The lights in the living room are dim. My feet are up on the coffee table and a chilled glass of wine in hand. The room is quiet. The monitor is perched beside me emoting the childrens’ snores. My darling husband is downstairs playing his favorite computer game. My new happy place is having the TV to myself. I click on the PVR and select the next Oprah episode with a touch of sadness. This is the final week of The Oprah Winfrey show. She is moving on after 25 years. I first discovered her show shortly after my mom died in 1984. After her death I would let my sister and myself in after school. We would do our homework in front of the TV tuned into Oprah. Watching her every day after school became such a comfort to my being a latch-key kid. She would offer kindness, compassion and teach me the ways of the world just like my mom had done. Watching her today, now being a mom myself, has taken on a whole new meaning. I have learned parenting information and have been entertained while my babies napped in my arms. Learning from Oprah has been a part of my happy places for all this time. Now it’s almost time to say goodbye, and part of my ten-year old self feels like its saying goodbye to my mom again. I know it’s silly, but its how I feel. I love this era where a beautiful black woman runs her own network, a black young man runs the US and a white woman runs our province in Canada. All of the generations of our ancestors have fought for, and won progress in this world. Anything is possible to achieve. I can’t wait to see what history my daughters will make. I see the red lights light up on the monitor with the collective snores from my girls and I smile. A calm washes over me that lift a load off my shoulders. It dawns on me that there is no sadness to saying goodbye to a tradition that has been a part of me for so long. It’s about closing a chapter and opening a new one is what Oprah has taught me. Thank you Oprah. See you on OWN.
I hit the road after the tea. I breathe slowly as I turn the corner to pick up my younger daughter from the neighbor’s house. With all my trepidation about leaving her, my older daughter loved having me to herself. The Tea went great. The songs the class performed were beautiful. The tea and strawberry shortcake at the tiny tables was precious. I felt very guilty that all the while I was having time at the pre-school, I had one eye on the clock.
I place the homemade gift my pre-schooler made in class for me on the passenger seat. The bookmark with her picture and drawing is the best gift I have ever received. Her pride shined so bright when she handed it to me. It washed away my worry and mixed guilt that has plagued my heart once the invite came home from school. I knew I owed her this time. Life is too busy trying to balance it all.
I do trust the house that is taking care of my younger girl. In fact, we are trading play dates and taking care of her younger child that afternoon, that way she can take her son to the afternoon tea. I felt such a worry during the whole hour. I pictured her crying and wailing looking for me. I left her quickly to not have a long good-bye. In my pocket was my cellphone which I discreetly checked frequently.
With all my restraint, I carefully parked the car in their driveway and locked the car. I ran up the stairs and tapped on the door. My ear is on high alert expecting to hear her cries. Silence. My neighbor answers and invites me in to stay for a bit. I go up the stairs scanning to where she is.
I say hello as she races by to the next box of toys. The other kids say hello to me. All three kids are playing with delight. After talking for a few minutes my daughter realizes I am there and clings onto my legs motioning to be picked up. I squeeze her tight looking for any signs of a red face. Seeing none, I breathe with a huge sigh of relief. She is okay. I let her down so she can play a bit longer.
We say our goodbyes and pack up in the car. I slip into the driver’s side and look back at her. Her happy face is the balm on my heart. She was, and is okay. I back out of the driveway and laugh at myself. After all that worry of accepting help, we are both just fine. By accepting a helping hand I broke out of my comfort zone.
The dawn breaks the night sky
Awakening the birds to sing their songs
I rock in the creaky brown chair
In my arms my miracle sighs
I ponder in my sleepy fog my past
Regrets and guilt of memories flood in
Reliving the pain like it was yesterday
Despite personal growth and amends I ache
My baby stirs and grabs on tighter
With her breath on my neck brings me back to the present
The sun peeks out from the blinds to say morning
Slowly my shoulders lift as my heart lightens
A new day, a new start to make this life right.
The time on my computer says 7:10am. I click off my computer with a heavy heart. My cheeks are burning with shame and part exhaustion. I just read an email from a client about all the mistakes I made on the last batch of work. I crumble with the humiliation of my unprofessionalism for mistakes I should have known better. My weariness weighs heavy on my shoulders. I deprecate myself as to why I said I could have done the job when I should have said no.
