Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nine Years Ago

I was 21, ready to take on the whole world, just finishing up my degree when I realized my life was going to change.. drastically.

You see, I had plans to visit Italy, and to finally take a moment to enjoy all the hard work , and the education I had absorbed (well.. mostly), since being in school from 5 to 21 years old.  I was on the precipice of the life I had dreamed about sitting in Art History, History, English and Religious Studies lectures.  I was going to see all the places I had studied, to color in the lines of the images and the places that had been sketched by inspired professors and idealist textbooks.  
I would visit the tombs of the scholars whose words I had memorized, I would see the birthplace of the Renaissance with my own eyes, the architecture, the art, and the inspiration.  I would see religion played out in the Vatican, I would relax in the south of France with red wine and the knowledge that my whole educational life had been directing me to this moment.

The last thing I was worried about was what in the world I would do with an arts degree. I mean,  I had my LSAT study books, my Masters application in the works, and a sincere desire to further direct my life once I got back to reality. 
This was my break from the life I knew was mandatory.  I was raised to believe that this education was the minimum educational requirement.  Sure, maybe my parents wouldn’t have picked the arts for their baby, but it never was lost on me that neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to University.  To this day one of their proudest accomplishments is having three University graduates as children.  Only second to the fact that we are all pretty decent human beings.  And we own our own houses.  That’s cool for them too I would assume.  Probably grandkids too. 

So 21, ready to rock the world, with my knowledge and my relief that I had a reprieve from midterms, finals, and the pressure that comes from a ‘reading’ week spent in the bar instead of the library.

In the meantime, my boyfriend had already convocated with a Kinesiology degree, and was off at RCMP Depot pursuing his future career. He assured me he could have plenty of vacation days to accommodate the travel bug that had taken over me.

Coming into the home stretch of school, I felt more self-assure and more ready for the life I had planned.  After all,  I had spent the summer before that last semester working moderately hard, laying around my friend’s pool, and sneaking visits with my boyfriend and his troop whenever we could. 

It was a benign Wednesday, and the sage advice from a supervisor that led me to the pregnancy isle in the drugstore.  It was her listening to me complain about how I was feeling, and off-handily remarking maybe I was pregnant that led to my shaking hands buying the test, and those same hands that shook as they drove all the way back to my apartment too.

It was not scary, I don’t remember any scary waiting part, I took it and instantly the result was obvious. 

The next thing I remember were tears. 

I cried, I cried and sobbed and hiccupped until my roommate came out of her room to see what was going on. 
I showed her the test and fell into a pile of dirty laundry on my bed, as I sobbed and instantaneously grieved the life I thought I was about to live. 

That immediately, from the first blue line to the second, I knew my life was going to be different.

Another girlfriend, a restaurant and two Dairy Queen blizzards later I had started to come to terms with my situation.  I hadn’t even told my boyfriend yet.  It was a few stolen hours of not dealing with anyone other than my own feelings, and a sugar rush.

Now, I want to stop and acknowledge that I know that some people dream about being pregnant and want to have babies so badly and can’t.

I sympathize with them, I think it’s impossible not to.

But I’m telling you there is another side of the coin, the one people sometimes like to judge.  You know, the “how did could you let that happen unless you wanted it to” type people.

But, just stay with me for a moment.

I want you to know it is terrifying to sit in that moment alone, and wonder if there will be any one to stand by you. 

Letting your boyfriend know, your parents too, his parents, and our families know there is a truth which I have decided will be born into fruition.  Because for all the people around, it is me that has the finale, absolute decision on whether or not it is.  And, rightfully so.

A 21 year old girl with an arts degree, one hand me down computer, one dingy double mattress and a TV to her name.  A girl who had dreamed of one day having a family but no concept of how she was going to do so right now, at this moment of her life.  And the unshakeable worry that acceptance and understanding might not come generously.  I was terrified and vulnerable, and so unsure of what my future would look like.

So yes, I was devastated.  And I own that feeling and I will never, ever feel sorry for it.

But as strong people do in difficult situations, I stood up, and was lucky enough to have a hand to hold as we told the world.. eventually.  I mean we waited well past the 12 weeks, not generally reserved for married, ‘supposed-to’ couples.

It went over like when you serve fish at a big family dinner. 

Some people, people you had no idea, they freaking LOVED it.  There were the ones you knew loved it, because they had told you so before. 
The ones you were pretty sure were faking it because they loved you and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. 
And, well, the ones that didn’t.. maybe they just  couldn’t, like it, because they were not prepared to try fish for a few years.

