For Mother’s Day, Joshua, Oak and Bear took me to Columbia. We stayed in a hotel, went to the mall to buy two more of the comic book series I’m currently reading (Fables), and went to Rockbridge State Park. That’s the set-up to this story.
It was the first really nice weekend of the summer. We were stopped at a red light on the way to Rockbridge and in the lane next to us sat a guy on a crotch rocket. Suddenly this roar filled the air. At least fifty bikers on similar crotch rockets flew by. As he passed, the leader of the pack waved at the biker who was waiting patiently for his light to change as if to say, “Come on, man!” The solitary biker looked at his red light, looked behind him at the still passing group of bikers, then shot into their lane to join them.
“I saw. Awesome!”
It was, too.
“Eden, what’s it like to be a mom?”
Why ask me? (That’s not what I say, but it’s definitely the first thing I think.) Why not someone else who is obviously doing a much better job, maybe even someone who was cut out for this line of work? I can name ten of those moms off the top of my head.
Why they ask isn’t the point. The point is that they do ask. Even more so, the point is that, when I tell them, they don’t believe my answer. I don’t have any motivation to lie to you. Please believe me: Being a mother is weird.
I realize that’s not what Google will tell you if you ask, but it’s true. Try to imagine this: You have this lump that breathes and eats and poops and cries. That’s all it does for three or four months. You get stressed out if it does one of these functions too much or too little because that’s really all it does. Then one day this lump smiles. You realize, “Hey, it’s not just a lump! It likes me!” Not long after that, it starts moving around when you lay it down. You think, “You know what, it’s just like a cat. I feed it, clean up after it, pet it, share my house with it…” but it isn’t like a cat because, pretty soon, what used to be a lump starts making sounds.
“That’s not so weird, eden.” Let me finish.
This thing that, just a few months ago, you were begging, “Please, just tell me what you want, I don’t understand what you want!” starts talking to you. Not just, “Feed me, hold me, change me!” Now it’s telling you things like, “That’s an animal, I like blueberries, good morning, read me this book.” Your cat has never been interested in saying anything to you except “Refill my food, pet me.” And your cat sure never got your jokes, which is what’s about to happen with this thing that used to just lay on its back and stare at you.
“I guess that’s a little weird.”
Wait! Now this thing that used to be an immobile, crying lump wants you to laugh at its jokes. It gets mad or feels disappointed. Its feelings get hurt. It smiles for no reason or makes an expression you’ve only seen on adults. It talks in its sleep. It wants to hug you. It wants to know what you’re doing. It wants you to know what it is doing.
Pets stop learning after a point. Who knows why? Maybe they’ve satisfied their curiosity with life, maybe they’re at the end of their intelligence. Whatever it is, they’re done. Babies don’t stop. They just keep going from lump to creepy-crawly to tiny person and whatever lies beyond. Watching that is weird.
When I was younger–from about junior high to my sophomore year in high school–I did this kind of end-of-the-year ritual every Dec. 31st involving lots of weird things. Sometimes they were things I was afraid of, but usually they were just things that I wanted to get done but never had. One year I finished my first book. (It took up the better part of two notebooks and was written entirely in pencil.) One year I climbed to the top of the silo. (That was 1999, I believe.) Things like that. Personal triumphs.
Why don’t I do that anymore?
Well, for one thing, I’ve seen and done a lot. Anymore, the only things that scare me are some harm coming to my family and the dark. There’s really nothing you can do for that.
Second, a personal triumph for me nowadays would be to finish washing all the dishes on the counter. As you can see, now that Oak is walking, my Time Pie-Chart is divided much differently than it used to be. I never spent much time before doing housework, but with all the time I spend now searching the house for my water bottle (which Oak for some reason likes better than Joshua’s water bottle), stopping Oak from eating cat food, and doing vague internet research to fuel my stories, there just aren’t enough degrees left in the circle.
Also, chronologically and as far as writing is concerned, I’ve grown up a lot since I finished that first book. I realize now that you can’t finish a piece in a certain amount of time, you have to finish it in its own time. If you try to rush something to meet a deadline, more often than not you’ll end up with junk. If you let it get done when it gets done, you’ll probably have a masterpiece on your hands.
Lastly, in my old age, I’ve developed a deep and passionate hatred of the cold. I don’t want to go outside in winter. I don’t even want to live in a place that has winter. So doing outside things on December 31st is out. I don’t think I even stayed up until midnight this past New Year’s Eve.