Autumn Beckons Again

Posted on July 29, 2014

Funny how year after year, autumn laps at my toes long before it seems it should arrive. This morning it came with the first sip of my coffee. Memories of bringing Briar home washed over me and I was back at our first house, the light through the window and the smells around me all from 2004.

FallFAB

Reposting this from three years ago. 

 

I’m five and heading off to Harris Elementary School to meet Miss. Thompson.

I’m eleven and figuring out what separation and divorce really mean.

I’m thirteen and poring over Seventeen Magazine, devouring how Jennifer Connelly, fresh off Labyrinth, is mixing plaid and tweed.

I’m fifteen with butterflies thinking this is the year I’ll stop being awkward.

I’m eighteen and leaving for Spain.

It never fails, when autumn blows that first, faint kiss at late summer, my knees go weak, my heart opens wide and I am reminded of how this transition always pulses in a way others don’t. My delight in the first snowfall is sweet, as is my relief when the ice finally melts. Spying the first crocus is exciting, but it’s only with fall that the air crackles.

Barely a month from now Avery will head off to kindergarten, she is actively pushing away from me when I say things, contradicting, correcting or begrudgingly admitting that, “Maybe we’re both a little right.” Briar is chirping about “best friends” and wondering about life as a sibling on the school yard. Finley will got back to the pre-school, but she’ll do it without diapers or a sister.

I feel a calmness, simliar to labor, knowing that what is ahead will come regardless of how I respond. Easing into the waves, whispers though they still are, is the only way to be more a part of the newness than the death. We’ve passed a winter, spring and summer to arrive at this crossroads and it is with utter equanimity that I reflect upon what they’ve held and the preparedness with which they launch us into the season ahead.

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.
~John Donne

Testing Body Image

Posted on July 21, 2014

We were sprawled out in the backyard. Sean was spraying the big girls down with a hose and Finley was devouring a sandwich in a lawn chair. The cat and dog were at our sides, both seemingly delighted that we were spending the day in a way that they could be with us. As the grass began to get soppy Sean passed the hose to Briar and Avery and gave them a three minute warning.

“Three minutes and the hose is done!”

“Okaaaaaaaay!” the girls screeched. Briar was in a purple and black suit, Ave a black rashguard with paint splatter accents and matching bottoms. They darted this way and that, their bodies shiny. Briar’s legs are long and slender, the stretch from knee to hip impossibly long. Avery is all muscle and power, her torso echoes mine in its endlessness. I watched as they would stop to swing their hair like a weapon, shooting sprays of water before slapping audibly against their skin.

“That’s it. Water’s off!” Sean called. “Popsicles?”

They bolted for the door, stopping briefly to flick blades of grass from the bottoms of their feet, which are nearly identical in size and shape. Sean looked my way, cocked his head and said, “You happy?”

A lump threatened deep in my throat and I felt the sting of tears that could come if invited. “Perfect.” He smiled and walked inside. I sat quietly as the girls happily ate popsicles. “Mom is it ok that I already had a frozen yogurt today?” Briar asked. I nodded. “Here’s the thing about summer, when you are running and playing and just moving your body and breathing fresh air all day, you need fuel. It’s ok if you have a few popsicles as long as you eat some other stuff too. Better hurry, it’s going to melt.” She beamed.

As they finished their treats and popped the sticks and wrappers in the bin, they gathered around me, not wanting the time together to end. Finley asked to crawl on my lap “frontwards”.

She began absentmindedly touching my stomach. It would seem contradictory that I am comfortable wearing a bikini, but that having my tummy touched makes me nervous. It does. I work very hard in these moments not to flinch or say, “No, no, don’t touch me there.” Is it the right thing? Should I let her know my tummy is a me-zone? Or is it just my stomach and I am way overthinking this? I have no clue.

On this perfect Sunday I did not flinch, I did not let the feelings of discomfort overwhelm me, I just took in the moment of touch, so reminiscent of those early nursing years. And then…

My nervousness crescendoed as she squeezed my skin together. Her fascination had nothing to do with anything related to body image or fat, it was entirely about creating something from nothing that entertained her. It felt almost as if I were a witness to it, rather than a participant and I saw it for what it was; love.

We have time to develop skills related to good touch and bad touch. We can concentrate on honoring how people want to be treated and touched. I understand these are responsibilities I have as a parent, but yesterday it felt like the lesson was for me. Sometimes my body is just my body, not a contest, not a measurement of worth. Letting go of the panic of whether my skin moves in a certain way when I move leaves a far greater capacity for having fun than I knew I was capable of having.

photo

It was something that I needed to learn. I’ll never know if it taught the girls anything, but it did change me and I am so grateful.

