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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

 

 

Why do we have to do this,

asks my daughter, hoe in hand,

and I, hoe in hand, reply

that it’s good for the soil

and helps it to breathe.

 

I think about how my own thoughts

crust over, how quickly

they become impenetrable.

 

And then hoe of loss. Hoe of hope.

Hoe of disbelief. Hoe of shock.

 

Again and again,

the world breaks me open,

allows the new to come in.

 

Again and again, I resist

the change. And then marvel

at how essential it is,

the new ideas so green,

so persistent, tender as

a girl asking why.

 

 

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The Truth and What-I-Want-to-Hear

sidle up to me like two old drunks,

one wearing a heavy coat and the other

stark naked.

 

“You know,” says the one,

leaning in to whisper,

“You know you are doing thish

perfectly. You are the besht mother

there ever was. Your children

are sho lucky to have you ash their mom.

You desherve a medal. Really. A medal.”

She hiccups at the end.

 

“Don’t lishen to her,”

says the other, grabbing

my arm and tugging me strong.

“You get it wrong a lot. And even

when you do your besht,

there’sh always more to do.

You fuck it up even when you’re trying

to get it right. It’s jusht what mothersh do.”

 

And we walk like that through the alley.

And we walk like that through the store.

And we walk like that through the living room.

And we walk like that to the car.

 

And the naked one laughs like a maniac

as she tugs on my arm again.

“But you love them, don’t you,

You love them chillens. Love is never

enough. And it’s all we have.”

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First Lie

 

 

 

inside the lie

was a beautiful truth

that grew a white beard

and a giant belly

and though it preferred

to go barefoot

it stepped into shiny black boots

and moved north—

so far north that no one

could find it—

and buried itself

in snow and surrounded

itself with elves and candy

and increasingly elaborate stories,

stories so lovely that for a while

the lie began to believe itself,

until one day

a girl walked right up to it

and said to it,

Tell me the truth

and the snow melted

and the beard fell out

and the elves turned back

into evergreen trees

and the boots did their best

to erase their tracks,

and the truth stood there

naked and said,

There is so much joy

in giving,

and the girl cried

and cried,

longing for the lie.

I just want there to be real magic,

she said.

And the truth

held out its

beautiful hand

and said,

This, too, is magic.

It was years

before the girl

could listen.

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some flowers bloom

only at night,

 

so it is with certain conversations,

that open in the dark,

 

the whole room

blessed with sweetness

 

 

 

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The way the spruce tree

holds the wet snow—how

 

in a blizzard its branches

will bend and bend

 

and bend until they release—

that is the way I want to love you,

 

want to trust that I can hold

the weight of you as you fall,

 

as you continue to fall,

hold you until it seems I will break

 

and then, just when I’m sure

I can’t take any more,

 

release you back into yourself—

not in anger, not in fear,

 

not with guilt—release you

with green resilience

 

so that come the next storm

I am prepared

 

to catch you again, again,

and let you go.

 

 

 

 

 

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for Amy Irvine

 

 

I didn’t know then we were lucky,

that day when we rode down the hill

on the sleds with our kids. They were cold

 

and crying and reluctant, and the hill

was small, and the thrill was mostly

missing. And I remember you saying,

 

“There will be a day we look back on this,

and think how easy we had it, how

silly we were to think this is hard.”

 

And I remember not quite believing you

as our children continued to scream and

whine, as we dragged them inside and

 

removed their soggy mittens and boots

and socks that had fallen around their arches,

as we made them hot chocolate and

 

talked in the kitchen about sleepless nights

and two-hour tantrums and the loss

of time to ourselves. How could I have known

 

that twelve years later, how sweet that looks,

how innocent, how fun, the kids banging

on the piano, their hands sticky, their faces bright.

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We’ve heard the story of the woman

who lifted the car to save her child,

and though it is hard to believe,

 

it happens. Faced with saving a life,

we find the hysterical strength

to do what seemingly can’t be done—

 

I think of those women today,

and I think of my son, trapped beneath

the chassis of teenage torment.

 

It may not be a two-ton car, but it feels

no less urgent. We save a life in seconds

or we save a life in years—

 

of course I’d lift it right away

if such a lift were possible.

I’d hold that Chevy up until

 

he could roll right out from under.

Instead I try lifting other impossible things:

The crush of being misunderstood. The weight

 

of should. The press of daily surviving.

And I think of those mothers who lift cars.

And I bless them, and keep on trying.

 

 

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The hope that is left after all your hopes are gone—that is pure hope, rooted in the heart.

            —Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

 

And so tonight when my daughter says to me,

Mom, are you Santa Claus? I ask her if it

would make a difference, and she says, Yes.

 

I don’t want him to just be a hoax for making

kids be good. And I say, I’ve never thought of Santa

that way. I think of him as generous. And magic.

 

And she says, But magic’s not real, and I say,

Some magic is. And she says, Well, it would

make sense. You always know what we want

 

because you’re the mom. And I tell her,

It is my great privilege to work for Santa,

and she says, What do you mean? And I say,

 

Well, you know, buying presents. And she says,

Why do you think he didn’t bring us a big present

this year, like he did last year? And I hear

 

in her voice, against all fact, hope,

the hope that lingers when hope is gone,

a pure hope, the hope that goodness is real,

 

that there is generosity beyond comprehension,

that some magic is real. She rolls over in the dark.

I keep hope rooted in my heart.

 

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stepping into your heart

surprised to find a large empty chair

with my name on it—

in the dust, I write thank you,

then curl in

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And usually, at some point

in the tree trimming, when the living room

is covered in twenty-year-old tissues

and my fingers are raw from the needles

and the rest of the family

has long since tired of the project,

around then, I start to wonder

what it’s really for, all this bustle

and embellishment and then,

like today, I’ll pick up an ornament—

say the one my grandmother made

from a metal cookie cutter trimmed

in blue ribbon and angel hair,

and inside it sleep two baby figurines,

a pink one for me, a blue for my brother—

and I am weeping,

remembering how I would stare at this ornament

as a child, how beautiful it was

dangling so high on the tree

where all the more delicate ornaments would go.

I was small then, but I knew

my grandmother made that ornament

with me in mind and I loved her for her thoughtfulness.

She is gone this year, and I marvel

at how present she is in this room

as I sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

with Aaron Neville and remember singing

carols with her in the church loft,

her soprano warbling and true.

And I climb the ladder to hang

the ornament high on the tree,

where the more delicate ornaments go.

And suddenly I see it is my son and daughter

sleeping in that ornament,

there where I thought it was my brother and me.

And I think of my mother’s hands

all those years she hung that ornament

reverently, and how the spruce needles

would have pricked her, too, and I

sing with Aaron about peace to men on earth,

and some of that peace slips into me,

so silently, so silently.

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