It is early morning, but not too early. Our front porch has been miraculously cleared of cobwebs, dirt, and those awfully prolific Brown Widow Spiders. I sit, holding a steaming mug of coffee in one hand and today’s newspaper in the other. The headlines read:
“Work Done by Parents & Caregivers No Longer Invisible – Currently the Highest Paid Jobs in the World. Teachers Salaries a Close Second.”
And further down:
“New Discovery: Scientists have confirmed there is enough time, money, space, silence, food, creativity, and chocolate-covered raisins to go around.”
I take a sip of coffee while enjoying the usual morning sounds – birds chirping, squirrels scampering, weed-whackers whacking. Our screen door opens and out walks my only child with a tray of freshly baked cinnamon buns. Setting it on the porch ledge he…
… morphs into a baby – gurgling, laughing, and doing his funny singing thing. Just before he poops, he morphs again into a two-year-old and runs out back to eat the cat food. Now, at four, we are butterflies who suddenly encounter a Big Wind, get blown willy-nilly through the house, and end up smashed against the back door. Six-years-old brings us to an all-nighter at Children’s Hospital for a broken wrist – he is happy, talkative, and brave. At nine, he plays the Star Wars’ theme at his piano recital; at ten, it’s Linus & Lucy. He opens his first business at age 12 – the Student Store – just before he morphs back to 13 and makes me laugh with his crazy antics and love of life.
My sweet husband brings out fruit and cheese, and the three of us discuss environmental concerns and technological discoveries. We also take turns reading the comics out loud.
During my shower, I have the bathroom to myself. There is no persistent knock on the door, no “excuse me” yelled through the shower curtain, no asking about today’s agenda. Dressing takes little time because no one desperately needs an emery board from the mirrored cabinet I’m using, meaning, mascara does not have to be scraped off my cheek. I also get to use the toilet.
My sister, sisters-in-law, and girl friends join me for brunch at an outdoor cafe where flowering peach trees line the garden and wild flowers set in Mason jars grace the tables. We share healthy foods, personal triumphs, and future dreams. Someone tosses out a question: What is it about caring for a spirit in a young body that fills your soul? At that moment, a small bird lands on the table looking for crumbs. We fall silent and watch as my sister feeds it part of a seeded muffin. The bird eats a bit, then grabs a larger chunk and flies off – perhaps to a nest? No one speaks and the question lingers unanswered. Soon, our conversation moves to exercise, education, and retaining – or gaining – one’s sanity during summer vacation.
Afternoon tea arrives with my mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, and a few more generations of Hungarians. At my Granny’s home, the table is beyond elegant – linen, silver, China, rose petals. Except for my mother, our attire consists of 1940’s era, Christian Dior-style skirted suits complete with gloves, hats, and dainty bags. My mom, however, is in Levi’s, sneakers, and a T-shirt. She carries a baseball in her front pocket. We discuss the many changes women have faced, the hardships and good times, the war that wiped out this family. Much to my surprise, a particularly hot topic is disposable diapers… for which they would have apparently given their eye teeth. Even so, it’s agreed that although new inventions are welcome, the amount of work remains the same. What makes it bearable is the village of women who understand, who have been where each of us has been. What makes it bearable is the love.
The evening meal approaches. I’m late and run to meet my dad’s mom as well as a few more of my Russian ancestor moms for drinks. We invade a fancy restaurant bar – scotch/rocks all around. Eventually, a hearty dinner is served complemented by an equally hearty cabernet. We prepare to close down the joint with cognac and a tray of gorgeous desserts. At this round table, no subject is sacred. We know who’s on a diet, who’s gallbladder was removed, who’s shacked up with whom, and who’s been insulted most recently (only I never know who it is because they speak in Yiddish). On the whole, raucous laughter permeates the evening, the restaurant, and my heart. I feel the hardships they felt as mothers – losing children in childbirth or before – but more so I feel their joy, their gratitude. In fact, I feel my gratitude.
It’s late now and I come home to my small family. My husband is asleep but my son peaks his head up from the covers … as usual. I give him a hug and kiss, smiling down at him from the generations of mothers that came before me. He smiles up at me from the generations of children yet to come.
“Mom,” he says. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, honey. What is it?”
“So….what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?”
© 2012 Beverly Belling, Rarely Balanced, All Rights Reserved
All photographs & drawings are original and © Beverly Belling, Rarely Balanced, unless otherwise noted.