But her statement is also a trap. She’s not going to tell me anything more than this. I wait to see if I’m right. To see if she’ll change her mind. To see if she’ll take us in a new direction this time. Or if I will. “I hope I have the same dream tonight.”
I can’t wait her out. I can’t. I’m dying to know. “Can you tell me about it?” I ask. I cannot help myself. I am helpless. She found this button weeks ago and is now pushing it with all her might.
“No.” She’s grinning. I swear she is, although I can’t see her face in the dark. She rolls the blanket over her shoulder, curling away from me on the bed, away from my kiss goodnight. We’ve learned so many steps in this mother-daughter dance. We should be proud.
I remember when she was small, her naps were short, and sometimes during her naps, I slept. Sometimes I cleaned, folded laundry, or read my email before everyone came home needing the computer. And sometimes, I wrote. Most of what I wrote was choppy and hard to follow, just putting feelings on the page, but sometimes I wrote something more, something others could relate to, care about, understand.
For years, my poems illustrated absence, the missing of true love, silence where children’s giggles could be, my telephone standing in for my recommended daily allowance of human hugs, my old cat standing in for company, requiring food and TLC which I gave grudgingly between “real” activities.
But this afternoon, I polish off my sandwich and a free mint mocha coffee, catching raindrops in puddles to tell my darling girl about them. Justin Roberts’ “Great Big Sun” is my internal soundtrack. “Raindrop, when you gonna fall? Little raindrop, when you gonna fall?” I left the house without an umbrella, my baby crumpling into tears while waving her backwards, finger-curling goodbye from the kitchen floor by our back door. “Bye bye, sweetheart. I love you. Bye bye,” I said. Her fingers curled and uncurled in what I imagined as, “Bye bye, Mami. I love you. Don’t leave.” Her little wave. Her little puckering lips.
Her eyes and her love are my favorite stories now. When does a mother’s love become a poem?
Before I left, my little girl amused herself by creeping on two feet from chair to chair to chair, and then shaking her new maracas with her big sister’s best teenage friend in our livingroom. Later, she took me by the hand and we traveled room to room to room to room. She remembered to stop at the pantry doorway. I didn’t squeeze her hand. I didn’t say, “Stop.” I didn’t say, “No.” I didn’t teach her anything today about the pantry. She’s learned already. Big girl.
Her cup went over the side of her highchair tray twenty-three times today. Each time, she told me about it. “Uh oh,” she said, smiling.
And tonight, my Honey will step through the back door, wet from rain, and, stepping past the spot where our daughter sat waving, my Honey will kiss me. She will greet her baby and her teenage daughter, and our home will seem to pulse. Our thermostat will raise by two degrees. Homework will happen. Giggles will take over. Dinner will begin. Our doors will seem to seal for family time. Our phone will seem to stop ringing, or if it rings, it will seem to be for all of us, as our voices bounce around the center of our house.
And I ask you: What longing now can make me a poem? Are there other kinds of poetry? Other kinds of life?
Imagine. Observe. Describe. I must become a whole new kind of poet.
For years after becoming a mom, I couldn’t read a book all the way through. My attention span was that of a child. I couldn’t imagine sharing my words on the page or on the stage. Even though I had done so many times before, in my other life. My earlier life. Before kids.
And now? My stepdaughter’s grown, my daughter’s growing, and I have time on my own again. I’m back to reading novels. Good novels. Long, deep novels. Novels which take me out of myself.
The poetry is creeping back in.
I am finding my way back — learning slowly, and not always well, how to blend who I was before children with who I am now. Something the women in my family have struggled with as far back as… forever. Do you know what I mean?
It’s time again for a new poem. With space in it. And flowers. Water and a warm breeze. The sound of a frog. At dusk. A chorus of frogs. Each with their own note, their own croak.
A whole new kind of poem.
A whole new way — again — to be.