My plate is full with taking care of my kids, along with my sister who is healing from two surgeries, is more than enough for two people. I look around the kitchen from my seat at the table. My computer is closed in front of me. The dishes from last night’s snack still visible in the sink. The glass in the kitchen window betrays its neglect. I spy my preschooler’s snack bag on the counter and jump realizing I had forgotten to fill it. My kids will be up soon. I pass by the calendar and see that once again the day is full for us.
After the school scramble is complete and I have my youngest nestled in her car seat, we are on our way to pick up a few groceries to take over to my sister’s. At a stoplight, my mind’s eye reminds myself of my poor work. The tears try to break through the fake front I show the world. It was not worth it saying yes. I was kidding myself to think that I could do it all. In the process, I have no time for me. I am not a happy mama, or wife, or sister.
I pass through the day like a zombie. I shake my head to myself thinking of the irony if my child tried to do it all, I would tell her to say no. It is so hard to say no. It cost me my over-spent energy to be wasted when I could be freer to live lighter. In retrospect, I would have said no. It cost me a scar on my reputation and being grumpy for my time with my youngest.
After delivering the treats to my sister, we are once again on our way to pick up my preschooler. I feel a bit lighter already. I make amends to my client via email with honesty on what went wrong. I get a kind email back. While I may not get more work from there, I feel better that I at least connected again since my failure. Lessoned learned, I tell myself. Saying no can be the smartest thing I can ever do for my sanity and family.
Through the magic of Twitter and blogging I was very fortunate to receive an invitation from Angela Saclamacis of Disney to attend the media launch of the new cruise ship Disney Wonder. Being a mom of two young daughters I jumped at the chance to go. On the Skytrain commute into town I reminded myself to be professional. I was excited to get out of the house let alone spend the day with Disney Cruise Lines.
I stepped off the train and drunk in the sight of the Disney Wonder for the first time. I stood stunned at its majestic glory. I have never been on a cruise ship before.
As I checked in, I read all about the cruise. This vessel’s destination is Alaska for the summer. Guests will enjoy breathtaking vistas, wildlife and all the customs of the native culture. When on route they will experience a vacation that only Disney can create. From the various kids clubs, the pools, the Broadway style shows and nightlife for the parents when the kids are asleep, families can reconnect and recharge.
Before we were about to go on a guided tour and enjoy lunch, one more special captain had to say hello.My professional exterior crumbled inward to my eight-year-old self when Mickey and his friends came to say hi. I never have been this close to anything Disney. It was as if Tinkerbell was right there spreading her pixie dust.
The detailing in the design and finishing, the iconic Ariel statue, the activities for families to play together or have time apart, I was hooked. Disney really knows how to make us all treat their guests to feel like we are VIPs.
The day came to a close and I had to say good-bye, for now.
Looking around the toy-crowded room, hearing all the animated chatter, I feel like I am home. Only it is not my home but that of a play date. My two-year-old and four-year-old daughters are running crazy with their friends. My eyes drink in their delight. I hope I have learned to change my background for them.
I had many friends growing up in school and the sports teams I played on. That all changed when I was ten years old and my mother died when she was 38 of breast cancer. Overnight I was the motherless kid at the playground. I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. Classmates whispered and pointed at me like I was a circus freak. Invites to their house became a rare jewel in my bleak childhood.
I entered my adult years with only my husband by my side. Years meshed into each other and I relied on very few people. Friends came and went at a distance. I never I felt like I truly belonged anywhere.
Then, by a medical miracle, I got pregnant. I was scared, as I didn’t know how to raise a baby. I did not have my mother to rely on. I read as much as I could and attended pre-natal classes. Our small circle of friends were of no help having not been parents themselves. There were no cousins to pave the way.
When our daughter was 2 ½ months old, I flipped through a pamphlet from the local health unit advertising the New Mommy and Me classes. I remember looking at her in her rocking chair and realizing I owe her an outside world, especially since she is an only child. She needs friends.
It is now four years later and we have been through more pregnancies, some losses and different jobs. I trust these 13 women with my rants, my respect and my kids. I give them my support and get support back. We all go weeks or even months without seeing each other due to schedules. Yet, when we get together it is like it was just yesterday we had seen each other.
