I. A List of Who Can Stand in Front of Me, and When
Z was holding a scrap of paper at pickup the other day. From a quick glance, I saw there was a dividing line drawn down the center of the paper, with ten or so names on either side. Underneath this was another line with two names below that one, and some numbers.
“Whatcha got?” I asked, curious.
“A list of who can stand in front of me, and when.”
II. The Sad Fairy and the Broken Fairy
We have an iron garden fairy with downcast eyes and a sad expression. She was a gift from a dear friend and has lived, with her friend Hunk of Rose Quartz, on a nice stump in our yard for some time.
We are preparing to move and I brought up the fate of the sad fairy with Z: “This fairy is so sad, maybe we should leave her here for the next people and then she will get happy.” Part of me thought maybe we’d be leaving some of our travails behind with the sad fairy.
Z looked at me with horror. “No, Mama! She wants to come with us! I will take very good care of her and find her a home in our new home so she will feel better.”
Although I’d considered abandoning her as well, I also packed up the painted resin garden fairy with the broken wing.
III. Hedgehog Eyes
“That seagull is a girl,” G announced.
“How can you tell?”
“It has the eyes of a mother.”
“How can you tell?”
“Well,” G explained, “it just has a certain expression. There is a look of love in its eyes. That’s ‘the eyes of a mother.’”
This, from someone who has a hard time telling similar-looking people apart – and who generally cannot read facial or body language, we-e-ell, verymuchatall. Traits which, basically, did not fall far from the proverbial mama tree.
The first night of being Z’s mother, I looked deeply into her eyes as I tucked her in. I have never been big on direct eye contact with adults but children, especially babies, seem to look through their eyes in non-threatening/-confusing/-overwhelming ways. Z’s eyes were unfamiliar, alien, so round and black that the first thought that popped into my mind was “hedgehog.” My second thought was, those are – beyond the shadow of a doubt -- the eyes of my daughter. They were bright and a little fierce/scared like those of a wild animal that might, with care, be loved into feelings of trust and safety.
IV. Team Good
On Election Night, G was goofing around at the dinner table, cracking himself (and Pardner and me) up with talk of “Demo-Craps” and “Re-Butt-licans,”(the finer implications of which I hope escaped him). Sometimes, though, G gets “stuck,” and he would not stop saying these words despite my telling him he was not using language suitable for a seven-year-old.
Z covered her ears and, with her clear, dark, never tame but perhaps increasingly civilized eyes, looked right into mine.
“That is not appropriate, G,” she announced, holding my gaze, “and I am not listening!”
Since I am Z’s primary caregiver, she focuses a great deal of oppositional energy on me. It was such an incredibly nice feeling to have a moment where I felt she and I were so clearly on the same “team,” a brief respite where she felt safe enough to let down her defiant defenses and join with me in an effort to give her shelter – even if that shelter was merely from a grody eleven-year-old.
I think she felt it too. Later, she wrote me a letter, “thak you for that diner” [thank you for that dinner] and signed it “love form shorde” [love from Shorty].
V. The Hope of a Mother
When glimmers of empathy and Do-Right shine through the daily power struggles they are a balm for the Full Spectrum soul.
Z showed me we have plenty of love and caring to share with every member of this forever family, even those of us who might be referred to as imperfect…or inanimate.
She’s showed me that although it may take a little longer than we’d like, a frightened creature can learn to trust – and that with that trust comes the possibility of walls coming down.
I’ve begun to hope that, in the fullness of time, Z will use her substantial magnetism and undeniable, very tall and large will for the sake of goodness and justice.
I leave you with this Emily Dickinson poem about hope. It often pops into my mind both when I feel hopeless, and, like now, when I feel the power of hope.
"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Full Spectrum Mama