Watercolor Pears and Other Journeys

By Catherine DiMercurio

Sometimes we let love remind us we’re okay.

As I hug my daughter, I want to steal back the moments I let go of maybe too easily. I tried to cherish everything I could. But when our children are ready to leave, our becoming ready to let them go gets messy. We let anger, or distance grow, because there is an illusion that it makes the leaving easier. It makes readiness appear to be something finished and beautiful, a little masterpiece of growth, and in a way, it is. But it is also green and new, for us as parents and for them as children.

My daughter left for college a year and a half ago. This weekend, visiting, I wondered, how is it that you do not live in my house anymore. How is it that we so often misunderstand and misuse time, and each other, even when we are telling ourselves different truths. I am not taking this for granted. I appreciate this moment, and that one. The easy ones, the tough ones, the laughter and tedium in between. The fact is, it isn’t possible to appreciate them all, not in the moment. But, possibly, I don’t comprehend the universes contained in each moment. The way that when mother and daughter yelled across the threshold of her pre-slammed door, the instant was a multitude, was everything that brought us there, was everything it would launch us into.

All of what I understand about living and loving could fit in a thimble. If I were a fruit fly, I would swim in it like a swan at sunrise.

At the same time maybe I knew more than I thought I did, and I let go enough and held on enough, and it is only now, with the absence of my daughter in my home a daily reminder of how life tumbles forward, that I feel as though I want to sweep it all back into my embrace for just another minute, every breath we breathed under the same roof. At the same time, it’s now, and she’s doing okay, more than okay.

The dog has found a spot near my feet. Sometimes I think he understands living and loving better than anyone, but maybe he has never quite adjusted to my daughter leaving. He attached himself differently to my son next. But soon, my son will also be gone and my dog will look at me and not understand why love has come to this. Why I, with all my insufficiencies, am the one he is left with. He will think of his girl and his boy and sigh and wish for them every day and I will come home from work and he will resign himself to loving me as best as he can. Possibly, though, he simply loves me.

I think of how many ways there are to love and how each one of them tries to break our hearts even as it expands them. Because it expands them.

I think too of the love we find – after time and heartbreak have suggested, perhaps urged, maybe you’ve had enough. I think of the way I ran toward it, us, anyway. How we sat over coffee cups, hearing each other’s voices for the first time, not really knowing what to expect of self, other, this. How learning the shape of this is a gift.

Years ago, I took a watercolor class. I learned a little, most of which I’ve forgotten. The instructor mentioned that I’d benefit from a drawing class, advice I never took. But I learned that I loved this medium, and that it calms me even if my work is simplistic and flawed, and to call it amateurish would be a compliment.

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I love seeing pencil sketch lines beneath pale washes, the way the layers build and you can see both the cumulative effect and the process at the same time. It’s like witnessing journey and arrival in the same moment, even if the arrival is not at the intended destination. No, that is not the way I thought this painting of a pear would turn out. But, still. The beautiful thing is, both “good” and “bad” paintings can be witnessed and appreciated in this same way.

How luxurious it is to appreciate and be appreciated not because we’ve made it to an expected or anticipated destination, but simply as journeyers who have arrived, here, now. In this multitude of a moment. And we’re okay. More than okay.

How new and beautiful it can be to love (ourselves) this way.

Love, Cath

 

On Mothering and Metabolism

By Catherine DiMercurio

I circled around this blank page for a while, looking for a place to land. The week percolated with activity and emotion and I found myself trying to keep up and keep catching my breath. It was like tripping and falling. There’s a slow motion moment where it feels like you should be able to stop the tumbling but the momentum already has a grip.

This week began (or last week ended) with Mother’s Day. I spent a quiet morning with my children, then traveled an hour and a half north to visit with my mother, father, and a handful of sisters.

In the days that followed, I dealt with the irritation of a broken dryer and the frustration that comes with rearranging my work schedule to accommodate a repair, which, incidentally remains incomplete. The dryer is 19 years old. Parts were ordered. And now we wait.