But, it was a freight train on a one-way track and before long.. he was born.  And oh... he was beautiful.  Truly.  Beautiful.
Nine years ago today I became a mom.

And while we have long since settled into our roles of mom and dad, family of three, then four, then five, along the way I’ve thought of that girl who leaned against her apartment wall as she sobbed and thought her life was over.  The girl who grew up and took a different path than she thought was hers to take.

And that in becoming a mom, much younger than my friends, the first of our siblings to enter parenthood, that maybe I gained all the experiences I longed for, just not in the way I saw it back then.

I travelled every nook and cranny on each and every one of my babies.  I saw religion in a much different way than before, felt it in the purest sense, in the most divine form when I held my babies for the first time.  When they looked to the sky and asked about God and our lost loved ones, and how a flower knows to bloom.  Most importantly I had a confessor, a professor, an everything, guide me through life and love and all the stops in between.
And that well-travelled soul, that prophet in our lives.....  Well, he turned 9 today.  He's not my son.  No, that seems too strange for what he's done.  He's an equal.  Maybe our sun.  Maybe his own sun.  But a wise teacher in a small child's body.

Because through him, I have enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun set on my children playing with their cousins, or our parents, as they laughed and we witnessed the beauty on the faces of our parents as they experienced they joy through a grandchild’s eyes. 

He accelerated my life and made it come faster, and in a different way than I thought.

So, today I’m celebrating becoming a mom of three exceptional kids (yes.. I know, this is not unbiased) and especially, most especially my oldest. 
The little old soul who took this girl and turned her into a mom, even if she wasn’t expecting it.

Not without tears and breakdowns and enough insecurity to drown a continent. 
Am I OK at this whole Mom thing .  Do I laugh at his antics too much?  Do I ask too much?  Am I enough to look up to?  Also who am I really? Wait… that can’t be part of being a parent.  Shit.  I suck.  Am I a good parent?

But then I have a little (big) boy who has grown into an amazing student, a gifted athlete, the keeper of the rules, intense as they come, passionate and driven.  He can be a jerk too.  Let’s be honest.  But as the sum of his parts he is set to be an incredible human being.

So tonight, tonight I toast the other women who sort of tripped into this whole ‘mom’ thing.  Who didn’t know that’s what they wanted, or what would color in the lines of a picture they never knew they had.

To the moms who still have dreams and places to travel, without their kids.  Who love their children fiercely and assuredly enough to admit that the sum of their parts isn’t entirely weighted in them, and that the very notion of this actually releases their children from conforming to their ideals instead of reaching their own potential.

I love being a mom.  It’s not the entirety of who I am but it takes up a whole lot of it. 

Tonight, tonight I pour a glass of wine, toast my husband and celebrate the anniversary of having shared nine years together as parents.

Holy shit.  Nine mother f&&&ing years.  And he’s great.  Our kid.  Same with the other two.  NO time to stop and get complacent but let’s keep this momentum going.

So one day we can relax in the Tuscan sun.  And I can rustily recall the lessons on Italian history.  And we can stumble into the south of France.
And I can realize that maybe it’s not the destination, but the journey that will teach me the real lessons.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When a Melody Sounds Like A Memory

I’ve been listening to a bunch of Eric Church in preparation for his concert this Sunday. .. ever a student I want to make sure I’m well versed on all material before heading into the test.  Only this one will be loud, and have beer, lots and lots of beer.

Anyways, I’ve loved the song “Springsteen” since I first heard it. .. because if there is one thing that is guaranteed to take me back, it’s a song.

It doesn’t matter that I now drive a bright blue minivan populated with my own offspring, when Snoop comes on, I’m turning that shit up, car-dancing, and definitely singing along.  Like some sort of space time continuum, I’m transported back to my girlfriend’s basement; south Regina, two blue-eyed teenaged white girls, layering on Bonne Bell Vanilla Icing lip gloss, baby t’s and denim miniskirts, and above all,

Sippin on Gin and Juice.. laaaid back.  Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind”.   

Then one of my kids pipes up,

“MOOOOOMMM, is this song ‘propriate for kids??”

And just like that, I’m snapped back to reality, and the melody fades into the background with the memories.

