"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his."
The days have slipped into patterns of light, of warm breezes riding atop swollen air, of droning insects and swaying flowers. I wake to sunlight, hours old, and I stretch long into the morning. I've adopted a uniform of summer, the one sundress that I own, hung on a hook each evening to "air" and then slipped over my head, morning after morning. It is the perfect choice for hot, muggy days and that is now everyday. I suppose folks might begin to notice its patterns repeating but I don't care.
I pad into the kitchen, bare feet upon cool tile and I reach for the coffee. Always the coffee. And the memory of it all begins. So much of what I gather from sweet childhood reveries is deeply planted in the marathon days of summertime. Days of bare feet running across grass and rocks and pavement, absorbing the rich purple hue of mulberries. Hours of laying on a cool sheet, looking up into the canopy of water locust leaves and receiving the glimmering gold of heaven through its openings. Sounds and smells and the slow tick of time...those were my summers...that was my childhood.
The picture above captures one of those moments. It was my 5th birthday and I have no idea where the Mickey Mouse ears came from because I certainly hadn't been to Disney Land. Obviously, my five year old self didn't care about those particulars and I just relished in the possession of, said, ears. And smiled. The sweet, blond headed girl to my right was a spit fire spirit that burned hard and bright. She was voted the girl with "Most School Spirit" our senior year in high school. But looks can be deceiving. She committed suicide our sophomore year of college.
And behind me stands my mother. Full of laughter and grace and light. That is how I always saw her.
In my memory of this picture, she was wearing a sundress because she was always wearing a sundress. Like me. This summer. And then I realized, in this picture, my mom is the same age as I am now. And I don't believe it.
Because I can't possibly be full of as much laughter and grace and light as she was. She was a full-on mother, replete with experience and wisdom and magic. She floated through her days, cutting cantaloupe with expert skill, placing the plates and forks and spoons on the red metal tray that is now on top of my fridge, and carried it effortlessly onto the deck for us to eat our breakfast as the morning sun warmed our backs.
Do I float? Do I move through my days with a knowing grace, gently rubbing the cheeks of my boys while simultaneously running a household? Because I feel like I am fumbling, a lot of the time. I get to the end of some days and feel as if I have just survived a string of moments in which I was making it up, this mothering, the entire time.
Did she have doubts, like I do? Did she pray like fire that she wasn't ruining the hearts of her children? Did she worry about whether she was doing all that she should be doing, to grow a family? to tend souls? to change the world?
And then I can't help but wonder whether these days of summer are branding themselves upon the brains of my boys. What kind of crazy mixed up images am I depositing in their memory banks? Those thoughts kind of haunt, you know. And although I'm tempted to despair in them, I am simultaneously inspired by them. I, too, have the potential to spin laughter and grace and light, perhaps even a bit of magic, into the hearts of my boys.
For it is summer, after all.
And summers are the script of childhood.