One of the biggest issues for me in leaving the place I called home for many decades is being cutoff from what had been my core identities. I had several over the years and most were jettisoned for different reasons —  I was a printer who left the business to raise a family. I was an elected official, known for having taken on an entrenched incumbent and setting off a storm of legal controversy; I left that behind in order to focus on being a mother to a gravely injured child. I was a realtor until I needed the security of a monthly paycheck and health insurance for my kids and me. I was a homeowner until I had to sell my house. I was a wife until there was no marriage that required one. The most basic and important of these roles for me was being a mother. I didn’t turn the noun into a verb. I didn’t sanctify the job or ballyhoo it as heroic, but did acknowledge it as the most difficult job I ever had. I took it seriously, embraced its deep pleasures even as I bemoaned the frequent moments of loneliness and depletion. The days when my kids talked to me endlessly, I reminded myself that there would be a time when I would welcome the sound of their voices. As they pulled at me I worked at focusing on the tactile pleasures of their warm, soft skin. While tending their lavations I took pleasure in the beauty of their young limbs and torsos. Certainly there were many times when those moments were not held close but provoked annoyance and frustration. But for the most part, I have taken great joy and pleasure from my kids. I found as they grew older and the challenges greater, the rewards and pleasures deepened. I am now inhabiting a world that has not seen me much as a mother. While I have the privilege of being an old and loved friend or cousin, I am not known as the parent to my three remarkable children. No one here knows them for their bravery, beauty or skills. There isn’t anyone who is grateful for their loyalty to their own child or for their humor and generosity. Since I seem to belong here in so many ways, it is not readily apparent that I feel as if a huge chunk of me is missing. Surely there is an inevitability to continuing one’s life without your children being the central focus of your time and energies. One can actually gauge a measure of success as a parent by one’s children’s abilities to negotiate the world successfully and independently. It is also common to experience some level of discomfort in addressing the “empty nest”. I feel like my nest has been stolen from me, and them. Like much of my sense of dislocation, it is exacerbated by the absence of the things that make one feel at home. I did have an inking this might happen as I packed up. I left packing my vanity until the last minute which in addition to its expected contents also held most of the kids’ legal documents. I shoveled most of the stuff into a carton that I would take with me — the nail care bag, passports, magnifying mirror, birth certificates. I knew that it would be best not to have those items somewhere in the labyrinth of the storage facility. What I also added to the box was a framed photograph of the three kids and me taken over 20 years ago in Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park. The other day feeling particularly lost, I unwrapped that photo. The sounds of the carousel; the lush cushion of the grass beneath us; the moist, sweet smells rising from their hair as we posed for their dad to snap the picture now come back to me from the kitchen counter where the photo sits, just above the sight line behind my computer. You never stop being a mother, so you must keep finding your pleasures where you can find them. This picture will do for now.

2 thoughts on “Roost-less

  1. You are never root”less” while I’m here, but my heart broke when I read this post. Your ability to express the deepest feelings you are experiencing is truly remarkable. Love you always. Hank tough sweetheart.

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