For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Monday, March 12, 2012

Tale Tuesday: Momma's Meltdown

Well, guess what. I've had just a little, itty bitty, momma meltdown. Or maybe it was a daughter one. Because I can be as impatient with my own mother as with my kids, longing to shove her arthritic feet into her shoes rather than wait out her act of independence as she struggles with the long handled shoehorn; we can be as late for another doctor appointment, as I can be late getting my boys to school when they insist on tying their own shoes. I mean, of course they should tie their own shoes. But which can take hours....

And what mother-slash-daughter has hours? I don't, not when, after toppling the boys out the car door at school, I have the hour drive out to my mother's, to take her, after doctor appointments, slow-motion food shopping, as she can spend hours in front of the cat-food shelf ("They won't eat anything with chicken, and they don't like Friskies...."); before I can unload her groceries, bags of cat litter and Cat Chow, to then drive 80 mph to pick up the kids from after-school care without being charged the $15 late fee penalty.

But as mothering as I can be around my mother, I can be childish around my own children, as on the brink of my itty bitty meltdown; I had just called my mother as I do every day, always grateful that she actually answers the phone so I don't have her fallen, immobile, staring unblinking up at the ceiling.

Then she started to complain about her new eye-glasses; she wished she'd gotten those other frames, ones she'd left on hold at a some other optician's....Thankful she's upright and mobile, I want to hang up.

And I did. To pick up beside me an abandoned pile of knitting-in-the-round, a tangled mess that I proceeded to rip off the needles. My breathing was as shallow as when the boys fight and I'm trying not to yell.

But no one was fighting. The house was calm. Peaceful, actually. You could have heard a my $5 CVS fountain trickling if the batteries hadn't died.

My 8 year old was nibbling a cheese-stick. He took up my tangled discarded knitting clump, saying, "Hey, this is really cool." He'd never seen me knit before. Probably because I don't.

"No, it's not," I pouted. "It's stupid."

He looked shocked and confused. "Stupid" is a word he loves and I  discourage vehemently.

I wasn't kidding. I stared him down, daring him to challenge me, as only he would ever dare me.

He gave me one last look before going out the door with Daddy and his brother to Home Depot for a fun wood building workshop. Not the more typical daring or defiant look I am more apt to get. A quizzical, even frightened, look. 

That did it. Instead of cleaning out the refrigerator or putting the laundry in the dryer, instead of changing the bed sheets as I hadn't in two weeks, I crawled into the bed myself, trading my sneakers for comfy fleece socks in  the company of my beloved iPad (if only it had fur and purred), a bag of chips, and a martini with five olives. So you should know, it was 4 o'clock, near cocktail hour, if there is still such a thing in the real adult world, when you sip cocktails in cushy swank cocktail lounges, if not amongst dirty bed sheets.

So I munched, sipped, nibbled olives, surfed, Pinned, Twittered, and plugged my ear pods into Prince "Purple Rain" came on. It sent me reeling. Back to college where, with a good friend, late one night after a party, drunk, we lay out under a cherry blossom tree.

I could feel the dew in the grass seeping through my shirt. The tree had been in full bloom I was staring up through those pink petals, a brilliant, iridescent contrast against a pitch black sky, and thinking the big questions my boys now do, about what lies at the edges of that great expanse. What might be the biggest and what is the very smallest thing in the whole universe?

Back then, unhindered yet by any real responsibilities, I'd been free to indulge in such unanswerable questions and in the crazy of lying under a cherry blossom tree until we were shivering with cold. I'd been free to be careless. Carefree.

And back then as well as now, there of course had been people who loved me. And their love has made them need me, for which I am grateful. Who doesn't want to feel needed?

But as a mother, and now as a daughter to an ailing elderly mother, I am needed in ways far more fundamental; there are the very young and the very old now, who depend on me for their daily survival. As empowering as that needing can be, it can be constricting. It can leave me breathless even in a quiet house where the otherwise meditative of knitting can make me as tense as tackling tax forms.

That night of lying out in the dewy grass, as daunting as the future might have seemed, crazy had been a rite of passage. Twenty-odd years later, that cherry-blossom-tree crazy for me has morphed into retreating between dirty sheets with a bag of chips, a martini and Purple Rain, a deviant from the expected no longer a rite of passage, and the reason later, my concerned husband stuck his head in the door.

He took in the empty bag of chips and the big water goblet that had to serve as a martini glass since we didn't own any. "You
 . . .ok?

"I'm good," I said, plucking one last olive from my empty goblet. I'd sipped slowly, enjoying how the olives bobbed around, faceless fish oblivious to the dry world beyond their watery sweet martini one.

Hubby wasn't quite convinced. "Really?"

"I'm great. Really."

He didn't venture any farther into the room. "Feel like takeout tonight?"

