End Of Days…Why Grandmothers Are Like This

I decided to select a photo from my collection from October a few years back, more than a couple of years, really! I chose October 2008, which held a series of pictures of my grandson Cavin on an all day adventure at “Dodie’s House”.   I wish I could insert the entire album! He was maybe twenty months old.   Running in only a diaper, I snapped photos of him in his brother’s cap, my wide-brimmed sun hat, and a bent up cowboy hat. He tried each on in turn, trying out characters, as if to learn who he might become.
He spent an entire day in various get ups, and while I played paparazzi, my photos show him climbing, squatting, licking spoons of brownie mix, wiping his hands on his lil belly. He is inside, outside, devouring slices of watermelon, and patting dogs from the neighborhood. In the series he is never still, and I feel joy in the memory, with a keen awareness of the gift he was to me, and his cavalier disregard for me snapping photos of his antics.
I remember thinking how different boys are from girls in the way they play and do the work of childhood. I had been a mom of girls, never actually knowing how completely my experience differed from my friends who had sons.
Then I got a slew of grandsons, and realized my joy was only beginning!
I admit it was challenging to me to allow the climbing, jumping, and mechanical experimentation that never stopped. Their serious faces, intent on bugs, guns, and machines would change suddenly, brilliantly, into bursts of unbridled movement…and I felt each was on the verge of death if I failed to keep up! It was tiring, aggravating, and scary.
But then there would come this moment in early evening, when the boy would become quiet, truck still in his hand, and the tipping would begin, softly at first, gently, like soft snow falling…the squat became a sit, and the sit, a belly roll, and the army crawl lightly became a rolling over, with one last look at the ceiling before the stillness, a toy truck falling from open fingers, and suddenly silencestillness.
It would come like some kind of spell, right in the midst of chaotic and jerky movement, as if this boy who moments before had been inexhaustible, had accidentally hit the kill switch, the safety switch, the off button, and just fell asleep in his tracks.
This moment, that special and amazing moment happened over and over again, and my mother’s heart would return to me. All of the annoyances of my day seemed sinful on my part, and the shrieks of “No!” and “Watch out!” and “What is wrong with you?” confronted me there, in the waning daylight, and I would silently ask forgiveness for my harshness over his day of development.
It is different when you become a grandmother. We take time. We feel no obligation to get it right.  Yet we are still mothers.  MOTHERS, with all the accompanying guilt, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, while at the same time knowing we will not be there to watch over them when they are growing families of their own unless we are very, very lucky, and do a very, very good job preventing their deaths as we boldly face our OWN.   Whether our time left is short or long, we spend it lavishly, as if we will always be here.

I leaned over him, smelling his breath, turning my face to feel it on my cheek, and counting his eyelashes when I turned back to look at him, marveling at the length of them.  I set my camera on the bedside table, and leaned closer  to study his face for several minutes. The sheer miraculous beauty of the boy with his lashes sweeping over a perfect (but dirty) cheek lying there, with his heavy head crushing his cowboy hat astonished me! I gently tried to take the hat from him, but he stirred, firmly lifting his strong little hand to the top of his head, preventing me from removing the thing. He was a cowboy, at least for that day, and early signs show more of the same. I allowed it then, and allow it today.
I lifted the camera for one last shot. Somehow I needed proof for myself that hard men all over the world had once been like this child. ALL men, all over the world. Yes. ALL.
Were it not for mothers of boys, the world would have destroyed itself long ago. I will never fully understand it, but I am grateful for every girl who is one of those mothers chosen by God to be one of them.

Red cowboy hat

Red cowboy hat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Good Bye Speech to Vermont Studio Center Fellowes

August 29, 2012

Cumulative wisdom of many lifetimes flows from one generation to another in waves of bloodline and breath, yet none of us arrive with full knowledge of how to get along in the world.  Even after many years experience we feel a certain humility about the tasks of autonomy and integration.  We wear an adult’s body, but never finish growing.  We never finish learning, and we never finish…at all.

Crescent Dragonwagon commented during a recent workshop, “We pass the anniversary of our death date once a year, but do not recognize the actual date as it passes.”  This gave me pause, and well it should!

We need goals, plans, and a strategy for our lives on this planet as vibrant and whole human beings.  Certain questions should occur in our minds, even if we cannot find the answers.  Spending time in nature, pondering the order of the insects, thr grasses, the mosses, and the birds aloft raises some questions that seem to be answered with  no words at all.  Indeed, some of our questions cannot be formed into words!

The essential thing about being a human being, to me, is retaining the child within.  We must hang on to a certain curiosity, a sense of wonder in the tiniest of events.  I know this is why I love to spend time with children.  The synergistic effect of pairing the young with the old is magic itself.  It is not illusion.  It is the very stuff of life.  There is not one guide, but two.  Not only one student, but a pair.

I was making up a song for my six year old grandson to encourage him to get out the door to kindergarten.  The first rhyming word was “start” and then “heart” and it deteriorated from there.  His reluctant and shocked giggles were my reward for taking a risk with his barely budding worldliness.  As he stood there with an enormous backpack above his spindly legs, his eyes widened I would use a naughty word in front of his mom.  It lifted both our hearts just before he faced the day.  For just that moment we were both six years old and in rebellion against the “BORING” world outside the door.

After school he joined us for a trip to the doctor’s office where his four week old sister was to receive a well baby exam, followed by an injection.  We told him about it, and as his mom undressed her, she began to fuss.  All at once big brother “lost it” and began to cry inconsolably because he had a keen awareness and deep empathy for what was coming.  I pulled him to my lap, and he sobbed into my chest for a few minutes.  I was stunned by his tenderness toward his sibling!  As for me, I was dry inside about the idea of a shot on my barely born grandchild.  Over the years I have built up a defense against caring about the pain, in my awareness of the prevention of illness.  But this safe position on my part does not ameliorate the great shock of pain coming to her for the very first time.  Brother James knew this was going to be rough and he allowed his feelings to surface.  I was so proud of him, and especially of the mother who reared such a loving boy.

Empathy for the other is one of the treasures we must never lose, never compromise.  If our children do not learn it, we will have losses in the grand scheme, I guarantee it.  We must keep ever green our capacity for the love, joy, fear, pain of others.  Without it we are empty husks.

I declare to you here and now, we should hold a coronation for every single baby born among us.  Each holds fresh surprises for a small world threatening to go dark.

Those qualified to say so urge us to stay on fire, to protect this inner child, to nourish the freshness.  A friend of mine cautioned me, “Never get angry when someone is rude to you.  It is just an empty boat.”  I asked her to explain.  She said, “if you were out on a pond in a boat, and an empty boat bumped into you, would you be angry?  No, you wouldn’t.  There are all kinds of people in the world, and many are ’empty boats’.  These are the children who have already flat-lined.  Once you see them for what they are, you will lose the anger, the ego.”

We can peer into the womb via the miracle of ultrasound, but not until the child is born and gazes curiously back at us will we fully understand the questions without words.  Astonished at our bounty, we exclaim silently, “Come stay with us.  let us comfort you, love you, and keep you safe.”

The child within you is ageless, sexless, and eternal.  You are absolutely unique and will never be replicated.  You ARE the miracle!  I am grateful we have spent this time together.