Mamahood is a lot of trial and flotsam error.
wild and weird
sober monotony with psychedelic pauses
crying in an awkward place because you didn’t have the luxury of doing it sooner.
Take, for example –
Last January on a sunny snow-day my kids declared that we never do anything fun! They wanted to go sledding. I grew up in pitiful warm Decembers, drooling over Charlie Brown Christmas Specials. It doesn’t take much to twist my arm.
The whole family loaded into our flashy mini-van and set out for the local community college on a high perch overlooking an ideal sledding hill. The perch is very wide, distinguished by a steep climb on the left which I call Frikin’ Scary, and the gentler, less steep face which I call the Charlie Brown.
I like the later – this is the section for toddlers in football helmets, swaddled by middle-aged over protective mothers. Meanwhile Frikin’ Scary is where you find college kids, open containers, and the occasional torn condom wrapper.
An adventure seekers cornucopia!
Two years ago I got the nerve to slide down Frikin’ Scary and realized that sledding can actually be painful – not at all like Charlie Brown. It felt like I had become our flashy mini-van, hitting every pothole, going sixty. So, when my 14-year old pleaded with me,
“Mama, PLEASE, go sledding with me over there!,”
I abruptly said,
Unfortunately, he inherited my obnoxious ability to repeat a request until it starts to sound reasonable.
Now, before I go on, I should let you know that I’ve been on lots of guilt trips in my career. I know that most moms are frequent flyers. It starts with choosing the right brand of pre-natal vitamins and never really ends. Teenagers are expert at choosing the right moment to take us for a guilt flight. They zero in like a fox tracking a furry bunny rabbit and then WHAM, pounce.
“Mama,” he said putting a hand on my shoulder and looking softly into my eyes, “Please go with me. You never do anything fun with me.”
Pretty soon I was huddled on the top of Freakin’ Scary in an over-priced bright green, plastic saucer purchased at Sports Authority the day before a historic blizzard blew into our town. I scooted myself off the brink of no return. Half way down my plastic green Sputnik drifted into a snowboarding ramp, fashioned by an inebriated, thrill-seeking college kid who can afford to bust his tail because he doesn’t need to drive through the mommy-line five days a week. Neither does he need to lift a 60-pack flatbed of juice boxes from the Costco shelf while commandeering a double-wide cart stocked with more boxes of frozen salmon, Go-Gurts, Marvel underwear, a giant patio umbrella, and a lifetime supply of post-it notes!
I flew up into the air not like Wonder Women, and for the landing instinctively stretched out my right arm, which would have worked just fine if I was Elastigirl Mom from The Incredibles. But, no, I’m Ordinary Mom just flying on another guilt trip.
So, instead of SWOOSH, the impact went more like SWACK! I hit the hard-packed snow on my left side and slid down further on my face which bled and eventually scabbed, giving me the appearance of a battered Muslim woman. Oh dear.
When I stopped sliding, it occurred to me that I was hurt as indicated by the dizziness, nausea, and my arm felt like a cocktail of fire and apathy. It was a dangling exclamation mark.
It was a Charlie Brown Christmas Special meets Chainsaw Massacre.
Fast forward seven weeks later and I’ve got my hijab tucked under a shower cap about to be stabbed three times in the shoulder for a necessary procedure called Shoulder Arthroscopy.
The anesthesiologist tells me to sit back and relax. Yeah right! I’d rather be at home watching Charlie Brown with my kids. She puts a Top-Gun mask over my face. I’m about to fly. Yee-ay!
She tells me:
“I’m going to put something in your IV. Some people like this sensation. Some people don’t.”
Alright. This should be interesting.
I don’t like it at all. It makes the room spin. It makes me feel, OH MY LORD, like the time two years ago I was living in Morocco and nearly died from gas inhalation because I had come from the land of personal-injury attorneys and product-recall posters.
I thought I’d never see my kids again.
Next thing I know a sweet voice calls out to me,
“You are all finished.”
Her voice is like honeysuckle when it first wafers into the warm air. Not at all like the nurse in Morocco who sat for a half hour telling me every gory detail of every story she had known wherein the person doesn’t escape gas inhalation.
Then, I start to cry, cry, CRY.
Cry because I’m alive.
Cry because I’m going to see my kids again.
Cry because I know precisely what it feels like to brace for death and I can’t un-know that now. Ever.
It’s not even minutely about the bucket list. It’s about the kids. The plea to go on for them. The horror that they will go on alone. Their father’s sadness.
Cry for the guilt because I was helpless to protect my little boy who stayed behind with me. He jumped up and down hyper from the effects of the silent, scentless gas crying “Mama, Mama!” Then his eyes rolled back and he dropped unconscious and pale while I screamed. My own equilibrium slipped. I could not open the window. I could not find the key, then, I couldn’t manage to force it into the lock. The building was empty. Why wasn’t anyone coming? No one could hear me. “Look at Mama! Look at me, dammit! Look!! Open your eyes!!” I eventually dragged him down three flights of stairs in my own stupor, begging God for another chance. He will die. Begging. Begging.”I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! Please look at me!!!”
Even under the haze of lingering anesthesia I am too ashamed to tell that part.
Cry like I should have cried for a few weeks when it happened.
Cry…cry….like I am not actually surrounded by a room full of strangers wearing a surgical shower cap and a pair of blue dog-print courtesy socks! And in front of the only male physician I’ve ever had in my entire life besides my 85 year old pediatrician back in 1985!
Now this man is highly skilled and exceedingly comforting as he patiently listens to my entire saga, but in all likelihood, he wants to go home to his wife and kids because it’s Friday and I’m his last case of the day.
I imagine him hollering: We got a crier on AISLE EIGHT!! Clean up!!!!
I try desperately to access my verbal filter and dust it off. It’s there, but I can’t seem to locate it in the haze of opioids. I berate myself and try to stop crying, but I just can’t. No filter whatsoever. I can’t stop.
Where is my husband? Why doesn’t he waltz in here, see me crying, and try to cure it with a ripped-off line from the “Lion King”?! Like the time I cried after nursing my last child, and after a deep pause, he said: “It’s the circle of life.” To which I replied, “What the $%$&!??!”
Now, my husband is the best guy – very courteous to details if ever I fall sick, still, he has this fingernails-on-chalkboard habit of offering generic comfort,
which in turn ticks me off,
which in turn makes me forget why I was crying in the first place.
Later, at my follow-up appointment, this good-guy physician consoles me with a hilarious story about the time he woke up from anesthesia and grabbed his doctor from the collar because of the pain. A friend consoles me about the time she woke up and asked if her husband “had sold all the goats.” I had a good laugh, but none of their stories actually took the sting out of bearing my soul to a Friday afternoon surgical suite.
After several weeks of hindsight (and an hour-long stint hiding from my unsuspecting kids at home in the back row seat of our van, avoiding bodily contact with a newly discovered chewing gum wad, while desperately falling over the edge, into the ear of my long time friend – telling all the untold), I thought to myself – it’s a good thing.
It happened for a reason. I got a two-for-one! I really needed that cry. Why not in a surgical shower cap with a little spit running down my chin? The whole hilarious spin and re-telling of it started to take the sting out of that pain. The suffering out of the pit of my stomach. The guilt off my chest.
Mamahood is wild and weird…
….pleasure and pain.
…honeysuckle and sadness.