Tuesday, January 8, 2008

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” (St. Exupery)

Today's a strange and significant day for me. It's the first day of the next phase of my life, the first time in 14 years that I am a stay-at-home mom home alone. I've had moments, hours, like this before, but never more than snatched and sipped, never routine and predictable. Technically, this big day should have happened last September when our special-needs daughter started school. But my husband was on sabbatical last semester, writing a book, so it wasn't just me, my house, and the rest of my life. Most stay-at-home parents would have reached this point eight or nine years ago. But because we have an autistic daughter who has been home schooled (because there were no decent schools for her until this year), I'm coming to this party late. But that's me, blooming late, as usual.

I spent the morning looking at family photos, because i want to start on drawings for a children's book I've written. I started out looking for pictures of my daughters when they were toddlers to use as models for one of the characters. But, of course, I got completely side tracked. I found pictures of my husband's French grandmother and her brothers taken in the Tuilleries sometime before WWI. One of the brothers would go on to fight in WWI where he was seriously wounded. He lived and was transformed by the experience and went on to become a world-famous surrealist painter. My husband's grandmother (the painter's baby sister) grew up to make an unhappy marriage to an odd American man and move to the U.S.

Then I strayed into pictures of my family. My parents are both 100% Southern (I could join the Daughters of the Confederacy on both sides.), yet childhood pictures show me strapped to the back of a Taiwanese Amah, wandering down the ruined steps of Angkor Wat, running barefoot and wild on the dirt roads of Laos. Taiwan, which was a repressive dictatorship when I was born there, is now a great democratic success story. The sleepy rural Cambodia of my childhood was tortured, murdered, killed by Pol Pot in his holocaust. And while I was happily roaming the streets of Laos, the CIA was running covert operations there, buying cocaine from Hmong tribes to win their loyalty as anti-communist fighters. Which worked out so well for everyone; Laos has been a Communist country for decades, and the many of the Hmong live desperately poor lives on the run from Lao forces. All of which makes me conclude that, despite all our planning, our best (or worst, hello CIA!) guesses, there is simply no way to tell how things are going to turn out.

This is a comforting thought for me today. Having a child who is very "differently abled," and who I know will probably live with me for the rest of my life, can be overwhelming if I stop and think about it too much. What will become of her when I'm gone? Who will love, care for, and appreciate her the way my husband and I do? But these pictures I've been looking at tell me there's no point in that kind of thinking. Who would have guessed that the young French boy in his stylish Sunday best, would lie bleeding all night on a battle field, watching the stars, and be transformed? That his little sister would leave Paris and live a strange lonely life in Ohio? That the lovely, quiet backwater that was Cambodia, would consume itself in insanity and hatred? That this American child with an Asian childhood would end up in the grey American rustbelt with a hybrid family of her own? No one.

As I sat alone in my disconcertingly silent house looking at pictures, I also thought about this new, uncharted phase of my life. There's so much I want to do: creative projects of all kinds - novels I want to publish, books I want to write and illustrate, windows I see in my head that I want to see in real life, and, always, children to love and help and worry about. The outcomes of all of these things are completely uncertain. I wanted to talk to someone, tell someone about it. But the husband is busy at work, family and friends are scattered and busy. So it was such a comfort that I had this place, and all of you, to come to and pour out my confused feelings and inchoate thoughts. Thanks for being there and holding my (cyber) hand on this odd, quiet day, as I make my uncertain steps forward into the always uncertain future. (And having written this, maybe tomorrow I'll actually get some work done!)

14 comments:

yellowdog granny said...

when people tell me that bloggers and blogging is a waste of time and space, it's posts like this one that are perfect examples of why it's not...your blogger family, listens(reads),cares and understands sometimes in ways that no one else could or can...take this 'time' you now have and do what ever your heart desires...we will be here to cheer you on...js

more cowbell said...

I can imagine the different quiet wrapping your house today. I got sucked into pictures the other day, but only fairly recent ones, looking at the Bohemian's kid pics, not believing she's 20 now. (dontfreakoutdontfreakout)

This mom business has all kinds of moments ... some of which no one else ever knows about. They'll come home tonight, unaware of where your thoughts have been...

Boy About Town said...

Hey there! I just wanted to let you that google blocked me outta my blog for all of Sunday! I got an email from Google saying that my blog might be a spam blog?! The email said it was most likely a mistake and they were working it out? I have no idea what that means!!! After a full 24 hours without access to my "blogging buddies", I of course include you in this group cause I love ya,they just opened my blog up without another word! Wierd huh? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Elizabeth said...

YDG: I love writing, but writing to no one in a diary isn't very fun for me. Having people to address myself to, to bounce things off of. So thanks for reading (and cheering!).

CB: As you so rightly say, "This mom business has all kinds of moments...." It's nice to have a place to talk about those moments so that when they do come home, kicking off shoes, yelling for snack, I can simply be there for them.

sageweb said...

Wow,I am glad you share your feelings with the blogging world. Reading your posts are comfy and fun. And for someone who I have never met I am totally sucked in and care about all the words you type. I believe this is good therapy. Plus it is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying a professional to listen.

Elizabeth said...

Sageweb: Thank you so much! It means a lot to me to know that my words are reaching out beyond me (how boring is it to just be talking to yourself all the time?). And I like going out into your head and your world too.

Willym said...

Again you have touched my heart. For that, as always, I thank you.

kate said...

The first time the house is truly quiet is quite amazing. I remember it well - even though it was a number of years ago. My son has asperger syndrome and so I know about those places where one can't dwell too long.

Family stories are always fascinating - how people blend together. There are always stories behind them.

I arrived here via Paul David's blog, The Blithering Knitiot!

yellowdog granny said...

on top of that..you have led a very very interesting life...

Red7Eric said...

Wow -- totally mesmerized by this entry, and hoping that you find away to accomplish your lofty goals while still finding some time to stay connected to Blogopia!

Elizabeth said...

Oh Willym, what can I say? I feel honored. xoxo

Kate: Yes, the quiet is amazing and overwhelming. I'm so used to having the kids schedules be the discipline I work by.... I'm going to have to figure out my own priorities now. Harder than I'd have thought.

With our special-needs kids we just have to work and hope (and work some more), and then give ourselves time to leave it behind for a bit. Thanks for stopping by. Love your flowers. I would love to grow bougainvillea indoors, but while I have an outdoor green thumb, I have and indoor black thumb. Don't know why.

granny: You know, I think everyone I've ever met has lived an interesting life. Mine was just in more places than other people's. Eudora Welty lived in one small town in Georgia all her life and she touched the whole world with what that little town gave her.

red7: Glad you liked it. No worries about blogging though. I'm totally addicted.

Doralong said...

Those quiet moments are most disconcerting, aren't they? While keeping some sense of self, being the maternal person tends to pull you further outside of yourself than you sometimes realize.. Those rare moments of dead calm can both scare the hell out of you and focus you..

Enjoy it, and I have an idea that you'll make the absolute best of them.

Elizabeth said...

"Those rare moments of dead calm can both scare the hell out of you and focus you...."

Scare the hell, check. Focus you, working on it. But I'm hoping I'll get used to it soon and start getting into some creative trouble....

Claire M. Johnson said...

I love you, honey