Everything

You may recall

in years to come

this feeling, this place –

home, yes,

(we all think of home)

but I mean home right now,

today;

at some vague, future time

something like these sweet smells,

brandy-soaked fruit (Christmas cakes)

and the lingering memory of breakfast’s bacon,

might bring you back to now,

you might hear the comforting melancholy

of winter jazz playing quietly on a radio,

and recall the way the winter sun infused everything

as it slanted through a filter of snow-clouds and bare branches,

you might feel the deep warmth of home,

of us, here, together.

*

Oh, right now

I know it’s just another day

a regular, lazy Sunday

a day of idle movies

of someone somewhere cooking –

peripheral,

hardly worth noting.

*

But if ever you ask me then

whether I remember now,

I will smile slightly and say

I remember, and

it was everything.

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It has taken a long time to get to this place

I remember all those times I felt righteous indignation
all those times I was sure you were wrong,
and I was right
and maybe you were wrong, sometimes,
but now I understand
just how hard it is
how complex the human soul
the layers of our interactions
the trying – the striving – to do the right thing
when so often all you can do is come up short
and then try again next time.

I remember so many of our struggles and differences
but I want you to know that I also remember the good times:
nights in front of the tv
making toasted tomato sandwiches
trying to break my fear of spiders.
I want you to know that when I look at my boy
I think of you and smile
and I remember the good times, too.

An unexpected exploration of my childhood assumptions spun from a conversation about parenting with my son and the NaPoWriMo day 29 prompt to write a poem based on things we remember.

As life expands and contracts 

This new place expands around me at first. It feels overwhelmingly vast so that I’m disoriented and can’t work out which way I’m trying to go. I have the sense that there are things happening just beyond my perception. The games room my son keeps disappearing to seems confusingly far, and never quite where I think it should be.

But once I walk the paths a few times and find my bearings, when familiarity sets in, the spaces begin to shrink. They become navigable, I can sense the layout, the extremities. This expanding and shrinking is my mind trying to find comfort, reaching out and seeking to hold onto what it knows.

Now, after a few days, I have a handle on the place. I’ve mapped its shops, activities, its corners. My son, reunited with his friends from home, has happily spent his time swimming, playing soccer, competing, exploring and eating with them – and I’ve let him roam, secure that he is somewhere within the walls, that our paths will cross at some point before bedtime.

I feel ridiculously joyful each time I see him pass with one of his friends. This desperately social only child of mine has, for this week, more or less joined an expansive family of five kids. He is the missing sixth and part of an easy pair, though they all form and reform, finding friendship in all combinations. They look for him, he looks for them and they run-ramble-roam in timeless abandon.

My husband and I may struggle with the concept of a resort, a mall-like compound full of people and divorced from the land itself, but this one joy makes my mothering heart soar.

Despite all the things I find wrong about a place like this – a place that degrades and infringes on the natural environment and displaced local populations – I find myself falling into step. Not embracing it, no, but finding the positives. The sun, the safety, the easiness, the kids’ freedom. I try to ignore the unease I feel at being able to do this, to ignore the blatant wrongness behind it all. 

I am well aware that kids could just as easily roam free and safely in a ecologically and culturally sensitive resort. I’m here, though, and happy to be with our friends, the parents of the five, watching them get married.

Moreover, I’ve left last week behind. It was the culmination of months of mounting stress and pressure at work to pull off an important meeting between our Deputy Minister and the head of an important organization. I felt uncomfortable leaving before the meeting, before everything was done, but I felt pride, too, the pride of knowing I had poured all my effort and my most analytic and strategic thinking into the preparations I had seen to over the days, weeks and months leading up to it.

So, here I sit poolside, with no questions to answer, no worries, no pressure – just sun, breezes and a son happily roaming. It’s hard not to just let go and relax into it, no matter how guilty or incensed I maybe should be.

