Journal page from 2004
This is a page of a journal I used to keep, back when I was a working mom to two small ones and one middle sized one. Recently, I gathered my old journals into one location and I've been enjoying flipping through them. A pleasing little box of narcissism, their words remind me how fleeting this all really is. Wasn't it just yesterday that my children were such small bundles of human? How is it today that two are taller than I am and one is nearly there?
A gathering of journals and a bowl of rocks.
These are a few of my favorite things.
Earlier this winter I claimed a corner of our living area for myself. I've lately been trying to write with a more serious intent. Real books. Real stories. The former captured moments of my life stashed away into journals and blogs, facebook posts and tweets didn't feel like actual writing. Also, to be a 'real' writer, I felt the need for an appropriately real space. I built a small desk and painted it in a fashion that makes me smile, in order to help the words feel more official. A home for my thoughts. Or rather, a home for my thoughts to become proper stories. It is a corner between bookshelves, near homeschool books, beside writing books, with a place underneath to stash my pile of journals, old and new. Basically, a corner where all the words in my world collide.
My little dreamy desk.
My daughter reads this blog, from time to time. Sighing and telling me how much she loves it. Asking when I'll start writing her story again. What she doesn't know is I've always been writing her story. First in little notebooks I'd carry in my small backpacks and pulled out in slow moments, scratched out on napkins in restaurants, doodling in the margins of notes taken in meetings at work, written in blog posts, and message board threads, and more recently strewn across facebook, twitter, pinterest and instagram. She peeks out of the wiser places of my 'real' writing. There she is, that curly headed toddler, that preteen that is taller than I am, that fierce champion of dragons. She is in it all; she always will be. She's a defining part of what I am.
This blog might have gone neglected, but the words have always surrounded her, buzzing in my ears and unfolding from my fingers on a daily basis. Children are a muse unlike any other, their birth a gong sounding the beginning of the never ending desire to stash away moments. Words - a glue to the life scrapbook we are always trying to create, as if we can somehow slow time by documenting it as it unfolds.
Today I was browsing through the journal from above. Little notes written in frantic mommy scrawl, trying to capture those gorgeous, soft-cheeked, sticky-fingered moments before they floated away on the haze of overtired, overstressed mommy-brain. A hand that belonged to a person that knew she had too little time for what she wanted to accomplish, but wanted to try to do it all anyways. Oh, the cheeky exhausted optimism of that younger me. I like her. I wish she knew that the optimism alone was almost enough. That she was doing fine.
In that journal are little photos printed out on regular office paper and scratched in notes about my son's first antics like, "Yesterday he somehow got my Wesco pop from the top of the table. I found him sitting in the middle of the floor drinking it from the straw. He just grinned at me when I walked out there and found him." Written five days after my son's first birthday, before he could officially walk, and the first time I realized he could both climb and drink with a straw. I read those words and I can instantly remember the weight of his one year old self as I lifted him from the floor. The dimple in his smile that I'd always kiss.
A snippet of a time when my journals would share space.
Words on one page, stick figures and scribbles on another.
The thing my early 30-something self didn't really realize, that my early 40-something self is beginning to understand, is nothing can hold time. Not those journals, not this blog, not all the hours we spend holding the actual children we are trying to contain. The seconds, minutes, years run like whispers over our skin, and we are left with scribbled notes in margins, "She steals my socks and scampers away when I walk in the door after work. Pulling them on her tiny legs, she wears them like scrunchy boots. She thinks if she takes them then I cannot leave again."
My little sock thief. I had almost forgotten. Her daily grasping of my socks an attempt to hoard my time. It mimics my daily grasping for documentation of this life. My attempt to hoard time itself. We are optimists, my daughter and I.
My 'real' writing desk.
The thing I realize now, as I sit in my writing corner where words hum around me - All the words are real. All the writing is real. No writing is more valid than any other. You can't get more real than the grocery lists of years ago, a glimpse into the diet of a working mom with toddlers and a pre-teen. Or more real than the photos of my babies eating leaves, the facebook posts of my daughter's latest piano recital, the many unpublished posts to this very blog, to the almost finished 'real' novel I've written over the past couple years. The words are all real.
Maybe it's the brightly doodled watercolored pages that are the most real?
When words fail us, there is always a tantrum of color to express oneself with.
Writing all those words, in all the many formats, has not slowed time in any way. I used to think these posts were like bringing our past selves back for a moment, but they aren't. The words instead are like mirrored glass, in which we revisit the past through the haze of our current reflection. The weight of the ten year old son on my lap is as present as the heft of his remembered one year old self, as we browse our former moments. My 40 year old self knows that I didn't finish that to-do list of gifts I wanted to make, or any of the ten other lists I made in years after. But I read those lists with a smile at my optimism, shaking my head that I thought a mom with a full time job and three kids could somehow find time to make any Christmas gifts, let alone all of them. (Thank goodness Pinterest wasn't around then! I had unrealistic ideas for my time as it was.) No, writing all the things sure hasn't paused or slowed time. Perhaps they even make me feel the passage of time all the keener.
Does that mean I'll stop trying? Nah. At heart I'm the sock stealing toddler trying to thwart her mom's return to work. I'm the baby climbing great heights when his mom's back is turned, in order to get his first taste of soda. I'm the career mom tiredly pasting photos of her kids in a journal that shares space with shopping lists and scribbles. I'm the person that builds a desk to house real writing, and realizes it is what she's been doing all along. I might know the to-do list is impossible, but I write it with hope.
Oy. My handwriting.
Words might not be the glue that binds my past and present worlds together. I come here now with no promises and no illusions that somehow gathering all these moments will make my days slow down. I know know that words won't root me to my past. It won't make who I was stick to who I now am. Words are just testimony to the constant evolution of this journey we are on. Yet here I am again, my wordy self missed this little blog. I realized that if keeping even tenuous track of my days here brings even a tiny bit of the happiness that flipping through those old journals gave me, then it is worth the effort. And you can't get more real than that.