Like so many of life’s other challenges — the marathon worth running, the job worth doing well, the piano sonata worth mastering — motherhood has taught me, as nothing else has, about process. The work of raising young children is no less essential or foundational than the tasks my younger, childless self wanted to rush through. I can’t neglect my children’s play time or resent their basic needs and still expect to have great relationships and conversations with them when they’re older, any more than I could have skipped writing the beginning of this essay and had the end come out the right way.
I am a token here, an altar to mark the space where a dream was dreamed, a forest cleared, land reclaimed, a foundation laid, a hope hoped, a desire met. I sit upright on two front columns, regal, and alert, a king keeping watch over kingdom. My sides show their age, remorselessly and violently pierced by windblown shrapnel, by swirling apathy. Layers of cream-colored paint chip and peel revealing ever older storied layers. Sinewy mortar deteriorates in the space between bricks, and my lit soul wavers between the colorful future and the black-and-white past. Though riddled with exhaustion, I remain.
I thought I knew the importance of sharing food. I have taken food to new moms and seen my mom’s counter overflowing with casseroles after my dad died. I have experienced the common grace of bread and wine. But it wasn’t until my husband put a plate in front of my exhausted body every night that I truly understood how much he loved me. He nourished me until I was ready to survive. The closest I can come to describing it is that it felt like being protected in a womb just like I had protected my son for all those months.
It was a revelation: With my own hands and a little patience, I could make some of the very things I’d been planning to buy — and with just as fine or a finer result. Later on would come the challenge of translating what I saw in my mind’s eye into something that could keep my neck and hands warm. For now I reveled in the discovery of this power to create.
That birds, with their riot of color and sound and an ability to fly, have come to be associated with the stories of our deeply human quest to explore such things only makes sense. They are our fellow creatures — dust to dust, ashes to ashes — yet manage to break free of the shackles of gravity and transcend the ground from which we are all made.