That was motherhood, thought the squire, snipping at the stalks. Casual encounters about the garden and the house, with those on happy, secret errands. Glint in the eye, indication of a destination, feet running, a voice calling, a group loose-knit and close-knit, running at the end of faint elastic ropes, but tied still to her navel.
That was part of motherhood. Other landscapes to come, unseen, the blocked, silent future that made her wince. Ah, if she could carry this bundle of children with her into eternity, clutched to her breast, with iron arms like God's. "But the navel strings will wear fine and break and each will go out to found its family and sow it's seed." What is personality, where does it go? So childish, so fundamental, so useless, so wild a question.
In Enid Bagnold's "The Squire" (my very favorite book), she writes of motherhood, birth, life, children, identity, mortality. She muses on her changing self and her growing children.
How short a time ago was it that she had cried, "My life! My life! stretching her arms and her young body, fierce, alone, adventurous, - and now a mother five times!
Life was no longer altogether hers, the body already a little threadbare, worn in indescribable yet noted ways. Since these essential acts of birth had occurred she knew that there was something in which she now aquiesced, a calm, a stoic pleasure in procession. "To give birth, to bring up the young, to die" thought the squire, and for the first time saw her own end as endurable. "I was solid and I was myself. But now I am a pipe through which the generations pass."
Recently a project has been stirring with my dear friend, Margaux- an artist, and mother. We've often talked about it over coffee at my kitchen table- what this life of motherhood means, how it feels to watch the time pass through your children, how your heart swells and breaks, and bursts with love for them. How you are no longer the "you" you thought you were, the changes that are unavoidable. For Margaux this reconciling will take place through a multifaceted project she is funding through Kickstarter, "Take Your Time Loving Me."
I see her project as two parts that are threaded together: how being a mother is changing her- her life no longer being made of solitary travel and exploration (as it was when I first met her), but now an adventure of a different sort. And with all things, that sharp twinge of the passage of time, the clutch of your throat when you realize your children are growing up. I've mentioned it before (see Roxaboxen, Someday, How Does It Feel to be Old) but I wonder do we ever get over that feeling? Even my husband, who is hardly the emotional, self-reflective type, will get melancholy when he realizes how our teenagers are reaching closer to adulthood and sliding away from being children. When you become a parent time starts to pass at break-neck speed! Years ago at my father-in-law's retirement party, his 90 year old mother was there and I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to see your son grown, retired, and with grandchildren of his own.
Please consider supporting Margaux's project as she fleshes out these thoughts and experiences. She has made some beautiful donation rewards that capture the sentiments of her project.