Sunday Scribblings--If I could stop time...
How I feel after an average day, lately. This is Dali's Persistence of MemoryI love using Sunday Scribblings as prompts for stories, as it's the only fiction I usually write these days. But this prompt felt so personal, I couldn't seem to do anything but write my own story.
It would easy to look around here and think that time has stopped. The same endless rolling clouds, the same wind blustering over the ravaged trees. The same four walls, painted in tasteful variations of off white and beige. The rumble of traffic that never quite settles down. And so you try to see the passage of time in your completed tasks...except that nothing ever quite gets finished. New dishes sit in the sink almost as soon as you finish washing the old ones. The day is full of the eternal sameness of breakfast, snack, lunch, nap, snack, dinner, bath, bedtime battles.
It’s a mother’s life during winter—forcing yourself to be indoors when everything in you screams louder than your toddler to be OUTSIDE! But you stay in, rationalizing about weather, and wind, and cold on an exposed little toddler nose.
But it’s not the truth. Not really. In fact, admit it, you’re staying home because you have not been able to stop time. Your sweet amenable baby, the one who cooed in her stroller at the passersby, the one who was perfectly willing to go to coffeehouses and spend time just gazing at the barista while you scribbled notes for a project...that baby is G O N E. In her place, there’s an uncertain, moody little person, anxious to put her stamp on the universe, to make her own decisions, toddle her own way.
And you thought you were prepared, you did. You spoke, loftily, the way all pregnant women speak, about "being open to her personality; looking forward to meeting her." And you believed that, then. But then she arrived, so pliant and small, and something tender crumbled inside of you. You experienced a merger you never would have thought possible; you never would have even imagined that you wanted it. After a lifetime of compromise, you reveled in having a total say over your outings, your schedule. And the baby cooed and grinned and acted as your perfect mirror as you poured out your life stories to her—trying to ground yourself and stop time in a world where everything had changed, where your teenaged, earnestly romantic boyfriend had become your responsible, aloof husband, where your parents had grown complex, spilling out of their assigned roles in your life. Where you had veered so drastically from the long wide highway of your life that you feared you had lost some essential treasures along the way.
And the baby cooed and smiled, and reflected perfect understanding and love back into your eyes, and the boundaries between you burned away like dawn’s mist.
You thought that you had finally gotten a handle on it all, the sleepless nights, the time that never ceased to rush past you. You devised tricks—to spend a little more time in bed, to rush through a few extra pages of a book, to stretch naps like warm taffy through eager fingers. You felt confident, admit it...even motherly.
But the baby wouldn’t be pinned down, wouldn’t stay small until you were fully confident. She refused to be your perfect little mirror, and the coos started to become plaintive wails and imperious demands. And all of the little rituals you thought you could count on forever, the ones designed to stop time and give you back the self you were afraid had been left by the side of the road? All pretty useless now.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t the worst part. You gritted your teeth, reminded yourself "You will have your time" and vowed to take fewer books out of the library. You congratulated yourself on your good sense and maturity.
Until you found yourself unexpectedly sobbing after an altercation with your daughter, after she stared at you with fury in her eyes. She didn’t want to go for a walk in the stroller; in fact, she’d rather not spend any time with you at all. She’s very much her OWN person, now, and she has her likes and dislikes which often clash with yours.
And it hits you—you miss those long aimless walks more than you ever thought you would. You miss those monologues, which helped stitch your sanity back together. You miss the fusion of her little body in your arms, as your hearts beat slowly in time. Together. You miss her looking into your eyes and you looking into her eyes until you couldn't see beyond those endless echoes. Even as she grins in glee at her newfound independence, even as you applaud the self that is being born, you wish you had the way to stop time.
Of course, you know these thoughts are irrational, immature; you try to squelch them, to be the perfectly nurturing and supportive mother you imagine is all around you at the playground. She still loves me, you tell yourself defensively. Nothing has changed. You blame hormones, either hers or yours. You try to stay patient. You feel guilty for wanting to deny her the chance to develop and change. You try to breathe through the anger, the blaming, the hurt.
Of course, nature has its way. Inexorably, she grows and learns, eludes your best attempts to clutch her tight, breaks free from your desperate grasp. You are faced the fear at the core of your frantic attempts to stand still. It’s the fear that you won’t be able to handle her anymore; that you’ll fail her. It’s the fear that this newfound loneliness that sits like a vulture on your chest will break you, leaving a hollow shell to mother your child. It’s the fear that she’ll look at you and not like what she sees.
Meanwhile, Time hurtles past you, on plump, unsteady legs that grow stronger every day.
More ways to put time in a bottle here.
Labels: sunday scribblings