I’ve done a lot of things later than other people. Went back to school at 32. Began teaching at 35. Had twin boys at 48. Finished my first novel at 55.
Some people say age is just a number. Some people call me crazy. I would agree with ALL those people. Age is just a number and I think I’m insane.
There’s a reason folks have kids when they’re in their 20s and 30s. Kids run you ragged (and in your earlier decades you have more energy to run before you find yourself ragged).
Our family is currently in the raggedy-ass stage. From football to basketball to soccer and theater and dance… we’re coming undone.
And then there’s that teaching gig I have.
Because there’s also a reason teachers retire at 52. Students. So. Many. Students. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I really, really do. But finding grace and patience for 160-plus 18-year-olds shuffling their way through senioritis in the last semester of the school year is almost more than a body can take.
Thank God Spring Break is arriving soon.
And then there’s that writing gig I have. If you can call it a gig. It’s more of a goal. A long shot. But I’m the queen of long shots. Everything I do is a Hail Mary.
I shoot for the moon. I go long. I have twin babies at 48. I finish writing books I began 20 years earlier at 55.
When I say I go long, I’m not kidding. My days begin at 5:30 AM and nearly every single second of every single one of them is devoted to tending twins and teaching students and doing laundry and cooking dinners and grading essays and loving the most wonderful and supportive husband this world could possibly comprehend. He keeps me sane.
He keeps me sane so I can then go edit my story in the small spaces in between the chaos. The smallest margins imaginable. But then, that’s where Hail Marys thrive. In the impossible spaces. The thinnest of margins.
Where my nerves and energy and patience live too.
But then, so do the miracles. That’s where they’ve been made manifest — in the impossible margins. Fueled by love and faith. So much love and faith.
Like this book of mine. All 400 pages of it. Made in the spaces between. The spaces I’m still using to whittle it down to perfection so its ready for an agent and the world. Ready to toss it out there into infinity.
I’m going long. May it find a place to land inside those thin, impossible – oh so possible! – margins. Because I may be insane, but I’m also blessed. With miracles.
Something’s gone wrong with me. I’m impatient. Inadequate. Unmoved.
I roll my eyes at people who deserve my patience. My sympathy. My empathy. Where has my empathy gone?
It’s like I’ve suddenly been remade of a very fragile substance. Like I’ve been through the fire and have cooled and turned crisp. Like glass, thin and sharp. Like peanut brittle, but without sweetness. Like dried bones.
Who am I anymore?
Is this what mourning is like? Distancing myself from every feeling so I don’t shatter into jagged bits that will cut someone?
Because I really think I could. Cut someone. If pressed.
I always thought mourning was feeling everything. Feeling it all so hard and so sharp that it stole your breath and left you drowning in a dense sea of emptiness built from never-ending tears.
But me, I’ve only truly cried once. The night I buried him. Cried in a fetal position in the floor of my closet until I thought I would vomit — not just the contents of my stomach, but my stomach itself. Cried until bile ran through my veins and tear ducts. Until my intestines flipped and twisted into a knot and wrung out the tears, said, ENOUGH, and sent them packing.
After that, I cooled.
And backed away. Pushed anything and anyone away who tried to make me talk about it, made me try to feel it.
Leave me alone. Let me alone. Let me.
Who the hell are you to ask me how I’m doing, anyway? Who the hell are you? You have no right to this pain.
I’m not sharing it with you. I’m not even sharing it with me. It is sacred and not to be touched. It is strangled deep inside my sigmoid colon where it needs to stay. Contained. Lest I shit all over you.
Lest I cut you with it, too.
Distance. I need distance. I’ve needed it for the last seven months.
I’ve put everything and everyone beyond arm’s length. So I don’t get touched. Touch. Feel. I can’t handle it.
But I know I can’t stay like this forever. I need to get back to what I do. Teaching. Writing. Motherhood. Feeling.
I’ve always been good at these things. At motherhood and writing and teaching. And feeling.
But I’m still so brittle. So frangible. So far away from who I am.
How do you teach like this? How do you awaken the minds of your charges when you are terrified to reawaken your own?
