He’s giving the middle finger
I recognized the exasperation in my oldest daughter’s voice as she did a rapid trudge up the stairs, laptop computer from work in her arms still warm from the safety course it fed her tonight, to the room she usually shares with my youngest daughter. I say “usually” because depending on how many of my kids are home, the sleeping arrangements get shuffled.
“I’ve got SO MUCH work to do!” she said in that voice that sounded suspiciously like my own when in such a state. Tired, slightly annoyed, a hint of anger, but accepting the lot as something that has to be done.
She added, “And I wish my relationship wasn’t such a job.”
Her boyfriend’s first language is Spanish, so, as can be a problem even in partnerships where mother tongues match, communication is sometimes a challenge.
My heart goes out to my daughter. I really, really get it.
A bit earlier this evening, my second daughter phoned. She lives five hours away, so phone calls are our main meetup. I put her on speaker and everyone present could hear each other. Life went on around us in our respective homes as we chatted.
And tonight life in my home was lively. It happens in spurts. A lot of people got hungry at once, so there were my three youngest kids all over the kitchen – one making grilled cheese sandwiches because the beef-barley-vegetable soup I made today, which my youngest son and daughter were serving up for themselves, wasn’t to his liking, but he so kindly told me about it and I assured him I was not offended.
While putting dishes away, I reached to put my favorite huge wooden spoon into the utensil crock on top of the wood cook stove’s warming oven. My attention was divided amongst talking on the phone, hearing multiple voices, and watching out for kids, cats, and dogs.
“Oh noooo!” I said as I watched the wooden spoon slip out of my hand head-first. Pieces of wood splintered off its rounded nose that hit the floor in front of my Aussie/Border Collie/Kelpie who was asleep on her mat. That woke her up.
I described what just elicited my “Oh nooo!” to my daughter on the phone while my groggy dog reminded me it was time to do the bedtime potty run for her and my other dog.
I led both dogs out amidst the lively kitchen noises and pulled the heavy sliding glass door behind me. The inside noises were suddenly gone and all I heard was the clickety-click of dog toenails running down wooden stairs.
As I stood sock-footed on the deck, looking up at the sky with expectation to see stars that shone so brightly last night but that were instead covered by clouds, I spoke into my phone:
“Ya know, I was once like you, a quiet girl in my early 20s who didn’t have any dogs, cats, or kids. And now look at me. I have a community in my house.”
We mused together about that. When I went back inside with the dogs, I said to my youngest three kids:
“I had a revelation here. I had been wanting to know a way to describe to you guys how I’m not just a mom… how I’m really a real person… and talking to Corndog (that’s a nickname for that daughter – and when I first told her it was a nickname, when she was 3 years old, she said “I’m not Nick” in her sly little humoured way) outside, it dawned on me how to describe it.”
And I told them the same thing I told Corndog outside. I think they got it. They know their big sister as more of one of them than as an adult. But I think they now have a bit of a foundation on which to build their understanding of me as a person.
I never used to understand what it was for my mom to be a person. She was just my mom. Just my sister’s mom. Just a mom in general.
But then I had kids of my own, and that’s when I started realizing how human my mom was. And how there is no such thing as “just a mom”.
And the more time I spend around my kids, in all of their ages and experiences, I get to know more about who I myself am as a person.
I see parts of myself in all of my kids. The more I see that, the better I understand each of them.
Life’s interesting to observe, how it goes around and around like that.
And no, I haven’t been smoking anything, though I did used to wax philosophical with my friends back in my teen years while under the influence of the odd mind-altering substance.
Not that I need to alter my thoughts. They’ve always been this way in their natural state: observant, trying to connect the connections for the sake of entertaining myself and anyone willing to hear about it, though it’s mostly in writing rather than speaking.
That’s five kids mentioned. One teenaged son just sold his truck to a rancher today. My question was, “Did ya get as much for it as you wanted?”
His answer was “No, not quite, but it’s okay.”
I love his mellow acceptance. He went out with some friends tonight. He’s a smart, compassionate human. I pray he’s safe. I pray that for all my kids and often.
And the other kid I haven’t yet mentioned is four hours north. I did hear from her today one tiny bit. She replied to a message I sent her two nights ago. Actually it was a photo I’d sent her. She must have been away working in the wilderness till then, as is often the case. Her reply was simply “lol!” Because, you see, the photo was of the front paws of one of our four cats. The caption I gave it was “He’s giving the middle finger.”
That’s a thing for my kids and me. We don’t swear at each other, but we flip each other the bird regularly. Humorously. Lovingly. Strangers might think we’re strange, but people ARE strange when you’re a stranger.
And there you have a slice of my life.