Without pretense or masks, my two boys seemed to stand so firmly in their truth. So how did I manage to frequently sidestep their system of joy? They need too many band aids, they call my name ten times in sixty seconds, they race past, knocking each other to the floor, bonking heads and crying fowl. Somewhere in the wild whirling of their childhood, I’d forgotten myself. While life was curling around their tie-dyed colors, I was sometimes lost in the gray.
Then I did it. I’d signed up for my first Women Writer’s Weekend Retreat at the New Jersey shore, called "Women Reading Aloud." I’d plunked down my wad of money (eek) and then seriously questioned my judgment. I’d never been away from my family. Who the hell am I to take a long weekend at a lovely bed and breakfast? By the beach. Alone.
Three months later, I lay on my bed at that B&B, as my eight year-old’s voice sprang through my cell phone. Spence recapped his day with his little brother and Daddy, while I pulled off my socks, finding sticky rice smashed on the sole. Earlier I’d peeled off an old Scooby-Doo band aid from the inside of my shirt. My husband had once returned from work with a teensy white baby sock clinging to his pant leg. Our children left their mark on every step we took. Every single day. Thank goodness.
Although I was enjoying Spencer’s gabbing, the night was tugging at my eyes. It’d been an exhilarating day of writing and communing with my sister-writers. Then Spence suddenly asked, “So, Mommy, are you having fun?” “Well, yes I sure am,” I said in utter surprise. He was wondering about me. That was about as new as I felt. My boys didn’t normally ask, “What would you like for lunch, Mom? Can I get you some lemonade? Do you like that book you barely get to read?” They hadn’t asked questions until then. Until I’d said Uncle.
Drained and depleted, I’d been no good to anyone. The people I loved needed my strength, my inner fire. Taking care of myself was, in fact, a great gift to my family. Until I’d stepped away, I’d almost forgotten that they needed the whole me. Not just the one chasing dust-bunny dreams. Not the one spread thin between peanut butter and bread. Not the waiter, the maid, the chauffeur and the comforter. They deserved more. So did I.
After two days at the retreat, I was feeling reconnected to the pulse of life. The oneness. I breathed in the sacred lineage: the Anastasi spirit perched in the rocky sky, the ancient Amazon warrior poised at the water’s edge. I was deep in the fossil of a pregnant mastodon, in her breath alive on an ancient wind. I was a part of all that had come before me and would flow past. Boy, I felt sappy. But wow, I felt on fire.
There far away, at the beach, I'd found a box of crayons in my heart. I realized I could marry the magic to the mundane as long as I gave my solemn promise. When I return home tomorrow, I told myself, and I’m settling an argument about who gets the bigger cookie, I will remember that I am all of it. I am both the grain of rice stuck to the bottom of my sock and the power and majesty of a mastodon.