And how do you write like this? Without digging deep? Without dipping into dark, muddy shit.
And Motherhood. It’s impossible to mother without shit. Without getting cut. Without feeling.
I’m an imposter right now. This is not who I am.
But one-half of the people who made me is now gone. And the person I was came unmoored. And sank. And is buried somewhere in my twisted reality.
And when I start digging for her, I face hard questions. Not the Did you love me? questions. Because I know he did. I truly, deeply know he truly, deeply did.
But the other hard questions. The shitty ones.
The Were you ever really proud of me? and Did you ever really know me? ones. The Did you ever really even want to know me — like who I was, not who you wanted me to be? questions.
All the dark complexities of being a daughter in a patriarchal papa’s world kind of questions.
Will I ever be less brittle? Feel less brittle? Feel?
Will I be able to reignite the flame that got doused, strangled somewhere inside my intestinal fortitude? Get back to the warm-blooded me who is flexible enough to teach my students the way they should be taught? To mother my children the way they should be and deserve to be mothered? To write about the things I want to write about, that I should write about, that deserve to be written about. To search for the answers to the questions I manage to write out, but still can’t write about. Can’t write through.
Is there a way to tap back into the life forces that pull me through this universe when a major life force in my universe has tapped out?
It’s all so complicated… and so different from what I expected.
I woke up this morning at 4:14. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep. I’m beyond exhausted. I feel like the soggy bits at the bottom of a garbage disposal… all churned up and left to be washed away. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there tossing and turning, trying to quiet my mind. My mushy, damp, mushroom filled mind.
It wallows in darkness all the time now. After all, this is the year of living with mortality. From the five hundred thousand and counting deaths due to Covid, to the traumatic cardiac event that cost my father his life, to the long-suffering, slow loss of my aunt, it has been a tough year.
I was going try to fight through the wakefulness this morning. Try to lie there, mind churning, stirring and slicing my thoughts, leaving me anxious and exasperated. But then I remembered the article I read this week… about how we need quiet time, Me Time. Time with no interruptions, no pressing obligations (well, they’re there… but nothing can really be done about them at 4 AM), and how those simple solitary hours can be some of the most important, and most difficult, to find. Especially for a 54 year- old grieving daughter and niece, who is also the mother of twin soon-to-be-seven year old sons, as well as adult daughters, who still pull at the strings of my heart and the thoughts in my mind, no matter how grown they get. Plus, I’m the wife of a coach getting geared up for spring ball, and the teacher of 160-plus students. In a pandemic year. All of this. In a pandemic year.
Let me say, this year has shown me why teachers retire after 30 years. I get how if you start your career straight out of college, a dew-skinned, wide-eyed, tenderfoot, that by the time you hit 52, you’re spent. You’ve developed thick skin, side-eyes, and calloused heart. (Let it be known I work hard every single day not to let my heart grow hard. My conscience is a pumice stone, grinding away the calcium deposits and thick skin. But also let it be known that tenderness makes my job way harder. It leaves me wide open to wounds and weeping.)
But alas for me, I was never a 22 year old teacher. I am a product of a nontraditional trajectory: back to school at 32, graduated at 34, 20 years a teacher, and way beyond spent. Emotionally and mentally.
And I know it’s not all teaching that’s done it to me — because my nontraditional trajectory didn’t stop at my late-blooming career path. I also decided to have a second set of children, twin boys no less, at 48. Boys who didn’t sleep for sixteen months – which may be partly why (nearly seven years later) I still can’t seem to catch up… and why waking this morning at the ass crack of day’s beginnings was so incredibly insulting.
And I know it’s not all parenting primary-school twin boys that’s exhausted me. Because the pandemic has saddled me with all sorts of extra weight too… the five-to-ten pounds worth of stress eating because, hell, carpe diem, for tomorrow we may… well, you know. I mean, after all, 500,000 have, plus my father and aunt. And then there’s the return of teenaged acne from the fabric masks I wear faithfully, and the lack of smiles from my students (maybe just because I can’t see them under their own faithfully-worn masks or maybe because they aren’t smiling either). And the continual waves of students leaving for quarantine and returning from quarantine. And my asynchronous classroom adaptations so hopefully they don’t feel as lost and forlorn as I do. But they do…
And I know it’s not all pandemic. Because I’m also executor to my father’s estate. Which means I haven’t had time to truly mourn because I’m dealing with the load and stress and anxiety of dealing with finances and legal matters that are completely alien to my being. It’s like handing a toddler a buzzing chainsaw and telling her to clean out the underbrush. It’s too heavy. There’s way too much room for error. There’ so much I could do wrong. Chop down the ancient oak or the beautiful dogwoods, get tangled up in poison ivy, raze my legs right out from under me.
