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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Birthday Blogging

I suppose a blog post written on my birthday should be especially reflective—taking stock of the past year, looking forward to the future, something like that. And I think it is a good time for an assessment. It’s been eight months since my mom died and eight years since we moved to Philadelphia. That’s actually the longest I’ve lived in one place since childhood. It will be our family’s fifth year at Greene Street Friends School and my sixth teaching at University of the Arts, which is the longest I’ve ever had a job, other than motherhood. In many ways, my life is rolling along, year to year, with less change than in any previous decade—at least on the surface.

The most noticeable difference between this birthday and my last is that we won’t be bringing the leftover birthday cake to my mom’s. That realization this morning brought a wave of sadness that I haven’t felt much since she died in December. A year ago, as we prepared for our August vacation, I was worried about mom being alone in our absence. I bought my first cell phone so the hospice nurse could reach us, and checked our answering machine regularly when we lost cell coverage in the mountains. I thought she might die while we were gone. When she lived four more stressful months, I was grateful the hospice social worker had encouraged me to take a vacation.

This summer our biggest dilemma is whether or not to bring the new puppy camping. After realizing that driving to Vermont with him might negate the relaxing effect of Lake Champlain, we started looking for pet sitters. One of the first women we called said no because she had actually met dear Spud at the local dog park and thinks he might be a little too high strung for her own elderly dogs. We’re making other calls and also checking out minivan rentals so we can ride safely with Spud, if we must. It’s helpful to remember that this is a much easier situation than the one we were facing last year.

I have some decisions to make in the coming year, but most of the stress I feel about them I put on myself. The external burdens are lifting. Mom’s estate will be settled soon—a benefit of being the only child of an organized mother—so my last daughterly duties will be winding up. On the other end, the children are now old enough to make their own lunches. Even swimming with the kids is noticeably easier this summer as they no longer need to hang on me to keep from drowning.

My work is changing is subtle ways, which is probably part of what keeps it interesting. Most of my jobs I’ve quit after a few years, as soon as I got bored. But motherhood changes constantly. Just when I could change a diaper in my sleep, I had to learn how to paper mache piñatas. Once I knew how to mediate a spat over the Leggos, I had to deal with arguments about gender roles. I sense we’re on the brink of a whole new phase, so I’ve been hugging my nine-year-old as much as possible this summer. I don’t know how much longer she’ll want to hold my hand when we cross the street.

That little girl who still holds my hand may be settling my estate some day, but hopefully a long time from now. Although two friends recently gasped when they heard I was turning forty-four (“That’s really in your mid-forties now,” Claudia said.), I feel I have a lot of life ahead of me. I sense more will develop with my writing in this next year, and this leading about racial justice will get clearer. The last fortune cookie I got said, “Good things are coming to you in the due course of time.” In truth, good things are already here.


Anonymous Julie said...

Happy birthday, Eileen! I hadn't realized you're my sister's age, and her kids are about the same ages as yours.

Beautiful reflections on the changing course of motherhood. Thanks.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Libby said...

happy birthday!

3:14 PM  

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