You’ll never be alone in your mind again. I forget who said that about becoming a mother. It wasn’t me, but I totally get it.
It is the afternoon at our home in Walton. We drove to town this morning–Autumn and I–for a work function during which, when it became my turn to talk, someone gracefully had to take the baby. They bounced her around the office while I gave my piece.
Afterward, I was scheduled to meet with my boss but my five month old wouldn’t have a minute more of it. We got back on the road, a forty five minute drive home. Autumn fell asleep immediately and I pulled into a Dutch Bros for an iced coffee that I consumed in a matter of mere minutes. $3.50 plus a tip down-the-hatch. I hadn’t had time for my morning coffee in our rush to get out the door. Absent of my ritual, a pounding headache loomed.
On the drive, I listened to NPR’s coverage of the climate crisis. I took a slidelong glance at my plastic Dutch Bros cup and straw. I could tell you I usually order hot coffee, which at least comes in a paper cup. I could tell you that yesterday I’d dutifully carried my reusable blue coffee mug from REI, but it wouldn’t soften the blow. I literally drove past droves of teenagers skipping class to raise awareness of the climate crisis, protesting outside the City Courthouse. I honked, in a pathetic attempt to join them. I honked four friendly honks and waved. But I was, clearly, part of the problem. I may have reused my coffee mug yesterday, but today was a brand new day.
Back at home it was 70 and sunny. Autumn had not roused from her nap, so I opened the door of the minivan I swore I’d never own and paced around our property racking my brain for what I should do with my newfound freedom. At least once, I checked on her to make sure she was breathing (it’s a mom thing). It’d been an unusually long nap. I checked the mail. Refilled my coffee. Eyed the mint and the other outside herbs. I wondered if, possibly, there were time to write a story.
Timidly, not sure to get my hopes up, I shook a large, fuzzy blanket out on the back pasture, under the trees. Autumn, still in the van with the door open, sleeping, was within eye and ear shot. It was the first warm day of Spring. I remembered how her father and I met on the first warm day of Spring several years ago. We’d walked his dog, Honey, who has since passed. She’d died in my arms, actually.
I grabbed a large yellow notepad I use for reporting in our small town. I grabbed my iced coffee and a pen. I grabbed a large mason jar of water and a pillow for when Autumn woke and needed to nurse. Writing is hard with a newborn because you can only get down so many words so ideally those words would be good.
I can do hard things but not easily, I wrote. A sort of mantra lately. I wasn’t sure if it was holding me back or what.
I kicked my Chacos into the grass.
70 and sunny. Never alone in my mind again, I wrote.
I managed to fill a couple of pages with words under the shade of a Rhododendron bush, in the shadow of our hollow. I wrote some short little clip of my life at this time. Of our life. A regular work day. Then back to the hollow. I didn’t find the time to remove the cheesy brand placement that never should’ve been there. The Dutch Bros. The REI. The Chacos.
I didn’t find the time to say I’m more of a Hillbilly Brews, St. Vincent De Paul, Birkenstock-type of gal.
But maybe I’ve changed.
Autumn wakes and cries. Selfishly, I dart my eyes toward the van but keep on writing. I’ve just gotten to the part about the protesters skipping school. I don’t know what I’m trying to say but I think I’m capturing some glimpse of time. Another Spring. Another season. Another mom scrambling to keep her brain together while teenagers point to the real, true issues in the world like the climate crisis. The admiration I have for them. The shock of not standing there with them. The vows I make to reduce, recycle and reuse. How, in reality, I put Autumn in disposable diapers at night because they hold like a gallon of pee and don’t wake her.
When Autumn does wake, I will lay by her side in the sun on our fuzzy blanket and feed her for up to thirty minutes. Hogs do not mind this, humans sometimes do. I am required to do this five to six times per day. A wise aunt recently told me, “Remember, our children do not ask to come into this world.”
It is not easy being a mother. It is not easy being a child. But it is 70 and sunny and somehow we are perfectly undone and barreling toward some unknown, likely very disorderly reality. Not an easy pill to swallow for a perfectionist-ish like me.
The minute I pick Autumn up, her crying stops, like a faucet. I may not be everything, but I am everything to her. Like the Earth is for those teenagers. We cannot see what they see–perhaps too close to the elephant we have been our whole lives. But those kids, well I guess they see their mother barreling into space and away from them, toward her death. Resources squandered. No soft, natural place to land on. The very real possibility of her milk drying up. They see their mother leaving, being held hostage, in great danger.
As a mother, the burdensomeness of the responsibility is only a matter of perspective. I take off my shirt. I let the sunshine warm my shoulders. I really struggle to reach down within my core and retrieve what I truly am as a woman now: a mother. Not some worker. But being a mother is harder than being a worker. Mothers don’t get breaks. I wonder how very tired the Earth must be. What relief it will be to her when she implodes. But she is probably one of those mothers who’s made for it. Not like me.
On our drive through the “country” to town, I got stopped for construction three times. It was bumper to bumper the whole way. I stared out the window at the trees, the forests, the wild. We don’t even know how to live out there anymore, I thought. At the bell of my alarm clock this morning, all I wanted to do was lie around and nurse my daughter. Instead, I slapped some powder on my face, I put on a skirt and I hustled. I ignored that animal instinct. I’ve been successfully rewired. It goes against my new role as mother. Is the Earth starting to think differently, too?
I floored it to the office, to the child neglect organization I work for. But it was worth it. Because our topics drive a good cause. The world is crumbling, but that is beside the point. For us anyway. We all have our causes, and our limits, sadly.
How many exhausted mothers, fathers and children did I pass on route to the office? How many of them would rather have been somewhere else? In their own metaphorical hollow somewhere?
How many other parents have no weekend, and work late into the night? How many other folks in the country have gotten so incredibly entwined, despite their best efforts, in the go-go-go, American daily grind? How many others actually sit in the forests that they pay to own?
70 and sunny.
Never alone in your mind again.
Here. Now. Home.
Autumn lays in the sun with me. She nurses and when she is done she fusses not once. She taps my leg with her foot as I write. Lightly. She is mesmerized by the hum of nature (and, if I am being honest, the highway in the distance). She notices the breeze and the butterflies and the grass. Am I a bad mother because she is more familiar with the indoors than the out? Or might I be let off the hook because it is the first day that really feels like springtime in Oregon?
Autumn’s feet tapping moves to my right elbow, jarring my pen and lettering as I write. We do this for minutes, me writing, her jarring. I am obsessed but finally I get the hint. We lie on our backs, mother and daughter, on a large fuzzy blanket and stare at the towering branches of a walnut tree. There aren’t even buds yet, but behind the branches is an azure blue sky. There will be buds, I tell Autumn. There will even be leaves, you’ll see.