I need supervision every step of the way. And thank heavens I’ve had it. I have a family of experts in various arenas and they’ve all lent a hand. Me, all I’m good at is the grunt work. The clearing of the debris. I guess that’s why I have the chainsaw, after all. But, have mercy!
So here I am, typing away my innermost thoughts on my computer (at now, 6 AM), the warm glow of a lamp next to me, warm coffee in my favorite mug,and nothing to keep me company but the quiet hum of the boys’ white noise machines and the keyboard recording my inner-most thoughts.
And not gonna lie, it’s kinda nice. (Not saying nice enough to attempt on a daily basis because, by GOD, I’m running on dregs.) But still, kinda nice. Like the distinct pleasure of low tide. There are tiny, sparkling bits of peace unearthed or deposited there in the newborn damp.
I guess there are gems to be found in the soggy bits once the churning has paused after all.
So, right now, I’m actively searching for them. I’m using these newborn, wet moments of my day to write my memoir, to chase my future. To birth yet another nontraditional career inside the trajectory of my nontraditional life.
I’m believing in myself. For at least a hot minute — before the sun comes up and the boys wake up and the day’s demands start rising again… leaving me fighting for life. Not just my life, but all life. My boys’, husbands’, girls’, students’, society’s.
It makes for an exhausted life. But a worthy one. So carpe diem it is.
Seven. The number of completion. Of wonders of the world. Of legendary itches. And the number of times I’ve gotten lucky and right in my life: my second husband, four kids, teaching career, writing life.
This summer we are celebrating all of them — the completions, wonders, itches, and all things right in my life. So much has happened — so much life — in the last seven years.
Seven years ago this month we drove out to Dallas from Augusta with Caitlin, a freshly-minted doctor embarking on her residency. She graduates in one week, after receiving one of the finest and most brutal trainings known to medicine.
She’s flourished here, but that doesn’t mean it’s come easy. Dallas has been a painful growing process — lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer (so much colorectal content!). But she’s grown and blossomed into a big, beautiful, bodacious surgeon, ready to excise cancer at its roots.
Seven years ago this month, Mike and I drove her to Dallas while embarking on our own life-altering journey. We were in the process of mapping out an IVF schedule, communicating with our fertility specialist to choreograph not one, but two cycle details and dates: my own and our egg donor’s. Seven years later, we have flourishing six-year-old boys.
But these wonders of ours haven’t come easy. It’s been a painful growing process, being the mother of twins at my age. Lots of pressure, pruning, heat, storms and fertilizer (so many diapers!) But the boys eventually potty-trained (finally, at 3!) and learned to sleep(ish) and have grown into big, beautiful saplings, full of potential and wonder.
And even though Mike and I are about to complete our eighth year of marriage, we lost a year of sleep and sanity when the boys were born, so I’m claiming seven In keeping with this theme… I am more in love with him now than ever. He has pulled my heart into the light and shown it how best to flourish. And honestly, it’s come pretty easy. Sure, we’ve had hiccups and spats, but we’ve had so many more blessings and sparks. And they just keep coming. Together, we’re brighter, better, stronger than we could ever be apart. Gosh, how I love him. And gosh, how I love us.
So no, the seven-year-itch I mentioned has nothing to do with our relationship. No, it has to do with my writing life. I’ve been scratching hard at a novel these last few quarantined months, trying to bring it into the light. It’s been simmering under my skin like chiggers for quite some time, nagging away, just begging me to dig at it. And now I’ve begun, I can’t stop. It’s like the harder I scratch the more it hurts — and the better it feels. It’s a growing process. And I’ve given myself another half a year to complete this tickly, prickly gestation and get it birthed, Good Lord willing.
