February 15, 2016
In February, seed catalogues arrive with their promise of spring. I have always enjoyed browsing, circling favorites, setting a budget, and placing my order. Pleasant anticipation and daydreams accompany my wait until the day the seeds and young plants arrive.
This year, however, I see no reason to open the glossy pages, no call for expending hope. I’ve little soil left after all the flooding at our home. My yard is largely a bog now, the result of the watery incursion. Although it would delight Shrek, I am not an ogre (despite my children’s assertions to the contrary) and find no pleasure in squelching soil or drowned and decayed plants.
The answer may be to change direction, adjust perspective. Maybe I should embrace the changes and dig a streambed and a pond. In rerouting the pooling and surging water diverted from our house, I could create a water-based paradise. I could stock it with colorful fish and seek out treatments to keep mosquitos at bay. I’d learn how to keep water clear and enjoy the blooms of waterlilies, vigilant against the children drowning in the collected waters.
This all leads me to introspection. I am not fighter. In fact, I detest fighting and crave peaceful interactions. The battle against mold and water exacted a tremendous toll from me, physically and emotionally.
Much like motherhood. Motherhood is a pitched battle, after all, with sharpened wits as defenses and wagons circle around delicate hearts.
My lack of fire is not an admirable trait in a mother, and I am in charge of five souls. One son is married and gone, but the rest are at home. They assert themselves, test boundaries, and question conventions. I make stands as best I can. I collect my resolve and stand up to their emotional floods, but often my resistance is swept aside, discarded and disregarded. The struggle leaves me exhausted. I bend as a willow in a storm, hair trailing frustrated tears when I step aside and allow one child the freedom to undertake a foolish action. Be it maintaining an ill-advised friendship or altering major life plans, the decisions are not mine to make. I can offer my thoughts, pray for guidance, and hope for the best. Experience leads to growth. I know they must make errors to learn. However, when a result of their behavior surprises them, I internalize their anguish, wishing I’d somehow better conveyed the potential outcomes. After such an occasion, I re-examine my words and actions. I agonize over inflection and interpretation. I do my best to protect without smothering them. I arm them with knowledge, and I allow them to choose. Often, their choices are not what I wish for them, yet I support them as best I can. I listen when they lament. I pray always for their success.
In my way, I show conviction, I suppose. I fight for my family because they matter, because my position as their mother makes a difference. Even in making errors, kids are living their lives, and in life is hope.
So I pick up my seed catalogue and page through, determined to hold on to hope. Surely just as someday the kids might understand I only have the best intentions, there must be plants that don’t mind soggy roots. I think of under-plantings and ways to beautify my stretch of saturated soil. I know I did my best by digging trenches and installing a sump pump to protect the house and our belongings, even if it means an increase in the water table outside. I also realize a contentious conversation is meant to best prepare the kids for the difficulties of life. Doubtless I’ll lose a good amount of viable foliage in my quest to create a mini-paradise, but that is life. We struggle against the floods. We set up dams and dig trenches, and sometimes the diverted waters overflow into other areas. All we can do is endeavor as best we can, learn from our mistakes, and make the best of what’s given.
To read more letters, click on The Path!