Going First

Life is scary.

No fooling.

Things happen.
Broken legs.
Dropped stitches.
Missed planes.
Car accidents.

I know it.
I know you have it all going on in your life, just as I do in mine.
And, up on that banner across the top of this website it reads: “Laundry Line Divine: Seeing and Celebrating the Sacred in Daily Life”.

I guess I better put my money where my mouth is.

This week has been harrowing for the Baum family.
Today we celebrated one week from a hellish day at Albany Medical Center. Last Sunday we spent the day helping our 17 year old traverse the agony of a broken leg in a temporary splint, numerous transfers from bed to gurney and back again for x-rays and cat-scans and the long minutes of waiting for the swelling of his left shin to go down.
It was not an easy day.

But, time has passed.

The week has turned to February. The sky is lighter at 5 pm so I can ice skate at twilight. I scared the crap out of myself today. Let’s say I am still a little jumpy. Iced lakes make a sound not unlike a whale singing below the ocean surface- this deep, resonant twanging. Skating over glassy ice in the moonlight, velvet lavender ice sparkling then- BWOOOONNNNNG. The majestic sound of ice layers forming and the pressure changing across the inner surface of the ice booms across the sublime scene. I knew I would not fall in the water. To a lake skater, this sound is good.

But to an uber-alert Mom who has returned to infant style vigilance when every sound emitted from my son’s bedroom is a possible cry for assistance, I leapt out of my skin.

I let my heart slow down. I have felt the steady beat of my heart so much this week. I felt it race as I nearly hit the Ortho Resident for humiliating my suffering son by telling him to “man up”. I felt my heart then. Holding my son’s head as he screamed in pain as they put him in that first splint. I felt my heart then. Cuddling Ben today as he hugged me close to thank me for restocking his snack tray, I felt my heart then, too.
At the lake’s edge, I watched the moon shimmer.
I breathed gratitude for being alive.
And I headed home to write to you.

We are celebrating creativity in these early months of 2012. This is my work in the world. The Blog Series for ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ has 5 posts queued up for this week as more women step up to share their stories. I am so glad Linda Jackson, Sherry Collier, Shari Simpson, Kelly DiNorcia, and Lissa Rankin have posted.

It is not easy to rustle up the time or the appetite to do something other than parent when your arms are wrapped up in meals and care. Wiping and rinsing and brushing and peeling, hanging and sorting and folding and driving and running and debating and arguing and settling and admonishing and reminding and leading and modeling and paring and steeping and sweetening and badgering and cosseting and lacing and racing all just sucks up the hours and who the heck has time to thread the sewing needle anyway?

Legions of women before us out of sheer necessity, spent hours creating things for themselves and their families from materials they may have grown or raised, creating things that would comfort, clothe or cover their children and spouses.

This week’s ‘Out’ blog post by Linda Jackson reveals her connection to her mother and generations of women who have handled fiber. The thread of inventing beauty and utility connects all Linda’s diverse passions.

These antique textiles are from a show I saw at the Chicago Art Institute two weeks ago.

I have carried around this quote for years from Jennie June, a well known American needle worker who said this in 1880:

The little worktables of women’s
fingers, are the playground of
women’s fancies, and their
knitting needless are the
fairy-wands by which they
transform a whole room in to
a spirit isle of dreams.

I want to have an authentic conversation about mothering and creativity. According to Jan Phillips in her extraordinary book No Ordinary Time

“ If someone doesn’t go first, how will authentic conversations ever get started?”

I know it is fun to recall the hours I spent frosting Christmas cookies with my kids. We have all had those wondrous moments creating things with our children. But what I am calling out for here is what is birthed from the deeper places in your soul, the works that cry out to you in the middle of the night.
On one particular needy afternoon this week, Ben could not go for more than 20 minutes or so without me being near him. Pain, distraction, discomfort, warmth, drink- he just needed my company through it all.

I knew this was a temporary state of affairs. I will not be wiping my son’s chin for more than a few more days as he gets stronger and more confident in this new way of being. But, I was torn from my desk; from the slim momentum I had gained in stringing one thought after another. And I was angry.

