I have friendships and relationships, not so old and not so new, that transcend beyond the most central ones to my life today. My imagination harbors a special few. Sometimes I dismiss them as ghosts, but mostly I feel them through me when I’m moved by a quiet beauty, as if the culmination of all that energy and passion rush back magnetically from the sky and flow into my personal space like tiny particles reuniting. When they hit, they are painfully beautiful. They blanket my current frustrations and dissatisfaction, offering a harmless, quiet exit from the mold. Recently, I spent a great deal of a car ride back from a breathtaking waterfall in this restless head escape.
My childhood friend D graciously arranged for our two families to have a family photo shoot on our recent vacation in Seattle. The drive up to the falls was enough to set the stage for a remarkable day. But when we got there, the kids didn’t want to wear coats, and then they did, and then they wanted to splash in the puddles and flail excitedly around tourists, but they refused to smile while facing the camera. It was as if they conspired to push while I tugged; I said right, they went left. I felt like the ragged mother unsatisfying her kids and unsatisfying the moment. I’m sure the pictures will turn okay in the end, and that will erase a memory of feigned grace, but as always with my reflections, I feel guilt.
Instead of focusing on how I should let the kids be kids, take the moment for what it is, accept and appreciate the present, I wanted to get my hands dirty with a truth: I fear I’m losing my humor in parenting. I know without a doubt what I give my family, setting up the foundation for their daily and future lives, but I’m in a tough stage now. November craze isn’t forgiving of my ever-growing responsibilities, and hearing, “Mom?!…” followed by a litany of problems to solve is grating at me.
I wonder if my kids notice when I stare off into space. When I’m showing them something wondrous like this passionate waterfall, when the mist gently clings to our hair and slowly soaks into our coats, puffy and slick with cool black, do they notice I’m traveling back and forwards in time, staring at my life and wondering about my place in it? Are they vulnerable to absorbing my own inner wars?
I remember quiet car rides with my parents en route back from a gathering of Persian families or long rides to Toronto with the radio playing easy listening tracks, and I swear I could sense what my parents were feeling. I sense my dad’s tension or my mom’s sadness (almost always masked by her dedication to shield me from it); I felt like such an old person. Despite all the love and goodness they have unconditionally given my brother and me, my parents couldn’t shelter me from the unsaid. I was emotionally in tune with them even if I didn’t have the contextual maturity to process what I felt. Often, they didn’t expose me to the real, but I’d find out about it anyway.
Until the fog clears, I am dazed by the present. I’m guilty of zooming to a place that is thick with imagination, lustful for a place where unfinished, unfulfilled worlds are real. I’m even thankful for this sway, this rhythmic consolation. Adele has a song called “A Million Years Ago” on her brilliant new album; she says “I know I’m not the only one… Sometimes I feel it’s only me, who never became who they thought they’d be.” I’ve been sinking into this place in stark reaction to the very real stresses of being a parent and making a home. I will get through it because I know inherently that the place of frustration holds a secret promise that I’m not just one thing, that I can be a barnacle clinging onto something breathtaking just to survive through it to see what it all really looks like when the fog clears.