Originally published May, 2001

It is officially Summer at Magnolia Manse.  I know it is May, and the Season begins in June, but my children are out of school for two months and three weeks and that makes it summer.

This week I traveled to Chattanooga with my eleven year son, Matthew, on his class trip.  We wandered the aquarium examining the fishes, telling each other everything we knew about every fish we saw.

This child is mine

This child of mine who I love so much it makes me ache, bounces up occasionally to kiss me, “I lazhu” he says, without embarrassment in our own ‘I love you’ language.

This child whose hair I would not cut until he was five because I loved the curls, and then cried over his falling locks while his father took pictures.

This child who can shinny up a rope effortlessly, fly on a skateboard and make the most profound remarks, is mine.

When he was 2 and his brother 4, I was convinced I’d birthed aliens. They are such boys. I didn’t realize how soft and dainty I’d had things until they disrupted my world and brought me their magic.

Their father was a young, street smart tough guy from Boston who hid his tenderness well, protected it from examination because he couldn’t stand to reveal it.

I know I’m a different Mother to the young four than the older two

I have another son, older, from another marriage, from another lifetime, when I lived on another planet.  His father is reserved, controlling, controlled.  At least that’s my memory of him.  We’ve been apart so long, I don’t know who he is now, but in that lifetime, when we were together, I was reserved and controlled (by him) and our children are light years different from the children I had with the Yank. I know I’m a different Mother to the young four than the older two.  Not better, not worse, but different.

My oldest son once said, “You are tougher than my Dad.  Stronger.”  I haven’t told him yet that he’s wrong.  That his father’s strength is deep within him, grown from his secrets and his history and mine is sought for anew every day.

I find it when they insist that I give it.

When a neighbor calls the police about my children skateboarding I’m told officially that it is against the law to skate on city property and now they can’t.  The officer apologizes to my children and to me, but she’s made a big stink with the police department and he must respond and stop them. And warn me.

I’m in the midst of my attempt to NOT respond in anger to anything.  My awareness that the flutter of a butterfly wing in Mexico can add to a tornado in Kansas . . . that the ANGER I put into the cosmic consciousness might be the generation of a bombing somewhere and I’m overcome with inadequacy.  Indecision.

Keep your cat out of my yard too!

I go to her house to confront her because she’s told me in the past she would let me know when there is a problem, and now she’s gone to the police . . . but it is pointless.  She tells me I should be driving them to soccer and swim lessons, and assorted other “this-is-how-I-think-you-should-raise- your-kids” advice (that I’ve heard from way too many other meddling people).  When she goes off on the raising of my children, I resist the urge to tell her to get a life, and repeat, You need to mind your own business.

When she screams that I need to keep my cat out of her yard, too, and slams the door, I think I probably really didn’t get anywhere with that whole thing.  As I walk from her house I see my children and that’s when I lose my temper.  I shriek at them to “Get off Her Street!”  They’re bouncing around me like winning players on the home team and I’m unhappy they’re there.  But their jubilation changes my mood and as I stomp back home I think I may be okay.

Oddly enough, knocking on her door has strengthened my bond with my children.

Dinner on the deck lasts into the the night as we talk, light candles, build a fire in the chiminea.  They are my island in this craziness I live, my salvation, my life.  My reason.

Our relationships are all so complicated

With my older two we’re still working out issues and angers about our disappointment from that failed marriage.  I’d like to think I’m big enough to have let go of old hurts, but there are still things that more than rankle.

I lost the friend he was because I couldn’t live with the man he was.  Strangely, I still feel that loss.  My oldest child,  still teaching me how to be a mother, forces me to stretch and grow and tries not to let me know she finds my idea of adulthood completely abhorrent.  She wants a house and a marriage, and I’m not ready for this one: children. And when I was her age, I did, too.

She thinks my yearning for Europe with just a backpack is unthinkable and my fly by the seat of my pants attitude for living excruciating.

She wants security and I can’t explain my knowing there is none.  Not here.

She has great insights into the workings of other people’s minds, and actions and explains her alien siblings well.  I don’t ask her definition or explanation of me.  She called me “Martha Stewart on a Harley” once and since I like that, I don’t want more detail.

Sometimes I almost think I understand.

Mostly though, I revel in the wonder they bring me in the questions they ask and the moments I have when they rush up to me in a crowd with a kiss and “I lazhu.”