This post from 2012 is one of my favorites. The twins were just over a year old, Solomon was four and Sophia was in first grade. I can’t find the pictures that go with that Halloween, they’re on an old computer, but the story should suffice. I hope you enjoy it and find some grace for your own moments of surrender and resurrection. Happy Halloween!
It’s rainy and cold and we’re all keyed up and worn out from being trapped indoors for two days by
Hurricane Sandy. I wake up late
and squeeze in a shower while the twins, still in dirty diapers from the
night before, wander around the living room. Their whining amplifies to full
pitch as my shower cues them in to the possibility that I’ll be (gasp!)
leaving for the morning. The preemptive
separation anxiety continues through breakfast and packing everyone into the
van to take my oldest to school.
After drop-off I cart the remaining
three kids back
into the house. We mull around, waiting anxiously for the babysitter
who’ll stay with the twins while the four year old and I head to
his Halloween party at a local nursing home.
twins settle for a few minutes,
their anxiety lulled by the fact that I haven’t left yet
and simultaneously my son’s anxiety about the party rises. He peppers me with questions,
“Will there be people from the nursing home in the party?”
“Um, I’m not sure, honey.”
“Will they see me in my costume?”
“Are you going to dress up?”
“I don’t want to wear a costume.”
I’ve been dreading this party from moment it was first mentioned, knowing that my son, so robust
and cheerful at home, will be shy and clingy in a new place. Committed to accompanying him, I hired a babysitter
for the twins, despite my own teeth-clenching,
foot-dragging antagonism toward it all.
“Solomon,” I say, “what if I wear a costume too?” I emerge from the back room wearing the
fuzzy black antennae from my daughter’s ladybug costume.
“Ok,” he says, brightening, “you can be a black beetle.”
Then, I can feel myself giving in, letting go a little more
as the idea strikes and I say, “What if I’m a ladybug? I can steal Sophia’s costume.”
He approves and I have just enough time to gather the
red and black-dotted wings and my camera as the babysitter arrives and the oldest twin
dissolves into a raging stream of tears, protesting my impending
departure. I run in circles grabbing
things, carrying the littlest one and nearly run out the door with him, before
the sitter stops me and grabs him saying, “This one’s staying.”
Then we’re off to a party I don’t want to go to, but also
don’t want my son to miss. We
through the rain and find his friends in a large room coloring at a
table while elderly people in wheelchairs are set in a wide circle
around them. The residents watch, their eyes hungrily absorbing the
beauty and innocence, the luxury
of so much youth in one small space.
My son is clingy, shy and tired, overwhelmed by
the noise, the crafts, the games and I do my best to get into the spirit of
things. I help with glue and tear bits
of tissue paper, I assure another child that it doesn’t matter where he puts
the eyes on his pumpkin. I laugh with
the other Moms over the resident who rides in on a wheelchair, pretending to
scare the kids with a mask, all the while giving a growing peep show as his
robe slides further and further open. I take a smiling picture with my son, a little Iron Man snuggled up on a ladybug’s lap.
By the time we get home, though, I’m over-stimulated and frustrated at my
inability to love Halloween, to love loud parties and candy. The twins are exhausted and hungry when we walk in and they’re
drawn to me like magnets, pressing their tiny bodies onto me in
It’s all I can do to
untangle myself, causing more tears and desperation, as I head to the kitchen to
make lunch. Solomon is sorting and
dumping candy, dancing and singing and blowing the whistle from his party bag
and the twins are screaming in their highchairs, desperate to make it clear how
deeply my absence has wronged them.
Then I’m yelling, “Stop it” and throwing an apple-peel all
the way across the kitchen til it bounces off of one twin and they both sit
staring, shocked into silence and my son, that sweet four year old boy, offers
to play his whistle to settle them down.
There are days when being a mother feels like dying a hundred tiny deaths. A hundred letting-gos, a thousand surrenders to more noise, more movement, more demands than I feel capable of handling.I’m
not complaining, I simply want to be honest about the stretch of
motherhood and how quickly, how fiercely, I shrink back from it.
I died a hundred little deaths this morning and will surely
die a hundred more before nightfall on this, the day of the dead. But I know, thank God, that this dying, this
surrender, makes me new again.
I may die a
hundred times a day, but I’m just as often made new, reborn in the face
of a chubby, gap-toothed grin, a gentle hand seeking mine for reassurance. Just today I was resurrected
by the voice of my son calling cheerfully from the back of the van as we made
our way home, “I can’t wait to be old so I can go to the nursing home to live.”
Later in the day as I’m making chili
for friends who’re coming to trick-or-treat with us, as the twins again
stand whining at the gate that divides them from me, my Dad calls with
the news that my maternal grandmother has died in the nursing home where
she’s lived for years now in North Carolina.
Standing over the
stove, stirring the chili, I find myself surprisingly grateful.
Grateful that, athough I couldn’t be there with her, I was here, at a
nursing home with my son, the very same morning. I think of my
Grandmother’s life and the many little and big deaths she endured. I
think of the ways I get so focused on what I’m giving up, that I nearly
miss what I have right here, right now in front of me. It occurs to me
that I live such a grace-filled life, full of opportunities
for surrender, continually pressing me toward the edge.
is finished, the kids and husband are home and the poor older twin, who
just can’t pull himself together, sits crying on the floor. I scoop
him up and settle in the rocker and watch as he drifts into a heavy
sleep. I love the moment – the rocking, the sleeping child so sweet.
Then he lifts his head and looks around, disoriented, before throwing up
all over both of us. Leaning forward, exhausted, he lays his head back on my
chest with that pile of warm, smelly goo spread like a layer of glue
between us. I died again in that moment and rose again to hug him tight
until my husband came to help us both get cleaned up.
Every day of the dead, every Halloween, gives way to all saints
day and I wonder if we too, dying in our little and big ways, aren’t also being moved, continually,
from death to new life. This dying is a surrender, a stripping bare by letting-go until all that remains is love.
This is the whole gang this year. Aren’t I a lucky Mama?!