Yes, it’s been seven years and I’m back in Dallas once again, packing up Caitlin’s apartment and unpacking memories, while she packs in a few more surgeries and a good many hard-won, difficult goodbyes.
These seven years have been a whirlwind of goodness, grace, and growth. I am so full of gratitude for the many blessings received along the way — for the completion of Caitlin’s residency, the wonders of our miracle twins, the blessings of my second-born, Bethany’s wedding and the birth of her own beautiful family, the change of scenery in my teaching career, the writing itches that have unearthed my blogging endeavors and my percolating novel.
All the pressures, pruning, heat, storms, and fertilizer of life surely can bless you a bundle. Can’t wait to see what takes root and grows in these next seven years.
Where did the mama go who laughed and sang and read stories and played with her children?
Where did the mama go who had patience and a smile and the ability to let all the demands of the world melt away and focus only on her precious pint-size people?
Where did the mama go who could create one-of-a-kind birthday parties and scavenger hunts and toilet-paper-cardboard-exoskeletons-with-pipe-cleaner-antennas?
Where did the mama go who volunteered as room mom and decorated cupcakes like coral reefs and had seventeen girls sleepover in the living room in a snowstorm?
Somewhere along the way, she got more than a little bit lost. She’s a quarter century older than she was with her girls. And her patience and reserves aren’t what they used to be.
She’s vanished, and I really need to find her again. I miss her.
Not only do I miss her readiness to drop it all and be present in the moment… I miss the fact that there aren’t so many moments left for her to squander. And squandering precious moments is one of my biggest worries. I have no time to waste. There’s so much that has to be done…
… between parenting and teaching and grading and gifted cert classes and football and laundry and trying to find time to write because it’s the only bit of something I actually do for myself…. it leaves very little time for fun and games. And I don’t like that about myself. I’m way too serious these days.
The Joker would not approve. And I don’t think my boys do either.
But all the things are pulling at all my moments. And the only common denominator besides parenting between when my girls were little and now my boys are little is the laundry. Everything else didn’t exist.
And neither did the Me who is Mama now.
I am the new version. And new versions aren’t always what people want. It’s not what I want.
Take the new and improved Butterfingers candy bar. Nobody wants them. Everybody loves the classic. Supposedly there’ll be more cocoa and milk and no more hydrogenated oils. It’s all about quality. But nobody is happy about it.
My new and not-so-improved motherhood — nobody wants t it either. There’s definitely more worry lines and deadlines and no more happy-go-lucky moods. It’s all about quantity. And nobody is happy about it.
I scramble to make everything fit. I cram and pack the moments full. Too full. Till everything bursts from the pressure. Me. The boys. Mike. All of us.
How can I fix this? How can I do better? Explode less, love more? Dear Lord, I wish I knew. I’m at a loss. I’m losing daily.
With the girls, I was a stay-at-home mama with time on my side. Neither is true now. What is still true is I love my kids — grown and growing — with all my heart, and I love being a mom, and I want to be a good one.
So how can I pack more into each moment without packing more into each moment? I’ve got to figure it out. How to do what I’ve been doing without doing what I’ve been doing. It is a paradox so simple and so hard. And I don’t have the answers.
Motherhood is my most important thing. Right now and always. Especially right now. The boys have hit a tough age. Somebody said the other day they love the five-year-old boy year, and I almost choked on my incredulity.
This Five-Year-Old Boy Year has been flipping HARD. A lot of it has to do with how there’s TWO of them and all. And there’s kindergarten. And homework. And they’re playing flag football. On weeknights. So they’re getting to bed late. Plus, they’re growing like gangbusters and burning through all their fuel and they’re HANGRY as H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
Have mercy! — which is what I need.
And what they need. And I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but they deserve it. So I’m going to find the solution to the paradox. I’m going to pack more moments full of my boys’ big brown eyes and wide open smiles and kind, generous hearts. Even if it means squandering the moments of all the other things.
Because motherhood demands sacrifice. And motherhood is my most important thing. Right now and always.