I find comfort in how well after eleven years of marriage he is able to read me. That for the most part, at least my role as wife seems clearly defined, though I wonder what the heck I must look like to him at the end of some days, in stained shirts (no longer from newborn spit-up but my own sloppy dribbling-toothpaste-coffee-and-cookie-crumbs ways). Then I remember what he can look like to me, in his "comfy" clothes of torn T-shirts and twenty-odd year old ripped college sweatpants.

For what it's worth which finally is quite a bit I woke up the next morning feeling like, if not quite a new, at least a better, person. I was happy to cuddle with my children on the couch in that snuggling sleepy quiet time. I was happy to finally put the molding laundry into the dryer. I even anticipated changing the now crumb-filled bed sheets.

And I was happy to call my mother and assure her that she had made the right choice with her frames. Because although I am mired in responsibilities I certainly didn't have back then lying under a brilliant pink tree, my responsibilities now I would never renounce. I couldn't even if I wanted to. They are as ingrained in me as my own need to kiss my boys behind their ears as I have ever since they were babies. As my own need to reach out and kiss the top of my mother's head, her hair thinned, when I must leave her sitting on her bed to take off her shoes, before my long drive back home.

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Michele Davidson said...

BEAUTIFUL post... Made me laugh, made me empathize, made me sad, happy and reminiscent!! I have so been there, in the crumb filled bed, with wine and Prince too!! You are a wonderful daughter, mother and wife!!

Anonymous said...

This was such a wonderful post! I can really relate to it. I have six children and look out for my mom. I call her every morning at 8:15 am. And I am so grateful when she picks up that phone and I worry when she doesn't! Moldy laundry...that was funny.

I hear you loud and clear. Take care!

Raige Creations said...

Oh Sandra, how wonderful that you got to sit in your (dirty) bed and munch chips with a martini! I love martini soaked olives, even if I don't love martini's.
We all have had, and still do have, meltdowns. I remember one with beer and a mop. I couldn't lay down, the floors were so bad I had to mop, but dangit I got through it with a beer or three. My children, all three, were under the age of six at the time - how can you NOT have a meltdown?? My husband knew something was wrong. Sometimes, you just need that meltdown, and then you are yourself again.
I am glad you are feeling normal again, and next time you have the meltdown, have an olive for me. ;)

Fireman said...

Sandra as a single dad with two elderly parents I get you.

Jenn said...

Sandra--I can totally relate to your post!! I wanted to crawl in my bed with a martini as soon as I read you had done it!! If only! Glad you got to escape for awhile! Cheers, Jenn

Wylie said...

Wonderful, as always, Sandy! You are amazing! The love you pour out will surely come back to you a thousand fold. xxxxooooo

ElaineLK said...

Oh, I so identify with your "mother" issues, having spent the last few years dealing with them myself. The long-handled shoehorn, the late-for-doctor-appointments, the poking around in the grocery aisles--YES! I have been in all those situations. And I've also gotten impatient and felt guilty about it afterwards. My mother is receiving care in a facility now, which has relieved my worries a thousandfold, but I think I've become a better person for having been her caregiver for that time. I don't have children, but if I had, I might not have been able to care for her as I did. I admire you for doing it all so well.

brenda said...

I like to think each day is new.. what was broke yesterday isn't today, what hurt yesterday doesn't have to hurt today and so on.. Every day we have a chance to start over and forgive ourselves the past.. As humans we are flawed, but beautifully so, thus we trip up. The trick is to keep moving forward. At least it's a theory.

Justine said...

Stopping by from the Weekend Gathering Hop!

dbstevens said...

Lovely details. Lovely that you shared this experience. And I love that you felt better the next day...this is just so full of beautiful details. I keep going back and sighing over them :)

Shah Wharton said...

What a wonderful story to link up at my weekend creation. Thanks for that... its always great to read an inspirational story on a Sunday afternoon. :) X

erin margolin said...

loved this! i want to crawl in bed now w/ a cosmopolitan and some donuts and my laptop!

found you through Write On Edge linkup!

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Sandra, you are the typical sandwich generation woman! By the way, I work for a home care agency, it's something you might want to consider for your mom. Even just having a home health aide a few hours a day to help around the house, get her up dressed, prepare meals, might make life easier for her and you - reducing your worry and stress. Hope that helps! Lisa Weinstein

My Journey With Candida said...

I have been there done that with the elderly parents.

Thank goodness on many occasions I held my temper because they are both now gone. If I would have fought with or been mean to them, I don't know if I could live with myself today.

I do feel your stress and wish you well.

My Journey With Candida said...

Forgot to say, I am following GFC, Linky followers and google+.

I tweeted!/CandidaJourney/status/181727473891942400

I also voted on the fence.

Karena said...

Wonderful writing; I really enjoyed this. Somethings we do need to just "check out"!

Please come and join my new Fashion Giveaway from Fresh Produce!

Art by Karena

Imelda said...

I do not have the responsibilities that you have but I have my meltdowns. That martini and surfing and munching in bed just seem so juvenile and soooo perrrrrfect, only I'd change martini to ice cream. :-))

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