My two-year-old waddles up to me and grabs my legs in a hug. As her friend runs past she de latches and follows in hot pursuit. All this time I never felt like I belonged anywhere. That could be why I fill my children’s schedule with many social opportunities. We do not have a lot of family around. The empty void gets filled when we go play with friends. My oldest loves these times with the kids she has known since birth. I see her across the room asking our hostess kindly if she can have some goldfish crackers. With a few munches, she runs away to play hide and seek.
Motherhood has changed how I used to socialize or stay in solitaire. Becoming a mom, taking eyes off myself and putting them on my children, has matured me to be more outgoing and fearless. I am unable to give my kids many living family members, but I can give them the gift of friends. That motivation has pulled me to do what is right for my kids. Giving them the social skills early on will help them be more comfortable in the outside world. In turn, it has forced me out of the house frequently to prevent the chill of isolation from setting in.
I spy my oldest darling across the room helping a younger playmate reach a toy they wanted. A strong feeling of pride washes over me like a warm ocean breeze. I am not a great baker or cook or housekeeper, but I am their mom who yearns to give them different life tools. Motherhood has made me a better person.
The look on my four-year-old daughter’s face says it all. She just handed me an invite in the shape of a tea cup with her hand written letters on the front, “Mommy.” It invites me to the pre-school’s Mother’s Day Tea for the first hour of class. At the bottom in italics, No siblings please. My heart sank. Without thinking, I told her I would go if I can find someone to stay with her younger sister. Her face fell to the ground.
We make our way out the door and my shaky hands give away my emotions. One of the teachers stops me to ask what is wrong. I tell her I don’t know if I can go because I have no one that can take care of my youngest. Her voice is filled with confusion as she is asking me if there was not an aunt or a grandma around to take her. We have no one, I inform her. I push the stroller to the side walk and move on. On the walk home all I could do to stop crying was to bite my cheek.
Just when I think I can move forward in the small village that we are raising our daughters in, this harmless invite shreds it to pieces. My husband works during the day and with some out-of-town trips. The little family we have close is still on the mend for cancer-prevention surgeries. There is no one to turn to when I need the kids watched for five minutes, let alone an hour. My mom has been gone a long, long time and my mother-in-law lives in the next province. It’s just how it is. I work at home with them near. They run all my errands with me. Despite the bad days, the good ones show what a great trio we make.
I settle my girls into the kitchen table for lunch. Facing the kitchen window, I run the tap to drown out the tears that are racing down my cheeks. I cannot not be there for her tea. It is not her fault there is no one to watch over her sister. In a fit of raw emotions, I post a picture of the invitation on Facebook at the unfairness of it all. I urge my Facebook friends to hug their moms tight. Within minutes, I am overwhelmed at the kindness and offers to sit with my youngest so I can go to the tea. After a sip of water, my rational side takes over. I have two offers from friends who would love to take my two-year-old for the hour. I can work this out.
Feeling much calmer, I tell my four-year-old that we can go with her to the Tea. Her whole face lights up as she runs up to me. She timidly asks if it will be just the two of us. I nod and give her a bear hug.
It’s just an hour, but will be a lifetime memory for my eldest and I.
I am standing in the hallway with my teacher, who is explaining to me that I can do my book report in the library. I shake my head saying that I want to stay in the classroom.
“The class is working on their Mother’s Day projects. I thought you would be more comfortable doing something else.” He can’t even look me in the eye.
I mumble. “Ok “and slink back into the classroom to get my notebook and book materials. I avoid the looks from the other students. My cheeks feel like they are bright red. I close the door behind me and walk down the hallway to the library. I look around and find a quiet corner to work. Spreading out my things I feel so alone. With that, I miss my mom so hard it hurts.
She has been only gone less than a year and it feels like it was yesterday when I last saw her. She was in her hospital room and couldn’t talk. Breast cancer took her from me and my sister. I pause to wonder what the rest of my class is making. I remember making her a homemade card in my Grade 5 art class. I gave it to her at dinner which she loved. I didn’t know it would be our last Mother’s Day together then.
As if overnight , my friends faded into the sidelines. I was the freak who didn’t have a mom. No one knew what to say or do when they were around me. My teachers excused my poor grades because my mom had died. I try to smile my way through the days when all the while I just want to go back to how life used to be.
A classmate enters the library to tell me I can come back. I realize I never even did any work. I collect my books and follow him, enter the classroom behind him. My eyes dart around the room to see what they had made. I couldn’t see anything. It was as if Mother’s Day didn’t exist anymore.
I guess it doesn’t for me anymore.