“I can’t have this in my house any longer,” she tells the gentle shopkeeper who has befriended her. “It makes me forget I’m a mother.”
I’ve been in New York all week meeting with people about projects – a book, prospective books, an exhibit. My kids are in DC with their grandparents, which has been a great break for us all: the circus and aquarium for them; long dinners with friends and walking fifteen-block stretches without anyone whining for me. I’m filled up, saturated with food and conversation. Ready again for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for bath time, and even homework.
Tonight, coming home from dinner in Chinatown, a mom and her pre-teen daughter sat across from me on the subway leafing through a brochure from Madame Tussaud’s, which I assume they’d visited. They were such a gentle pair. When the daughter put her head on her mother’s shoulder, I had a sudden ping for Bella. I looked at the mom and gave her a smile that said – at least I meant it to – isn’t it the best thing in the world to be a mother?
Today was spent with friends – one pregnant, one considering children, one trying but with a recent sad setback. All of them artists with artist husbands. All of them a trifle worried about how babies will fit into their lives. You’ll do it, I told them, sometimes aloud, sometimes to myself. It will be hard at times, sleepy and blurry, but you’ll do it.
Last night, I laid awake listening to baby Matilda, the daughter of the two gay men who live above my friend’s apartment. I’m not sure what was bothering the 13-month old, but her yowls were so fierce that she was nearly hyperventilating with misery. “What is wrong with her?” my friend, a non-parent asked. “She’s ok,” I said and slept just fine through it, almost comforted by the ruckus.
Babies. Children. Parents. Everywhere.
And yet another mother and another child: Last night at the movies – a beautiful Swedish movie called Everlasting Moments about a Swedish woman in the early 1900s, a wife and mother of seven (can you imagine?) who begins to take photographs. When her toddler son accidentally breaks a glass plate, she slaps him and then, horrified at herself, returns to the camera to the store. “I can’t have this in my house any longer,” she tells the gentle shopkeeper who has befriended her. “It makes me forget I’m a mother.” He pours her a glass of Madeira and tells her that she has a gift. “Not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing,” he says. In other words, once your eyes are opened, there is no returning.
So often I am reminded of this about my writing – it’s in me, like it or not. I can’t give it up. Like a limb. But we forget sometimes that the same is true, just as ecstatically and wildly, of our motherhood.
As I whirred around the city talking about projects, a creative tornado, I remained totally captivated by the quiet scenes about motherhood played out in the film, or by the woman and daughter riding sleepily home on the train. I could never go back. I am an artist, but as this trip has reminded me again and again and again, in the subtlest of ways, I am just as wonderfully a mother.