My Birthplace, My Body, I Won’t Wait

                                             

                                                  “Hell is longing to be somewhere else.”

                                                                 -Author Unknown

 

My birthplace by the Atlantic, I long for it. It beckons me. I spent every July from the age of seven to seventeen there, visiting one last time at twenty. At the time I had no idea how lucky I was.

And then I stayed away.

For nine years.

My baby cousins aged. They aged out of thinking I was important. They were clingy, sandy babies, frolicking in the ocean, riding my hip through the breakers, standing below my breasts in the shower. I was braiding their hair, still wet from the bath. But they became teenagers and all but erased me from memory.

Because I wasn’t there.

My grandparents went from being quirky, old New Englanders, telling jokes and old stories with friends around the breakfast table, to being separated from one another. Bedridden in separate nursing homes. And I missed it. I missed it all. When I returned nine years later it was for my Nana’s funeral. So much time had passed, but it was all the same. The smell of the air. The rhododendron bushes and rose hips. My blood feeling the pull of the saltwater. The land was the same. How I wished I was the same too. But I was twenty-nine, healing from a miscarriage and filled with regret for all the time spent away. At the reception, in a thick Rhode Island accent, my Mom’s cousin asks me, “So, when was the last time you saw your Nana?”

“Nine years.”

“That’s a long time. Long time,” she scolds.

I fight back tears for the 100th time that day.

I stayed away because I was young. I had dropped out of college. I had gained weight. I kept telling myself I was about to lose weight, always about to make the change. My body in constant flux, my appearance only temporary. Don’t go back now, you won’t be able to go to the beach. You’ll look huge in a swimsuit. Don’t go back now, your Nana will be disappointed. Your relatives will talk about you when you leave the room. “Look how heavy she’s gotten,” they’ll say. It’s best just to wait until you’re back to a “normal” size. This is only temporary.

But it wasn’t.

I lived in denial for a very long time. I lived in shame and failure. I wasn’t living at all. With the exception of a couple of years in my late twenties, I have been overweight my entire adult life. This is a truth I have only recently come to terms with.

I’m thirty-four now. To be on that beach, to swim in the ice cold Atlantic, floating on  my back over the waves; it’s spiritual for me. The ocean, she speaks to me. I sneak away early one morning while my family sleeps. I go down and stand in the sand. The water, it rolls over my feet, burying them. She pulls me in.

It is foggy this morning. I’m alone with the exception of an occasional jogger. “I’m back,” I tell her silently.

“I know,” she says.

“I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long.”

“It’s ok,” she says, “I’m always here.”

“I have babies now,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says, “They’re beautiful.”

 

I’m a grown woman now. I’m the mother to two little people who are looking to me to show them what it means to be alive. I make my way back to the rental house and put on my swimsuit. I take my babies to the beach. My family is there, all of them, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. I don’t wear a cover up. I sit in the sand with my son and search for digger crabs, my belly puffed out as I squat down in the water holding my baby girl on my hip. We walk down to the river to gather shells, my legs jiggling with every step. My big butt and thighs covered in muddy sand. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been.

 

And I don’t care. I want to feel the water on my skin. I want to see my babies on my beach. I want to feel my daughter’s warm body as she rides my hip through the cold waves. Her sandy little face buried in my neck while she sleeps, wrapped in a towel.

I want my family to know me. To know my kids, and I’m not waiting anymore.

walkonbeach

Holding_Lids_beach_H20mark

Kids_seawall

 

I Throw My Kids Obnoxious Birthday Parties

There seems to be a backlash lately against elaborate birthday parties for children. I’ve even seen a petition circulated around Facebook asking parents to stop giving out party favors, i.e. gift bags of plastic crap. I happen to agree.

Before I became a parent I read an article in which a father started a group to boycott how ridiculous kids’ parties had gotten. I was appalled and thought to myself, “Wow, what ever happened to a pizza party with a homemade cake? When I have kids I’m going to keep it old school.” I continued to think this until my son was about seven months old.

Enter Mom friends.

As all the kids in my son’s playgroup neared one the party talk began. At first I thought some of these women were crazy. Come on, the kid’s turning one. A family dinner with cake seemed like plenty enough stimulation for a baby. But talk began of Pinterest (which I’d never been on at the time) and handmade birthday pennants ordered from Etsy. Oz was only nine months old when another Mom showed me the handmade crayons she’d had specially made for her son’s themed bash. She also admitted that she was having “major anxiety at night about his party.”

Wait. What?! What the hell is going on here?!

I drove home from the playdate that day feeling deeply sorry for her, but I also started thinking about my own son’s party. Perhaps we should have one. If we did what would the theme be? The phrase “birthday party theme” had now entered my vocabulary. He wasn’t yet one. His interests included power cords and electrical sockets. Eventually I settled on books because he loved being read to.

Little by little the party began to come together in my mind. To be honest I actually had fun brainstorming creative ideas, plus it would be a chance for us to finally entertain at our new home we’d spent the winter remodeling.

Let’s admit it. The party was for me.

All for me.

It was a celebration of all the work I’d done over the first year of his life, a celebration of my metamorphosis into mother.

But it went deeper than that.

As a child I was a very fancy little girl. I loved dress up, lace, flowers, the finer things in life. At the age of ten I bought myself some champagne glasses and would frequently buy sparkling cider. I would sit and luxuriate. My parents cared little for making a big fuss about anything. There were no big parties. Hell, they didn’t even own nice place settings for holiday meals. What kind of low class family had I been mistakenly born into?! For my thirteenth birthday I saved up my money and hired a limo to pick me up from school.

Are you getting the picture now?

My son is four now. I’ve thrown some damn fine parties for him. Some say god is in the details. I agree.

But it does sting when an old friend messages me on Facebook after I’ve posted pictures of a party and when I ask her about her son’s recent birthday she replies, “Oh, there was no theme. Ha ha ha! I have enough to feel inadequate about.” Or when I’m talking to a relative on the phone and they mention they saw the pictures and say, “Well, I guess that’s what you do when you don’t work. You have the time to really get into those things.” Don’t get me started on what a loaded statement that last comment is, but I digress.

So here’s the deal. For all of you parents out there who find elaborate birthday parties obnoxious, indulgent and a waste of money; I do not throw them to make you feel insecure. It is not about you.

It’s about me.

My childhood has an effect on how I choose to parent my children, does yours? Like all parents I want my kids to have what I didn’t. I want their childhood to be filled with love and yes, magic. Is it my job to create that magic? Nope, but I want to. Parenting is a ton of work. There has to be joy in it all. There has to be reward. The look on my son’s face when he sees the house all decorated just for him?

Joy. His. Mine. Ours.

Most importantly, if I were to die tomorrow they would be able to look at these pictures one day. They would see their Mom and Dad dressed in full pirate regalia excitedly holding them while they blow out their candles, celebrating their existence like it’s a big deal. They would know how very deeply they were loved.

And yes, I know there are A LOT of holes in that logic, but it is my own logic. It is not yours. So if you want to band together in the fight against something how about we choose something important like human trafficking or degenerative diseases.

Next year when my son turns five, come on over. Eat some free food and cake. Feel free to roll your eyes at how over the top the decorations are. Go home and curse me for the plastic garbage in your kid’s party favor bag. Move on with your life.

bday