Sunday, April 12, 2009

The House on Margate Street

I recently listened to the incomparable Sandra Cisneros on the radio reading from her groundbreaking work The House on Mango Street, celebrating its birthday (was it 30 years? and how can that be?). I've been thinking a lot lately about the piece in which she says that what no one tells you is that when you turn eleven you are also still ten and nine and eight and ... well, you know, right?

I'm going to come right out and admit it. My take? What's been on my mind? Greedy stuff, and I don't try to equate myself with Sandra Cisneros when I say it, because that would really shameful. But here's the thing: What no one tells you is that when you are a mother, you are still a daughter, a granddaughter, a child, a needy baby. When you are a mother, you still get angry, hurt, or sullen sometimes, and you still want to cry, want someone to kiss the place that hurts to make it better, sometimes you still want to climb in bed and hug your pillow and wait until someone comes to rub your back to make it better. Now, none of those childhood comforts ever actually happened to me. I didn't have that kind of childhood. But yet since I'm still "eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one," that means I'm still wanting, still yearning those childhood yearnings, even when I'm supposed to be on the other side.

Sometimes my son needs me to take care of him through a very rough patch, and although he's almost five, he's also four and three and two and one (plus there's the whole autism thing), and he does things he should not do, things he ought to know better than to do, and I know it, and yet... and yet... and yet... it's so hard to find my 37 year old grownup, when I too am four and three and two and one, and it feels like through his behaviors he's torn down my towers, broken my doll, pushed me in the mud. Sometimes I feel the childish urge to push him back, to take away his toys, to call him names, to sob, "That's not fair."

Today, I felt so hopelessly infantile as I tried to mother, that I picked up my phone and pushed the speed dial for my own mom. It was the only childish thing I could think of to do that would cause no harm. And when her line was busy, and when I began to cry with longing for my grandmother, with wanting to be the recipient instead of the provider, I thought, surely, when there is no other choice, I will pull it together? I will age up? I will mother. I was sitting on the floor, thinking this, trying to breathe, wanting to rise.

Then it hit me: I could call my husband's parents.
Yes, that small I am. I did.
I said, "This is what the rooster just did, and these are the things I thought about doing, and since I know all of those things are wrong, I thought I could call you, and just talk in the space in which I might have collapsed, and this will keep me accountable, and maybe minutes will pass, and then I will be able to keep it together and be the grownup again."

When I was ten, I needed my thick striped diary with the flimsy brassy key. I needed it to escape my home, and in it I wrote copious plans for my future. I outlined my grievances and charted my course for righting their wrongs one day. "I will NEVER this and that... when I'M a grownup, when MY kids are sad...."

And now I'm 37, with a blog reflecting my layers of immaturity, my juvenile self-centeredness, my black-and-white and wrong-and-right, and me me me. And thank goodness at least I have it, because what might I do if I didn't?

Today I'm 37, going on maybe seven or eight. Today I sat my sadness on my elbow, and watched as my street, an M street too, filled with other families hunting Easter eggs, laughing, smiling, no one fighting or worried, ten million miles away and foreign and yet just outside my window. I am sorry I am so small today, so small and so greedy.


redheadmomma said...

I'm sorry, hon. Wish I could give you a big hug.

Something through my own life (not something I've blogged about) that's really hit me recently is that I get sucked into believing that everyone else is doing just fine. And that's just not true. There was worry up and down your street, but you just didn't see it. But I bet it's there. Not that I want to spread misery around, but it always helps me to remember that people are going through their own stuff too.

pixiemama said...

I know. I know.
I'm pulling you onto my lap. Stroking your back, rocking you, knowing sleep's not in the cards for either of us tonight. My arms are tired, but I promise, I won't drop you.
Shh. Shh. Shh...


Niksmom said...

Oh, honey, yo're not small and greedy. You're human.

Imagineme there to wrap my arms around you and hold you as you rock and sob or whatever you need to do to be nurtured and heard and allowed to feel it all, too. We all need that.

Sending you hugs and love, my friend. xo

Christine said...

You know what? I see myself in you. We've never met but we have so much in common. I hear myself in you. I know. Exactly what you mean. I was there, too. But when I made the discoveries that I read in your very words I was already on my way to better. You are too. I know the learning curve is treacherous. If I told you of my behavior while I was learning you would hate me. Truly. But it does get better. How? Why? Because we can follow our heart and because we learned all those lessons from when we were nine and eight. If you ever need to talk -- call me. I really mean it.

phenry said...

This post really resonated with me. My two little people can sometimes drive me to wanting to run away and hide for a long time, walk out the door, drive far away, etc. You hit the nail on the head when you said that when we become mothers, we are still daughters and granddaughters, etc. There are times when I wish to be the one catered to, to be the one who is taken care of rather than taking care of everyone else. I think that every mother goes through that, but most mothers won't admit it. We're supposed to silently plod on with a smile on our face relishing in the care we provide our husbands and our children. We're all supposed to want to be stay at home moms where our life revolves around caring for others. But, it's not wrong to want someone else to take the reins for a bit. It's not enough to "take care of yourself" and "find some you time". For God's sake, where's the "find someone to take care of you a day or two a week"? That's what we really need.
I'm glad to hear you thought of someone to call. Add me to that list in your head. I will always listen. Sending hugs your way.

Anonymous said...

I don't blog very often anymore. It wasn't very satisfying. Instead, I update my facebook status 4-infinite times a day so that I can get near instant gratification of someone commenting on it and lifting me up. Selfish? perhaps. But it helps for people to see the true me.