That night, my daughter had an away soccer game. It was one of the only games this season that I did not attend. Luckily her father was there, because my daughter had a severe allergic reaction that landed her in the emergency room. I met them at the urgent care clinic where he had taken her, and where she passed out, and where EMS was arriving. She was only out for a moment, and they were assessing her vitals. Everything was stabilizing, the two doses of Benadryl—one administered by her father and one, intravenously, by the EMT—had taken care of her hives, and her throat was no longer feeling tight. She did not need epinephrine. At the hospital, we were joined by her boyfriend and his mother. We circled my daughter’s bed, waiting for her to be seen. After about 3 hours, the attending physician reviewed her chart and told us to follow up with her doctor and an allergist. (Obviously!) There were no answers, which I didn’t really expect. Many things could have triggered the hives. The passing out, within the realm of everything that was happening to her body, was not a concern to the attending, but certainly something to keep an eye on. We returned home, exhausted and perplexed.

beach black and white dramatic horizon
Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

This day tumbled into the next—a promotion at work, a vet visit, prom again (my daughter and her boyfriend had already attended her school’s prom, and now they were off to his), and my son preparing for his first job interview. His sixteenth birthday is next week.

Exhausted and perplexed, I suppose, are the emotions that linger after this week of highs and lows, some of which I found I could not yet wrap words around, as they are still percolating in their raw and formless way, waiting for me. I find myself struggling to take it all in and comprehend it. I’ve been using the word “metabolize” frequently lately in this context, feeling as though life is often comprised of ingesting this array of experience and emotion. Metabolizing it all consists of gleaning what wisdom and knowledge I can, and crying or laughing the rest of it away, to make room for the next round. This week has been full of lessons. I became aware, for instance, that learning what it means to let other people in to the lives of my children is not something that happens all by itself, quietly, in the background. It is something I became aware of as the week unfolded and was at times overwhelming, though inherently and wonderfully positive. Good things take time to be metabolized too, not just the tough stuff. I chew on things. I process slowly. I think a lot, some say overthink, but it’s more that I’m turning it all over in my mind, looking at all the subtle contours, thinking about it all the same way lake water and sediment erode and soften beach glass or stone.

I’m still making sense of things this week, so I’m going to do something different right now and leave you with this, a poem I drafted not too long ago while I was getting my MFA, and which I’ve pulled out recently to reexamine and revise. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off after this post. I’m in the middle of novel revisions again, trying to polish and tighten in time to submit, by the end of the month, to a contest for “older published writers of fiction.” I hope you enjoy the poem. It’s about mothering, which seems appropriate in the context of this week and this post.

Mine

The moon tugs oceans of grief.

In the wet sand in-between place, I can begin to see what’s mine.

What isn’t.

In between history and anguish, my failures imprint themselves.

When I say this is my daughter,

What I mean is that she is the one who tore through me once.

But to use the possessive to describe this feral female, all rage and rangy and tangled but who still lopes near, as if to the porch for a saucer of milk and a scratch, well, that doesn’t make her mine.

When I say this is my son,

All I mean is that he is the one who slipped almost quietly into this world, from my world, quietly once in the early morning, too early, shallow breathing fish out of water boy.

But to use the possessive when describing this wild hidden one who stays close but not too close, like a secret thing whisper-peering out from behind a red milk crate left out back by the strawberry patch, well, that doesn’t make him mine.

Watching these two brooding ones ruminate on the way things broke, I don’t think they use the possessive either. I’m not theirs. I’m it.

The one who saw the fissures in the world and couldn’t stitch and mend fast enough or in the right places

Or the gaps were too big

Or the stuffing shook loose anyway.

Still I made sure there were porch and milk and crate and strawberries.

Still I broke apart

Still I found the feral and the fierce and the stillness.

Still I grasped us back to safety.

Nothing makes them mine.

But when they trot in through the back door I always leave open

They snuggle me in a big heap on the floor and we get to belong to each other at least

for a moment, a breath, and one more.

Please.

 

Love, Cath