Nothing is more important than my children’s emotional and physical well-being. All four of them.
Being a mother of five-year-old twin boys at 53 is a whole nother level of tired. Like 4th-circle-of-eternal-boulder-pushing-with-Sisyphus-riding-piggy-back tired.
Some days I just don’t know where I’m going to get the energy.
The boys’ constant demand for attention is so… demanding. The endless bickering, boundless messes, bottomless hunger… it all saps my energy.
While they themselves are unending bands of the stuff, bouncing and careening over any and all semblance of peace and order. And legos and play doh. And happy meal toys and wrappers. And the last remaining vestiges of nerves that make up my life.
I wonder… can I steal some of that energy? Harness it for the stamina I need to entertain these green goblins of go-gettedness for the next fourteen hours? The next fifteen years? Because I seem to have zero reserves of go-gettedness left. Zilch.
I don’t recall being anywhere near this kind of tired when my girls where little. But then again, I wasn’t anywhere near this kind of age when my girls were little. I was a young mom to young kids. Now I’m a — well, let’s just say an older mom to young kids.
Which makes my life way more than a wee-bit more exhausting. I would swear I’m anemic, but they’ve tested me for that.
Mercy. Most days I beg for mercy. And mercifully, most days, there’s the swimming pool.
Swimming is their favorite right now. They love to splash in the coolness, to feel the ripples across their shoulders, to dive beneath the surface and hear their warbling words come out in whomps that burst in bubbles above their drifting curls.
So I take them to the pool. For them — and for me. It gives them play. And it gives me peace.
It’s the easiest part of my day right now. Demands diminish in the calm, soft ripples of silver and blue. The boys splash and play like sweet little sprites, and I’m granted a blessed disconnect from the harshness of my real — and really hard — world. Until…
My goggles are slipping! I’m hungry! My noodle is missing! There’s a frog in the pool! Parker won’t talk to me! Tate broke my head! I’m hungry!!!
The whines cut the calm like a chainsaw, severing it into the bloody little jagged pieces of pandemonium that is my life.
And it dawns on me. I’m not anemic. I’m exsanguinated. There’s nothing left to bleed.
I saw a story the other day from the Wall Street Journal celebrating a slew of women in their fifties, empty-nesters with newfound freedom to fly the coop and reinvent themselves.
One woman picked up and moved to the crater of a volcano. Another biked across the United States in a peace sign pattern. A third went snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. None though, said, “Hey, I’ll raise a second set of kids.” None.
Many women I know commented on the article, saying they’d had their children early, and now they were living their best lives.
Well… I had my children early. And I had my children late. My nest is ragged and worn, with a whole lotta years left to go.
Perhaps there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies after 40, much less 48.
And now, in my summer of 53, with school about to begin again, and Sisyphus and his boulder on my back, and my 5 year old twins in my nest, and me on my own for the next six months while my husband resumes his football duties — I refuse to believe I can’t still reinvent myself. In my fifties. With a far-from-empty nest.
I will work even harder to make this writing dream of mine come true.
I will continue to carve out words from the smallest slivers of time. I will keep stringing stolen seconds into sentences. I will keep climbing the steep and thorny path of progress while keeping my nestlings as content as two five-year-old boys can possibly be. Which isn’t very. And not often.
But I will not give in. Because inside the exhaustion of it all, there is also inspiration. And there is also breathtaking beauty.
This morning, my little goblins came creeping into my bedroom at Seven-Zero-Zero, as my oldest son says. (They are NOT allowed to leave their rooms until that six-five-nine has flipped. And they waste nary a second once it has.)
For a minute, I SO wanted to bark at them to go back where they came from and just let mama sleep.
But then, they are where they came from… curled up on my body like fiddlehead ferns, tentacles tracing my cheek, lips kissing my eyelids, chattering away like baby birds about their daddy and the swimming pool and the desperate need to water the garden before it rains. We have to GET UP… NOW. And how could I be mad at that?
They are where they came from, and they are where they belong. For this season. And for always.
And yes, there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies at fifty. But you know what? I’m not most women.
I can raise these boys with the grace and the grit they deserve. With the same grace and grit I raised my girls with. I will. They deserve no less.