But it was listening to this particular song one night, driving in the country when that lyric hit me in the face with a memory. 
“You looked at me, and I was done, or we were just getting started...I was so alive, never been more free.  Funny how a melody, sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night"
Obviously this song was not around when I was in high school, neither was any Springsteen song for that matter, but that line kept playing over and over in my head in conjunction with one of my most favorite of memories, one that encapsulated what it felt like to be young, and free, and everything I don’t feel like these days.

The same blue-eyed bestie and I had headed out to a park, on a July Saturday night, with booze bought with money meant to be spent elsewhere, or smuggled from someone’s parents liquor cabinet (always replaced with water because that was REALLY a genius idea), or paid for by some boy who liked us.  I had my typical Jungle Juice which cost exactly the same amount of money as the ‘movie’ I said I was going to,  and we were sitting with boys in the park being naughty, but not REALLY naught in the grand scheme of bad things we could have been doing, teenagers, watching the storm in the distance as the lighting flashed and the thunder rumbled.  Definitely the last place our parents would have wanted us to be as a violent prairie thunder storm rolled in, not to mention that fact that we were with boys in a dark and isolated place, but hey, we listened to enough Cali rap to know a thing or two about being street smart.

As the storm approached there was a crack of thunder that vibrated the earth so hard I remember how it felt in my chest, and with the roar came a downpour of rain straight out of a movie. 

I remember us all beginning to run towards the cars, laughing and stumbling through the rain and the storm until someone, I can’t remember who, in fact the faces of everyone there are still fuzzy, stopped and started running back into the park. 

And for a brief moment, a second, it was like someone waved a flag to my subconscious to remember this. To take it in.

Because before long we were laughing and running through the rain like the, young, wild and free beautiful creatures we were, with nowhere to be, not a worry in the world, eyes clouded with the lust and haze of a few drinks and teenage hormones.  We laughed and ran and then I remember the boy with the perfect smile telling me to jump on his back as we headed back to the cars.  Soaked, laughing, and now with a ripped skirt from the gymnastics performed in order to move at all in a piece of denim that short and tight, I remember memorizing the details.

It was like an older version of myself crept in and enhanced the moment for memory sake- the smell of the rain, the grass sticking to my bare feet, the laughter mixed with the thunder, and lightning momentarily illuminating faces, then trees, then the swing set, then the water running down his face as he smiles and tells you to ‘COME ON!”.  And the feeling.  The feeling of being exactly who I was, and the universe revelling in the moment of connectedness.

Because a part of me would indeed, go on to visit that memory often, more frequently as an exhausted mom, a stressed out wife, a grown-up who doesn’t feel so grown up some days.  Because that grown woman still feels a tiny part of that girl when the right song comes on, or the rain pours down.  With an unforeseen knowledge of someone living their own past life, how much it was needed to vacation back in a memory for a few minutes.  To remember the essence of yourself in a world that sometimes sucks life and spirit and joy out of you without you recognizing it until you find yourself back in a memory.

And that line, the melody was the storm and the laughter, the hot July night and the look.. the look that was in fact, US just getting started.

Since this moment it’s happened more times.. not always when you’d expect it.  For example, my wedding day is a blur.  It’s in the most unplanned, unrehearsed prefect moments of life where these subconscious flags get staked.  And for me, almost always linked to a melody, a song, is a moment intrinsically embedded into the deepest part of who I am.

So yes, sometimes it’s a country song and I’m back on a horse, checking fences as my Grandpa led me and Tigger, as the grasshoppers clicked, and the sun drenched fields swayed in the breeze.  Sometimes it’s the melody of Backstreet Boys, never breaking my heart, which reminds me of the preteen girl who wanted to fall in love, who was so in love with love that she could barely stand it.  Or the melody of a Cali gangster that brings out the teenage me, ironically the whitest of white girls, still boy crazy, Sun-In hair wearing teeny tiny skirt, dancing through life with a smile and a giggle. 

And I know, someday down the road, which will feel like a brief moment, but will in fact be years, I will hear’ Sexy and I know It’ or ‘Happy’ and think about my three babies shaking their little selves in my living room as I laugh and dance along. 

But for now, I’m going to let Songza “At a 90’s School Dance” (Much Music Video Dance Party anyone??!!?) keep this day chugging along while I get some work done, with some memories scattered in here and there.  And probably chair dancing.  Because… obviously.
I know what you're thinking.  Hard Core Gangsta Rap Fan. 
Teenagers.  Just getting Started.