Unfettered: The story of an evolving relationship

It has been many, many years since my son stayed overnight at his father’s. Many years since I’ve trusted my ex enough to let him have our son more than the allotted five hours. Many years since I’ve referred to my child as “ours” and meant someone other than my current husband. In fact, he hasn’t stayed overnight there since I won full custody, reduced access to five hours every two weeks and changed my son’s last name to mine. That was all five years ago. Half my son’s life ago.

It hasn’t even been very long that my son has been seeing his father, this time around. After mostly two years of his father being unreliable and absent, my son decided he had no interest in seeing him either. It was only Father’s Day 2015 that my son asked to see him again following eight months of unexplained refusal.

While I don’t know what changed my son’s mind, I can say that as far as my ex goes, things have vastly improved ever since February when he and his partner had a baby. I wouldn’t say I fully trust him – people don’t change – but I don’t feel terror at the thought of our son staying with him anymore, and that’s saying something. For now, he’s in a better place in his life and his mind and  I can’t really justify refusing to let our son stay with him. In fact, it was me who started involving him more in our son’s life again. I even organized this weekend for both of them.

I hope he doesn’t prove me wrong. I hope he doesn’t fall apart while our son is still a child, still vulnerable.

As awful as things were at their worst – lies, drinking, stealing, erratic behaviour – when he’s stable, my ex is charming, fun and able to run a business and a house. He can be a warm, relaxed person. They bond over a shared love of soccer and their shared experience on this earth, however limited it has been.

I’m happy about that. I hope that it will continue. It’s good for our son to feel unconflicted between both parents, to feel he can go back and forth between both households without incident. To spend time with both of us – and his new sister.

So, at the very early hour of 8:00 am Saturday, I packed him off for a day and a half.

My son is my heart and soul, just as much a part of me as my own limbs. Yet, he is also the independent person I have taught him to be. He is able to stand on his own, speak up for himself, and go off and do things and make his own way – the way of an only child. At 8 years old, he chose to go to sleepaway camp for 26 nights straight and he did just fine (survivable homesickness aside). He flies alone to visit his grandparents in Toronto. He walks into all sorts of situations on his own, introduces himself and gets involved. So though we’re very close and I miss him, I know he’s ok away from home.

Still, when it comes to his father, I worry. And it’s more than the man himself. There’s so much all parties invest in a parental relationship, so many hopes and expectations. Especially one as complex and fraught as this one.

It doesn’t help that I’m naturally anxious and a worrier.

I must have kept myself sanely busy, though, because here I am now, about to go pick him up.

I’m surprised to find myself looking forward to hearing all about the house, his new sister, his time with the other part of his family. I don’t feel the expected pang of regret or sadness or even fear. I just want him to be happy, to have had the weekend he was looking forward to. And I’m sure he did.

It is so much easier to abandon the angst, fear and outrage, to leave the bad of the past in the past and, while still watching out for my son, finally move forward, unfettered.

Growing Pains

He’s struggling, stretching between the little boy he’s been and that older person he can see in the distance, the shadow of himself he thinks he’d like to be.

Already he’s rebelling, fighting against the life he has, asking for something different, though he’s not sure yet what that something might be.

Tonight I found him separating his belongings: things to keep (books, achievements) things to discard (Lego, costumes).  Resolute, he grows the one pile, the discard pile, faster than the other.

When I ask if he’s sure about this item and that, he gives me that look, the one that tells me he has been sure for some time, for as long as I’ve pretended time was standing still, for as long as I’ve tried to believe things will never really change.

Now I can see it coming. That moment he eventually casts home into the discard pile, when life for him consists of some hitherto unknown collection of not-home items, when the past remains and he is gone.

And so tonight, when he asks me to snuggle instead of reading to him, when he asks me to warm him up, I climb willingly into his soft, dimly lit world and hold him tight. When eventually I extricate myself, insisting it’s time to sleep, I do so wondering why I didn’t just stay the whole night.