I could not vent this on him. I would not even leak it to him. But it reminded me of the days, months and years of my early mothering in which this was the case twenty-four seven, even when I had child-care and a supportive husband. I still had to be back on time. I could not slip the yoke of responsibility from my neck permanently.

Mothers have fear that they will never, ever think a complete thought again. You get interrupted. You get distracted. You forget. One of the gifts of this week with Ben and re-entry into such demanding parenting is this thought: With young children, or in my case, time soaking teen agers, a mother has thoughts, but they are erased by distraction, stress, weary brains and bodies. You fear the worst, that you will forget the thread of that magic equation and you do in fact, lose it. How could you possibly hold on to it with the noise of your life diluting your essence?

This is where any connection to creativity comes as saving grace.

Your creativity is the string upon which the jewels of your authentic essence are strung. Your insiders story from the front lines of mothering- that soul food- is what we are able to serve through our acts of creativity.

I don’t wish this week of my life on anyone. I am aware that things could have been so much worse. I am thankful with every breath a prayer that we will all recuperate from this time and perhaps are stronger for it. We certainly will know each other better.

But, I would not exchange this chance of being intimately close to my son again. I am so very sorry he has to suffer this pain, this major time-out of his junior year in high school. And I will press in to my heart these moments of humor borne in vulnerability, of rousing joy at simple progress and the quiet peace of him healing under our care.

I could not have done this without my cell level mission that is Laundry Line Divine. I do see and celebrate the sacred in daily living.
In the ordinary and mundane.
In ambulances and emergency rooms.
On ice slicked evenings with the moon at my toes.

Write on.
Love, S

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Showing 8 comments
  • lori yelensky

    Oh Suzi,
    Oh so many hugs to you and the healing of your sons bone and fiber and heart!!.
    I so get it. The chance to mother your son now, your frantic beating heart and your deep deep love!!!
    You hold your family in such a very large way. HIp Hip Hurray for YOU!!!!!

  • Chandra

    Oh I feel you! This has been a strange slippery transition of a year for me as my littlest turned four and there were whole HOURS where the three of them were entertained, and I didn’t write because I didn’t trust it, was always primed for the interruption. And then driving everyone home from a playdate, I saw a man with an expression on his face that I knew I had to describe for my story, and I “uh-huhed” them until i got to my sister’s, where the littlest child was waiting, and her two month old was yowling, and I pushed past them all to scribble this turn of phrase down and tuck it in my jeans pocket before I could rock my long-legged four-year-old, before I could lift the ubiquitous baby from my sister’s arm for a break. And I thought about this piece I would work into my story as I made dinner and marveled at the relative ease of bedtime, (I say relative because the seven-year-old is still needing to sleep with legs and arms draped over mine in “Dad’s bed.” And in a burst of house-cleaning energy, I scooped up laundry and washed those jeans, and that perfect turn of phrase, into nothing, about the man’s jowls and scowl, into nothing. I sympathize, mama. Good healing to Ben and peace to you.

  • Jennifer Gandin Le

    Mmhmm, mmhmm. I’m nodding along with you throughout this piece. My thoughts have been with you all week. I didn’t realize that Ben was in the middle of his junior year. About 16 years ago in the middle of my junior year, I came down with a terrible case of mono and strep throat that kept me out of school for at least a week. Different pain but similar timing. I don’t know if there is any metaphor to be found there; that’s for Ben to find, I suppose. I know that you are taking everything you can from this turn of events. You are an excavator of precious gems my friend. Holding you all in great love. Xoxox

  • Jennifer Gandin Le

    *the metaphor I was speaking about was about the junior year timing of things. I know for myself it was an intensely stressful time and that case of mono was the worst timing, and also kind of provided a break in the fever, somehow.

  • cheri thieme safford

    Dear Suzi,I do hope that Ben is ok…I totally get it..I’m not a mom,but I feel the pain and concern in your writing.Please give him our love,and wishes for a peaceful and quick recovery.
    I want you to know that your writings always lift me up,but especially now.Our sweet pup Drifter has a brain tumor…I have been struggling to find some sense of it all..having a tough time.
    thank you for letting me be at peace today. xoox
    love to all in the family,especially handsome and sweet Ben.

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