By the time that they’ve met her, she’s already not the same woman who ran off to England, sold books door-to-door in rural West Virginia neighborhoods, and taught bilingual first graders in the inner city. Later, the little ones, trying to process these anecdotes, fail to recognize that the roots of their wanderlust stem from her own. They only perceive one whom their dad’s influence has Charter Clubbed her wardrobe which once upon time included an Aztec, ankle-length skirt, a floral shawl, and a muumuu.
She has devoted almost the bulk of her thirties and forties to them but they’ve reduced her at times to a chauffeur of a 12 passenger behemoth who’s apprehensive about parking between two shiny compacts.
She unabashedly wears Birkenstocks, eschews eye shadow, and in some archaic family photos she’s donning oversized blue frames–identical to the shades hipsters ironically sport again. She’s relentlessly and undauntingly curious, a characteristic which frequently rubs against her propensity for sleepiness. Whether immediately after lunch or after late nights at the dance studio, she’d endeavor to read aloud two chapters with her little girls, while fighting off the nods–perhaps the consequence of one of her daughters brushing her hair hypnotically.
They jabbed at her when they were little because she’s nearly a decade older than the majority of their parents’ playmates. They don’t understand that one day they’d find her independence and rebellion and forget to credit her for instilling it in their souls.
She settled in the suburbs, two hours from the almond farms she surrounded herself with as a child, and she has a husband who at one point works three jobs simultaneously to allow her to write chore charts for, conduct spelling tests with, administer shots to, and open capsules and dump their contents in hot water for three daughters who chronically broke out in hives, grumpiness and stomach pains. She keeps her pain and weariness from her little girls, though never her tears.
Her three children were born in less than three years and they share the Master bedroom a room until the eldest moves to Pennsylvania. They play piano–she enforces the 45 minute daily practice minimum. They dance in Hansel and Gretal–she stitches the straps of their costumes. They fall off the beam–she’s missed it because she was covering her eyes with her hands.
She’s never been more alive to her daughters–nor her daughters old enough to appreciate the transformation–then when she returns to the workforce. She gushes about her kindergartners, their Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Iraqi, Indian mothers and daddies, and finds them equal enthusiasts in learning. Sometimes. The school infrastructure sags and rattles and threatens to collapse and seven years later she’s withstood the turnover, the drama, the obfuscation.
Strawberry. Scooter. Gentle. All of them scooped up in her hands, petting back the ears, rolling her eyes when each heaved a baby carrot into the hollows of their fluffy, flappy pouch. Everything was disconcerting about the 2000 election, not the least of it a hamster’s five day disappearance commencing as Florida went bonkers. Strawberry.
She’s 55, with short hair for nearly 15 years now, when she astonished her daughters by coming home on a breathless July night with it chopped above her ears. Her little ones haven’t ever seen her use mascara though they’ve wondered why she doesn’t ever put an earring in her second hole on her left ear. What would her husband say at this point?
She barely sees them these days, and if one was to add up the incarnate hours, it may make a smorgasbord of a month, but she texts and returns phone calls and types e-cards and mails packages and lets her daughters roam without holding it against them. Instead, she delights in The Lord and makes him the desire of her heart.