And I can also write my memoirs and my musings and murder my little darlings (it’s a writing metaphor, please do not be alarmed…) with the grace and the grit that I deserve, too. I can and I will.
Because I’m not most women.
I had my children early, and I had my children late. My family is beautiful and messy and more-than-I-can-handle most Mondays and a whole lot of other days, too. But still… I am absolutely living my best life AND reinventing myself, too.
And while I’m not swimming with turtles off a Darwinian desert isle, it is still survival of the fittest in all its glory. It’s all fight AND all flight. And while most days I feel I’ve been exsanguinated, I’m not dead yet.
Summertime is hard on this Teacher-Mom. All those social media pics of exuberant educators wearing their “Tag, Parents! You’re It!” t-shirts… yeah, they can BITE ME.
Because I’m a teacher AND a mother of five-year-old twins. So I’m ALWAYS it. Always. I leave the frying pan in May and submerge myself in the fire during June and July.
And I’m more than a little burned out.
While other teachers rest, recover, and recharge, I referee. Those twins of mine, they fight. Like every second of every waking hour. (Ok, slight exaggeration. They fight like every alternating second of every waking hour. The remaining seconds, they carpet bomb our living space.)
So while other educators are out there sipping their umbrella drinks with their toes in the water, having assemblies in the sand, I have a list of my own little luxuries I can turn to at home. With kids. Angry, destructive, torrential tornado kids.
#1: wearing a soft, fuzzy robe and sipping coffee out of a hand-turned pottery mug. Sure, the robe’s coffee-stained and the coffee’s cold and the people at the Dollar General give me funny looks when I run in for Uncrustables and wine, but still… it’s the little things.
Or #2: watching hummingbirds at my back deck as they flit around their feeder — and then promptly buzz the “F” off because the nectar is moldy and neglected. Because I ain’t got time to take care of birds AND twin boys. Who (did I mention) fight all the everlovinglivelongmotherflusteredday?
Which means I don’t get to read those awesome British mysteries I ordered from Amazon — my #3 — because ain’t nobody got time for that shit. Even if it is some high-quality, imported, upper-crust, manor house, tea cozy shit. So scratch that.
But I do make time for #4: deadheading my marigolds. Because who can resist that satisfying little POP they make? Like snapping the Achilles’ tendon on that simpering, know-it-all parent who sent you email after condescending email all school year long. It’s that sort of satisfying. So I definitely make time for that. It’s therapy.
And I always make time for #5: Parker’s passionate kisses, complete with exaggerated MUAH! at the end. He loves to latch onto my neck and swing his 52-pound body like a 52-pound wrecking ball, shattering my lumbar region in the process, but never failing to restore my joy.
And you know what DOESN’T spark joy in me right now? Cleaning my house. My twin tornadoes completely upend it in seconds anyway — the seconds they aren’t fighting. So instead, I present #6: Nap Time.
That whole newborn baby advice to “nap when they nap,” I’ve done it religiously every weekend and summer since they were born. It’s a trend that never goes out of fashion. It gives me peace of mind, which is far better than the piece of my mind I would give everybody else if I didn’t. And let’s face it, there’s just not a lot of those endangered pieces left to go around.
Sleep always brings me joy. Particularly when the boys sleep — which they didn’t really do for the first sixteen months of their lives.
Which leads me to #7: Tate’s bedtime, when we dance as he sings along to the Jewel lullabies he’s heard since he was six days old and straight out of the NICU. Hearing him warble his bubbly, half-yodel Jewel-tones while gazing lovingly into my eyes … I can ALWAYS make time for that.
And then, finally #8: my own bedtime, complete with a glass of red wine (or two), a bucket of theatre popcorn purchased that afternoon by my ever-accommodating husband (Did you know you can buy popcorn without buying a ticket???), and Dateline. Because after the sun (and sons) go down, I embody my newest favorite meme:
“Lady in the street, netflix, snacks and murder documentaries in the sheets.”
It ain’t a lie. And it keeps me alive. And semi-sane.
All of these little luxuries keep me alive and semi-sane.
