Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.


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See Me: Day 22 of the April Poetry Challenge

Yesterday I spent several hours cleaning my house. Scratch that. I can not really categorize my frantic activity as “cleaning” because very little dirt was actually relocated from the floors and various surfaces of my house to somewhere more hygienic (like dust rags or the trash bin). Rather I spent those several hours shuffling items (toys, books, dirty dishes, smelly socks) from the various inappropriate surfaces where they were residing (the hallway floor, the fireplace hearth, the couch, the kitchen table) to their actual abodes.

This is by no means an unusual Monday morning activity for me, but this week was a bit different because I had a partner in my tidying efforts: my mother-in-law.

Please do not infer an eye-roll or a long-suffering tone of voice into that last pronouncement.  I LOVE my mother-in-law. She is kind, and fun, and loving, and supportive, and SUCH an amazing Nanna to the kiddos. She always goes out of her way to make me and my family feel comfortable (whether in her house or ours) and makes a very intentional point about not announcing her opinions about how we run our little family unless invited to do so.

All the same…. allowing my mother-in-law to see my home in its frequently untidy state has required a journey of nearly 14 years. You see, her home is always beautiful! Colors are coordinated, and furniture is tastefully arranged, and everything has a place where it lives – and these things do not go visiting beyond the time frame of their active use for a particular purpose. It is a mark of just how much she loves us that she allows my family to disrupt this beautiful order for weeks at a time when we come to visit, strewing matchbox cars and glitter stickers across rooms and cracker crumbs across her floors.

My habit of doing the mad-cleaning-act BEFORE her arrival is so ingrained that my failure to do so last Wednesday actually caused my mother (who was just completing her own visit) noticeable anxiety. This is a significant indicator of my long-standing obsession with presenting a tidy front to my husband’s mother, because…well… I come by my rather slap-dash housekeeping style honestly. That is to say, I inherited it – by either nature, or nurture, take your pick. This is not a knock on my mother. When I was little she was doing much more important things than keeping a tidy house: things like giving an amazing home-taught education to me and my sisters, and then supporting us and putting us all through college after Dad left. Thus, the fact that the mess engulfing my home prompted even her to ask me six or seven times whether “I didn’t want to clean up a bit before (her counterpart) arrived?” is an indicator of just how badly I have always wanted to impress my beloved mother-in-law with my ability to play house.

But, I am happy to report that I am growing up.

(Or, at least, I was really sick last week and had no energy to clean, and so I am claiming this as a moral victory to make myself feel better about the smashing disintegration of my mask). Perhaps it was really not that much of a conscious decision to finally be honest about my housekeeping, but sometimes there is personal development potential even in circumstantial changes.

And so, as I cleaned today and got an outsider’s glimpse into the inadequacies of my approach to household management, I decided to embrace the growth potential of the moment. Hence, today’s poetic offering.


 

See Me

 

The thing about wanting to be seen

is that I want to look pretty.

I do not want you to see that one stubbornly yellow tooth

that is forever impervious to every tooth-whitening gel.

I do not want you to be able to guess

that is has been six months since my last professional haircut.

I do not want you to notice all the jiggly evidence

left behind on my body by the two precious passengers who started life inside me.

I just want you to see a perfect, cover-girl, air-brushed image of me.

 

The thing about wanting to be seen

is that I want to look competent.

I do not want you to know that clean clothes

sit in a heap on top of my dryer for three days.

I do not want you to see the way I struggle

to manage both my anger and my daughter’s mini-rebellions.

I do not want to admit that I have been writing and posting poetry for the last 22 days,

but I cannot actually define what makes a piece of writing a poem.

I just want you to see a skilled and confident woman, who can balance life and parenting with a flair of creative brilliance.

 

The thing about wanting to be seen

is that I want to actually look the way I am supposed to look.

I do not want to wonder if I look OK

and pass on crippling insecurities

to the little girl who watches my face in the mirror.

I do not want to shove the mess behind the closet door,

and then pretend I do not need my coat,

and shiver in the cold comfort of pride.

I do not want to hold my need for motherly authority

above my daughter’s need for actual mothering,

and my own need for help when I am floundering.

I just want to be the beautiful, competent, inspiring stranger in my poetic imaginings.

 

The thing about wanting to be seen

is that I don’t really want to be seen

until I realize that

until I let myself be seen

I will never be

real.


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Imaginative Freedom: Day 7 of the April Poetry Challenge

Apparently the Gigglemonster inherited more from me than his brown eyes and his extreme sensitivity to tickling. He is clearly also a born story-teller. He loves to hear stories; he loves to act them out; and most of all he likes to create them out of the quirky delightfulness of his own imagination.

This penchant is most frequently displayed when the current reality does not line up with his preferences. It’s not that he is a LIAR exactly, but more than he has a complicated relationship with the truth – it is just so confining and uninspiring. Much more fun to explore the realm of possibility, where history can contain any experience his little four-year-old mind can dream up, and where his sister’s ever practical correction can’t intrude with withering assertions “that never happened!”

I can’t wait to start reading the stories he will write in a few more years…


 

Oh, To Be a Ghost Grown-up

 

“When I was a ghost grown-up…”

that’s my son’s standard introduction

to imaginative tales of things

he’s never done.

Professions he has never worked (a knight, a dentist, a mythbuster),

places he has never been (the moon, a pirate ship, Erendell),

lives he has never lived (dangerous, exciting, magical),

all breathed to life with the strong force of his boundless storytelling.

 

It is a carefully selected self that bars all contradiction.

A ghost cannot be seen,

so who can witness to its absence?

A grown up – in his 4-year-old belief – suffers no limits,

there is no one to say “No” where grown-ups have a will to do.

And so, these stories too can grow without constraint,

an outlet for a mind that yearns to live each moment to the very tip of thought.

 

I’ve heard of epic battles he has fought and won,

of ten motherless children he has raised with love and care.

(each has a name, if an unusual one).

I’ve marveled at the complicated web of tangled powers and desires that his mind evokes.

I’ve ached to see frustration in each tale of loss, of failure, or of woe.

I’ve learned to listen for the dream, the cherished hope

that needs this outlet for release.

To ponder how to keep him safe

while also giving room for dreams to grow into reality.

 

And… I have wondered.

Just what would it be like to be, myself, a “ghost grown up”?

No limits to contain my mind or will,

no drudgery of trapping practicality,

no fetters of responsibility to hold me to the one life I have chosen.

But… no reality either,

to make my life the fragile, precious, messy, beautiful mix of love and boundaries,

that grows each day,

even within constraints;

and with no dreamer boy to hold – fixed to the ground – while I listen to his wondrous tales

take flight…

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