The Saying Goes…

Posted on July 14, 2014

Years ago in my carpentry days I worked with a guy named Clay. He was from North Carolina and had the kind of drawl that authors take paragraphs to bring to life until it becomes the cadence of your very thoughts. As we would work feverishly in the scene shop at Delftree building sets for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, we’d take smoke breaks and bitch breaks. One late night walking toward the loading dock Clay said, “This whole thing makes about as much goddamn sense as going through your asshole to get to your belly button.”

That saying has stayed with me because I’ve built a life on doing things the hard way. Whether it’s insisting on doing something myself, adjusting my plan to defer to others who shouldn’t really influence my path, or simply refusing shortcuts. I don’t regret it, in fact you can learn a lot by doing things the hard way. The flip side is that you can gain a lot by not taking the hardest path. Given my focus on trying to create a healthy template for my girls, I am hoping to get a little more comfortable with embracing easier ways.

Between the saying “You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy” and “Fuck ‘em” I think there is a new route. It can work for those who know the hard way intimately and those who don’t.

 

Wishing you bends in the road and shifts in perspective to get you to your best place.

 

Mountains

A Good Fit

Posted on July 12, 2014

There are some milestones that I have breathlessly watched for—first steps, “mom”, reading, riding a bike. I rejoice as the girls achieve them and some times find myself a bit crestfallen at how much they make me ache. Over the past few months I’ve realized that we’ve reached a new one and it terrifies me. All three girls are sitting on an axis that is tilting them toward a new realm that involves unabashed worship of kids older than they are.

I can see it in the trance-like effect of movies, the absolute silence that comes over them when we pass a group of teenagers, the way their necks crane when we pass the neighbor’s house that is always peppered with boys playing basketball without shirts. They quietly posture, affecting poses to look older. Finley is less fluid, the exaggerated swiveling of her hips more comical than anything, but her sisters not so. They are devouring each teen sighting as if they’ve been assigned a character study in theatre.

Models

Just last week I watched Avery as she quietly ate a Freeze Pop and watched a crew of teenage girls of all sizes race around a pool. I wish that I didn’t, but I found myself thinking, “I’m so glad that she’s just eating a popsicle. I don’t want the day to come when it becomes about calories and whether or not she deserves it.” I watched the girls too. They went from launching themselves off of the diving board to riding four wheelers to tearing around the yard hurling one-liners at one another. I found myself thinking how glad I was that they were such great role models, but then I remembered how much testing and experimenting is done at that age. They aren’t supposed to be perfect role models; they need to do dumb things. Testing the waters of sexuality and rebellion is critical, how do you not watch like a hawk and impede those instincts that they have to try things, fail or triumph, and learn to deal with either outcome?

I have no idea what to do, how loudly to speak, or how plainly to display my dismay over certain things. All three girls are obsessed with the song Timber. Some people might judge me for letting them listen to a song like that, but the reality is there are so many hours of the day that I don’t monitor, can’t monitor. The truth is they knew the lyrics to the song (with some comical errors) before I’d even heard it. Cafeteria? Movie? I have no idea where they learned it, but they did. Am I supposed to go into what some of the words may mean? Am I supposed to say that they can’t listen to Kesha? Or do I tell them that she is a great cautionary tale of how things can derail and that it’s never too late to change something?

The truth is I hate so much of what may be ahead. The size wars—it took me thirty years to not judge myself for my size ten feet or for knowing that I’ll never be below a size 28 in designer jeans and that in many stores, despite being skinny, they just don’t carry my size. I’m only just now ok with buying a size large shirt to accommodate my shoulders. The apologizing for every little thing? It’s maddening. The threat of assault, the doubt, the judgment. The focus on women aging and the sustained critiquing over whether or not you still have it. Being too vocal, too aggressive, dressing too this way or that way. It’s like a lifetime penance for playing with dolls, we’re treated like dolls—don’t dress like that, don’t say that, fit into a tidy model, you aren’t smart enough for that.

I am rambling, which I think is normal. I have three daughters to raise in a world that I am still trying to figure out myself. How do I teach them not to be overly concerned about image when it still matters to me? How do I give them license to love themselves, to enjoy feeling pretty or sloppy when I still berate myself for not being able to do certain things? Can it be taught to embrace all paths—boys who cry, boys who don’t, girls who are curvy and girls who are flat? Do I teach them what I’ve learned about scanning a room to know whether it’s safe to say a certain thing or not? Do I express my hope that they don’t grow up to start a massage parlor and salon in LA called The Jolly Fox or do I delight in the fact that they are imaginative and driven?

PhotoBooth

 

I suppose that we all just have to take it day by day and allow ourselves the same forgiveness as we too experiment with boundaries. Maybe the secret is honoring a five second delay before I launch into my opinion on something.

 

Waiting a moment before judging can’t be a bad thing for anyone, right?