I've been reading again. I used to read non-stop. I'd read while walking and doing my paper route. I'd read while eating breakfast, while watching TV. Books were always honest, never two-faced, never teased. As an extension of reading, I used to write a lot. Poetry, short stories, and journalling. I haven't written in a long time. Yes, I have the blogs, and sometimes I get a little deep, but it's not the same as the journals I kept. I no longer have the journals, and that saddens me (even though I'm to blame for not having them). I've tried to keep journals for the kids, about them, but it was too hard to write only about Lucy in her book, and only about Huey in his book, and so often I'd just print out an email I had written about them, or hope that the many pictures in the box would suffice to keep my memories fresh.
Many of the books I've been reading have been about natural pregnancy, birth, childcare, and an interesting category--non-instructional parenting books. Books by parents, about parenting, but not necessarily HOW to parent (one, in fact, was actually a book of knitting essays by a 'famous' knitting blogger, but some of the essays were about parenting). I don't need the "how-to" books anymore, never really used them anyway as my challenging kids didn't really fit most of the standard books.
The latest book I'm reading is "Because I Said So" compiled by Camille Peri and Kate Moses. The subtitle says "33 Mothers Write about Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves". I'm not sure what I was thinking; probably little fluff ditties like on the back pages of parenting magazines: "I'm a bad mom cause the kids watch TV while I nap" or "I'm conflicted about being a mom because I can't go for a pedicure every week". But it's not that sort of thing at all.
The first essay is about a modern day, American witch hunt against a single Islamic mother. There's an essay on American Girl dolls, one about being a white family on the edge of a ghetto and how one son 'turns black', one about the American wife of an Iranian refugee who goes back with her family to Iran for her first visit, one about boys growing up to be men, one about a woman who gives in to California culture and hires a Latino nanny.
I found each one fascinating. Not always relateable by direct co-relation to the factual events, but relateable by the invisible silk thread that ties all mothers. One essay particularly moved me. "Ourselves, Carried Forward" by Beth Kephart. I didn't know where it was going by it's opening paragraph, but it's about memories. "There is little democracy when it comes to telling stories; the best stories always rule. The untold stories fade away, and memory goes flaccid." Perhaps that's why I like journalling--I felt my stories were perhaps not unique, but were still mine and I didn't want them lost. We are, essentially, our memories.
I am, in ways, opposite to the writer--I DO remember my primary teachers, I DID write my childhood. The writer's husband is the one with memories that get told and remembered; Rob never writes, rarely shares stories, but many times he has made it clear that my memories are not worth remembering.
Then the writer asks "Who are we after the first long sprint of motherhood is through? What parts of our history do we return to ourselves when the days shift in shape and size and tempo?" Wow. This ties in so strongly to what is going on in our lives right NOW that I haven't even had the time to share. We are returning to the area of our youth. While it is, by name, the same, it is still NOT the same town as we left. I was a young, childless bride when I left; what am I now?
The writer talks about the things of her childhood that she brought forth into her motherhood--sit down dinners, kick ball, hiking in fresh snow. Her kids knew the words to the songs she knew as a child. "My childhood nested in my son's, somehow. The girl I was is in the boy he's been. The past carried forward, planted, and sprouted, and not because it was merely good enough, but because it was whole, it was happy. Who are we after the first long sprint of motherhood is through? We are ourselves, carried forward."
She talks about remembering who she was before she was a mother. Who was I? Who was that young lady who couldn't bear to look at her beloved home as she drove off to a new life? Some of the things I was, I am ashamed of, regretful, embarrassed. I'm also ashamed and embarrassed of what I wasn't. What I never got the chance to be, due to failed relationships, political changes, lack of initiative and self-fatalism. I mourn the loss of my teaching career constantly. In a culture that defines who a person is by what the person does, I was a nothing. My plans, ever since I was five, was to teach. No one ever mentioned that a new government would come into power just as I was graduating, and eliminate virtually all new teaching positions in Ontario. That wasn't part of my plan. Although my plan was flexible (I could substitute teach), it wasn't enough.
I feel like I have spent the past 14 years waiting for my life to begin. The memories of this time are not the memories my youthful memories thought I'd have.
"The exhaustion of motherhood is cumulative. Exuberance is tempered by the many choices a mother makes. Pathways narrow when a woman has a child, because incautiousness yields consequences, and irresponsibility is selfish, and the dreams one dreams on behalf of a child are the dreams one does not dream for one's self."
"We bring our own selves and stories forward when the first long sprint of motherhood is through. We reconcile who we were to who we'll be...."
What stories am I going to bring forward? What memories of myself will become my children's memories also? I find this both fascinating and frightening.