought it total mom weirdness that I was standing there with big tears rolling. We just don’t get her at all sometimes, they were thinking. At their request, we watched three times consecutively. I was completely unable to tear myself away. Over the past six months, I wouldn’t dare to guess how many times we’ve broken out the first grade movie, and I cry without fail.
I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Of course, I blame some of that on Rascal Flatts and their song, “My Wish.” Heck, you’re probably bawling right now too. Those lyrics are killer. Just like any respectable country tune should, they get to the heart of the matter. Live. Love. Laugh. Remember. Dream. And press on.
From what I hear, first grade quickly becomes fifth, and sixth grade becomes senior year. The truth in that song has the power to penetrate the everyday annoyances, the tedium of caring for school-age children: sweeping up the same Goldfish crumbs, reminding them to hang up their washcloths, mediating the same sibling arguments day in and day out, and transports me to a vulnerable place as a mother. A place where I have a magnified understanding that I don’t get to keep her forever. She is mine but for a short time; they both are. That makes my mothering mistakes feel heavy and solid.
Oh, you’d find God’s grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
So. That’s my wish for her. And Campbell. And me. That we would live fully – forsaking fear and the mundane to embrace challenge and adventure. That we would love deeply and be loved through and through. That we would often laugh together ‘til we pee our pants, gasp for breath, and clutch our aching tummies.
Father, the task before me is daunting and scary. I am flawed and unworthy to be their mother, so I humbly ask for your help, every day. Your wisdom. Your patience. Your grace and mercy. And theirs.
Sweet Cawthon girls, I love you as big as Texas, and I think you rock like nobody’s business!
That smile. You guessed it – priceless!
I am staring in the face of a hair appointment tomorrow – and I may have to bring the girls with me (YIKES!) Made me remember that I never posted my Mother’s Day article for SHE.
I knew better. I KNEW BETTER. But I did it anyway.
Chris was out of town, and I was feeling ambitious. I committed the unthinkable. I committed myself to an afternoon of appointments and errands with my six and three year-old daughters. I knew better. I realize that to some of you that’s no biggie, but to me it was a ghastly adventure.
I ran over people at Carson’s school to snatch her up and dash to a hair appointment across town at 2:30. Thanks to my turn on two wheels into carline, we were actually a few minutes early for our first appointment. Both girls sat angelically to have their locks shorn, and that, my friends, was the high point of the afternoon. After a potty visit and some quick check writing, we barreled to another section of town for a 3:00 visit with our dentist – where Carson and I were having our teeth cleaned and checked.
In my own utopia I had imagined that Carson would go into her own exam room, and we would be cleaned and examined simultaneously. Of course, Campbell would perch still and silent and watch with grave interest as I was the patient. Okay, so that didn’t happen. Carson was called before I was, so she finished just as I was getting started. She joined her sister in the room with me, and to say that there were way too many Cawthon girls in one exam room would be a gross understatement. I lay back, stretched my mouth open as wide as I could, my dental hygienist (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! I learned my lesson, I promise!) began inserting her instruments into my mouth, and the melee began. I started to sweat and pray for a speedy cleaning. Campbell began beating on the foot of the dental chair, causing my head at the opposite end to bounce a little. Carson began to totally unpack my purse while wearing the requisite attitude that accompanies my obnoxiously large sunglasses. Then they began to fight, push, and argue over my personal belongings. My dear hygienist tried to ignore the fray, and I tried my hardest to teleport to another continent. No such luck, so I halted the cleaning, sat up, and informed both of my precious ones that certain punishment awaited them in their very near future. They were at least tolerable for the remainder of the visit.
So I slunk out of the office wearing mortification like a weighty backpack and loaded my offspring. Acknowledging that I was at least partly to blame for attempting such an asinine afternoon, I refused to sink even lower in my own estimation by picking up fast food for dinner. We proceeded to the grocery store. Okay, I’m not completely an idiot; I issued the standard lecture in the car before we disembarked. I reminded them of their looming consequences – which proved to be a tactical error – and off we went. Somewhere half way through our shopping, they threw all caution to the wind and embraced the certainty of their punishment. We were a sight! Without an ounce of brain power or dignity left, I grabbed only the bare essentials for our dinner and breakfast. All else would have to wait. I pulled into a checkout line and exhaled, knowing the end was near. If I can just get home I’ll be okay, I thought. At about which time, Campbell, who is seated in the spacious part of the cart, leans over and puts her hand on the cart in front of us and bellows quite loudly, “MOVE IT, LADY!” Oh no she didn’t.
