This was a summer when I held my mothering like a bit of lichen, its lacy greenness, flaked off of an old tree, flat in my palm. Our son, fourteen, has a measure of independence brought to him by a golf-cart that he is allowed to drive around the lake. Our older daughters are occupied with their own lives, their visits fleeting. They call at night, full of tales of adult-ing, occasionally needing TLC or a reminder that fighting the patriarchy is hard work and that relationships are challenging, no matter how old we grow.
July, to be given over to long periods of writing, is given over to not much. I found distractions: laundry, grocery shopping, staring into space, not writing, thinking about all I ought to write, reading about writing, napping. And, as summer does, the weeks slipped away.
Pet care—usually my husband’s job–fell to me: three dogs, three cats and one long-lived goldfish. I allow the small rescue dogs to sleep with me. At first, I like the company. But they wake like querulous infants. Once one awakens, they all demand to be let out, even at 5:00 a.m. Despite my efforts to walk the dogs, they poop in the house, and I come upon moist brown curls on carpets in dark corners and grimly flush them. I realize the dogs are like children stuck in a developmental pre-potty-trained stage. They follow me from room to room. They sit on my lap or on my feet. They fight over toys. I walk them, feed them, bathe them, and am reminded of the easy days of motherhood, which we think are the hard days: nursing, burping, rocking, changing diapers, wiping spit up, spooning cereal and peaches into a tiny mouth. That era is long past in my life I didn’t notice it had ended so completely. I’ve also finished reminding people to go to the bathroom before getting into the car and nagging–mostly. My son, unbidden, got out his summer work packet and worked for a solid forty-five minutes yesterday—focused, intent. He hates school, but he knows what he needs to do.
Motherhood’s shape has morphed. I worry about our daughters far away in a tough city, striking out on their own, but it’s the same city in which I came of age, so there’s a familiarity in their journey, which I imagine I recognize. My son’s coming of age feels unfamiliar as I’ve never been a boy, but an old friend staying with us says of our son recently, “He’s grown up; he’s okay,” and I, reassured, am inclined to believe him.
Walking our three rescue dogs each morning, I note the quality of light on the lake, and look—really look–at the lichen-covered trees, enjoying the antics of my canine trio. They still need me—until their father returns. Perhaps, like fields lying fallow, I wasn’t not writing. I was resting, readying myself to grow new pieces in a new season.
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