Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hills, Valleys and Honeysuckle: A Portrait of Motherhood

I knew I wanted to write this post on Sunday but, with a whirlwind Mother’s Day and coming down with some unknown stomach bug yesterday, my post has been delayed. Anyway, better late than never.

On Mother’s Day, I got up early (5:30 again on a Sunday, and Mother’s Day to boot – WTF is going on here?) and went for a shorter but more challenging ride than last Sunday. After struggling up a fairly minor hill in Forest Park last week, I decided it was time I revisited my first real road ride and tackle the hills in Fenton once again. It was a fitting ride for the day as it had me exclaiming “Oh, Mama!” more than once.

As I enjoyed the many ups and downs of the Fenton route, I had the time to contemplate all the things that motherhood has been to me and I realized that my journey as a mother has not been unlike the route I was riding.

There have been many hills : some short and steep – like those first weeks home with a newborn, wandering if I’d ever sleep again; some minor annoyances – tantrums in K-Mart, calls from the teacher that he’s been “acting up” again, spending an hour fixing dinner only to have my child look at it as though I’m trying to serve him poison; and some have been the type that make you beg for mercy with half a dozen false summits teasing you only to climb again around the next bend, the kind of hills you want to give up on, the kind you think you’ll never see the top of – struggling through a difficult marriage to a man who didn’t begin to understand the value of the work I did raising our son, being a newly single mother of a three year old with no job, no place to live and a soon to be ex husband threatening to take full custody because I “wasn’t stable”, living like a gypsy for a summer – house sitting for friends and friends of friends, staying odd nights at my sisters or my parents, all the while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy on those nights I had my son, sobbing uncontrollably on the nights I didn’t feeling like someone had torn away a piece of me. Funny thing about those hills – they were hard, sometimes impossible, but I climbed them - the real and the figurative. I finally found the true summit of that never ending hill in Fenton, just like I found work way back when, and a great pre-school for Boy Genius, and a fabulously shabby chic apartment in South City – with wood floors and stained glass windows and picture molding and wonderful neighbors, all for very cheap. I’ll always treasure the memory of that apartment – that was a very important summit for me and for my son.

There have been some thrilling and somewhat frightening descents as well – accompanied by a simultaneous sense of relief and fear for what might be in store – breathlessly watching my sons first steps as he padded past me, the first day of kindergarten, the first bike ride without training wheels, watching from the window as he roams the neighborhood with his “pack of boys”.

There have even been some moments of out and out danger – on my ride it was the dog charging out of his yard, his teeth inches from my calf; on my journey as a mother, I have had 3 am trips to the emergency room with a sick toddler and, even more terrifying, a suddenly and severely ill three year old on a backpacking trip – two miles from the car and an unknown distance from the nearest hospital – the way out was definitely the hike of my life that thankfully ended uneventfully with my son asking for McDonald’s only thirty minutes after reaching the trailhead and strapping him into the car to head for the closest town and medical attention. I knew if he thought he could stomach a Happy Meal that he was fine.

Though the climbs, the descents and the moments of terror are the most memorable and sometimes threaten to define the entire experience, it’s the ridges and the valleys that take up most of the time – cruising peacefully along the river, winding along a ridge knowing that, for now, the climbing is over; planting flowers with my son all day on a Saturday, watching him at baseball practice, sitting on the porch swing at the beginning or end of the day discussing what has been or will be. Those moments make everything that has come before and everything that will come later worth it. Seeing my son as a happy, well adjusted seven year old – a boy who knows his place in the world – this makes anything else seem immaterial.

And, just like on that beautiful, painful ride through Fenton, where the sweet smell of honeysuckle was with me on every climb, every descent, every ridge and valley – the sweetness of motherhood has been there through everything for me. Just knowing that I’m a mother and holding my son in my heart reminds me that, whatever the struggle may be, whatever the temporary terror or annoyance or boredom, there is a purpose, there is a reason – I am a mother.

Happy Belated Mothers Day to all!


stronger said...

I am a mother...your writing is really coming out. Beautiful!

Bolder said...

makes me wish i was a mother.

and, a better writer.

happy belated m-day!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

aww, happy mother's day to you, m'dear! Glad you got to do something for you on your day - isn't it nice to have that option?

teacherwoman said...

What a wonderful post! I love reading them! Happy belated mother's day!

Vickie said...

Aren't we lucky people?

Donald said...

This is a great post. Sounds like you've definitely come a long way.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll try to spend a bit more time here soon.