Oh yes she did.
The lady turns around and replies, “I would if I could.”
“CAMPBELL CAWTHON, YOU APOLOGIZE TO HER RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” I declared with my head shaking in fury and shame; it threatened to make a few complete revolutions as my ire intensified.
“Oh, she’s fine. I have grandchildren their ages, and you just need to enjoy this time while they’re young.” Sometimes, easier said than done, sweet friend (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! You are an angel, and I so appreciated your gracious response and your sense of humor!).
Somehow I made it through the next couple of hours and finally settled them into bed. Spent in every way, I flopped onto the couch and sat numb in the silence. What was that? I finally asked myself.
That, in all honesty, is how some days go for me as a mother.
At the end of some days, I feel like I did a pretty good job. At the end of others, I think I was just adequate, and then at the end of a few, I cry.
When we trade in that high-dollar purse for a big, bulky though highly functional diaper bag, we need room to carry a lot more than diapers and wipes and bottles and pacies. We need room to shoulder the universal guilt of being a mom. We feel guilty if we work and are away from our children most of the day. We feel guilty if we stay at home and find it difficult, tedious, and sometimes even unfulfilling. We might also need to haul our exhaustion, our caffeine addiction, the extra weight we’ve gained from running ragged, our tears (happy and not-so-much), our embarrassment, our impossible expectations for ourselves, and sadly sometimes even our own judgment of each other. What a load!
But that’s not all. We also need room for all of the awkwardly spelled love notes and the brightly colored pictures. We need a separate compartment for the tears we dry, the boo-boos we kiss, and the snapshots we cherish of them sleeping, smiling, or performing when they don’t know we’re watching. We need to tuck their wet dog smell in a side pocket to help us remember spring afternoons spent running in the sun; we want to capture their tight squeezes around the neck in a zippered pouch, and there needs to be a special canister in the side that can be filled with their laughter.
I absolutely love being a mommy, and I wouldn’t trade a solitary second of my time spent with my girls. But it also often feels like a Herculean task. I find balance between the difficult and delightful in the reality that motherhood is meant to change me as much as it is meant to change my children. I find beauty in that.
My Carson just completed first grade. She and her classmates compiled memory books of their year. The last page was about their futures. See what she wants to be when she grows up…
Hey, guys! I am not on another lengthy blogbatical; Campbell’s birthday and party was last week and I have two SHE articles due super soon, so I’ve just been busy (YES, there is still a mountain of laundry in my “laundry” room 🙂 I do have some things brewing in the noodle for you soon though.
Thought I’d leave you with this funny…
The girls and I were driving down the road the other day, blaring Kidz Bop 752. “Girls Just Wanna Fun” was cranked, and Campbell was singing from the far back of the truck…
I come home in the morning light
My mother says when you gonna live your LITE BRITE
She had just gotten one for her birthday 🙂
I love to walk around in my bare feet. I always, always have.
Of course, there is a price to pay for shoelessness, and I pay that price.
The other morning I was sitting on the floor finishing my quiet time when Campbell kinda stumbled in – still mostly cloaked in sleep. Don’t you love a puffy face on a three year-old? She fell into my lap and I just wrapped both arms around the ball of her to love her into alertness. I began to rub the soles of her feet. They are no longer tender like that of a baby. They have toughened a little. Although there’s the well-worn “smooth as a baby’s bottom” simile, I have always thought the skin of a baby’s foot is most delicate and perfect. So it was disconcerting to discover one more way my littleness of a girl is no longer a baby.
Life can sometimes to do that to us, huh? Toughen us. Harden us. Make us calloused. Closed.
Ezekiel 36:26 – I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Psalm 95: 7b-8 – Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…
This picture may cause me to change my mind on the Christmas cards…
Enough Disney pics, for Pete’s sake…
How much fun are they having? – reckless stroller driving
How cool is she?
How sweet is he? – to dance with his princess in the Block Party Bash – Love him!
Thanksgiving Greetings from the Sunshine State! Sorry I haven’t updated sooner, but I was out of commission yesterday. Slept for 24 hours straight – not by choice 🙁 We’re all well now, I think. Very, very afraid to say that…
Join me for a day at Magic Kingdom; there are lots of pics, so this one is truly for the interested. Otherwise, I might lose you before we’re too far out of the parking lot…