It’s her destiny. From the third grade on, she knew she wanted to be a doctor. From the third year of medical school, she knew she wanted to be a surgeon. From the third year of residency, she knew she wanted to be a surgical oncologist.
Three years ago, Caitlin had some boots made. Special boots. Parkland Hospital and UTSouthwestern have a tradition. Third year surgery residents have boots made in San Angelo during a month-long rotation there. Then, during chief year, the surgeons have a group pic made on the helipad, all wearing their boots. That pic will happen this year, Caitlin’s official chief year.
Today, though, even bigger things happen. Today, my girl finds out where these boots will take her.
Today, her destiny unfurls in an email. Today, the place where her surgical skills will be honed to near perfection is finally known. Today, cancerous tumors in the bellies of thousands will find themselves inexorably drawn to the precise, take-no-prisoners edge of my daughter’s scalpel.
Today, cancer loses and Caitlin wins.
Three years ago, these chief boots were made for walking straight into the hallowed operating rooms of the greatest surgical oncology training hospital in the world.
I’m sitting on a couch in my basement watching my boys play. One almost-five-year-old son scrambles across the pool table, flinging balls into pockets with his bare hands and making crashing noises. His twin brother croons “Havana na-na-na” into a karaoke mic while pounding a keyboard and perfecting his KidzBop choreography.
Disney’s Ferdinand is playing on the big screen in the background.
I remember the picture book from my childhood, but this is the first time I’ve seen the movie. Ferdinand — a calf seemingly destined for bullfighting. His dad is a fighter. His peers, his friends, even his enemies — all fighters.
But Ferdinand? He doesn’t have a smidgeon of fight in him. Nope, he loves flowers and dancing and all things NOT bullfighting.
I can’t help but think of our twin boys. They were born into football. Their dad played and now coaches football. Their mom loves football. They are the genetic product of a football family. Football pretty much drives our lives.
One son wants to grow up and be a football player. He loves rough and tumble and tackle and touchdown.
And one son wants to grow up and be a one-man boy band. He loves singing and dancing and all things NOT football.
They are exact opposites, my twin boys, despite being sprinkled with the same genetic spices and baked up in the same uterus at the exact same time.
And this ain’t my first rodeo… or bullfight or stage production, or whatever metaphor we’re working with here. I have adult daughters. And they are, likewise, complete opposites.
One grew up to be a surgeon, and one grew up to be a mama. The surgeon, she wanted to be an astronaut at five years old. And the mama, well she wanted to be a mama.
So Lord knows childhood dreams can change at the drop of a hat — or helmet or mic or whatever. Or dreams can remain the same.
Me? I wanted to be a mystery writer as a kid. I wanted to be the next Agatha Christie. I wanted people to die with the scent of almonds on their breath and secrets clutched within their cold fists and storied bloodlines.
Instead, I grew up to be an English teacher and a blogger, the scent of peanut butter on my breath, and while nobody’s died yet, I do clutch a red pen in my cold fist and bleed all over student story lines.
So yes, things could change. Or they could remain the same.
But whichever direction my boys and their dreams go, I will be there to support them. I will be there to believe in them. And to tell them they can be and do whatever they believe they can be and do. Just like I did with my girls.
And I will hang out in their corners encouraging, supporting, and cheering them on. Just like I did — and still do — my girls.
I like to believe I’m a lot like Lupe, the calming goat in Ferdinand:the awkward, rough-around-the-edges, bearded, female life coach of the title character.
I’m definitely in my kids’ corners like Lupe was in Ferdinand’s corner. They’re my kids after all… and technically speaking, kids are baby goats. (Heck, one of my kids even has a beard. At. Five. Years. Old.)
And since Lupe’s my spirit animal… right down to my lack of orthodontia and fondness for bed-bug rhymes at tuck-in (although I don’t have a beard, thank God), I guess that makes me a goat.
But since I’m the age where most mothers have already retired to an empty nest, I guess that makes me not just ANY goat, but THE GOAT.
I am the Tom Brady of motherhood.
I even have my own little personal deflate-gate — lumpy rucksacks that breastfed four babies for a grand total of four years and now appear the worse for wear…