Kicking off the group project! Postcards from Motherhood

Last week, I was very excited to have Postcards from Motherhood published. I think it is a lovely way to capture those fleeting heart-melting moments that we don’t want to forget and I’ve been sitting on the idea for a LOOONNNGG time. (That’s the way my ideas work, usually. They incubate.)

If you want to join me, check out the group projects page.



The Dance

The reason I like to write personal essays is because like a fine wine, they just get better with time.

Actually I don’t know anything about a fine wine. Let me use a better metaphor.

You know when you have an old container of cream cheese in the freezer? And you leave it there, because you kinda forget about it.  And then, weeks later, you open it up and discover it has gone moldy.

But you don’t throw it out because you don’t have time, right at that second, to thoroughly clean it out. So you let it sit a bit longer. I mean, it’s already moldy. What’s the harm?

Maybe another week goes by.

And then you open it again and holy cow, has it gone moldy! Not just green and pink but furry, too! And that point you are kinda curious. Just how moldy will this get? So you close it up and put it back. Just to see.

Reading old personal essays is to me like finding the old container of cream cheese. Every time I reread them, I feel like I have found an unexpected surprise. And the feeling just grows with time. The further I get from the moment I was trying to capture, the more delight I find in opening it up and saying–Oh, yeah, that time. I remember that time!

The Dance was the first personal essay I published and today it was republished. It captured a feeling that I knew was fleeting but can still close my eyes and remember. It’s true. I don’t walk babies at night anymore. And even though every sleep deprived mother on the planet will want to punch for saying so, I DO miss those quiet, dark moments when it was just me and my baby and there was nothing to do but walk and rock and nurse and smell that little, peach-fuzz covered head.

Then your eyelids begin to droop. Your breathing becomes shallow, almost silent, and your head becomes heavy and begins to melt into my arm or my shoulder or my breast. Your arms become floppy and your legs rubbery. Sleep has almost enveloped you.

This is my favorite part.

I look down at your face, so calm. Any frustration or fear of the day has drained. Your skin is porcelain; your round, relaxed cheeks like peaches, and your little lips form a perfect triangle. Sometimes they quiver and the corners jerk into an unconscious smile that quickly plays across your face and disappears. Then you sigh in gratitude, in trust, in complete comfort.

I feel like crying. I flash forward to ten years from now, eight months from now, two weeks from now, even ten minutes from now when you will no longer need me to walk you, to comfort you. Soon you’ll be able to put yourself back to sleep, and later I will no longer be able to give you all the peace you need.



La Temporada

It’s mango season again. Have you tasted a perfectly ripe mango? There might not be a more delicious thing in the world.

The first mango I ate was the first time that Dave and I went to Mexico. We went to Cabo San Lucas, in June. It was hot. Very hot. We spent a day or so on the popular, touristy beach and got our fill of margarita soaked, sun-burned, belligerently-English-speaking tourists and decided to rent a car and go to a smaller beach. The only car we could rent was a stick shift, so I got to drive. The road was winding, hugging the coast, and providing lots of blind turns. We didn’t really know where we were going but passed several small coves with beaches in them. Finally we settled on a small, white-sanded beach and for a few hours we were the only ones there.

Then, out of nowhere, like a mirage, or a miracle, a fully-dressed man came walking down the beach. We saw him from a long way off and watched as he walked toward us. What could he have? He was carrying a cooler. He stopped and offered us cold mangoes on a stick. For 20 pesos. We looked at each other–mangoes? Do you like mangoes? Are you hungry? Well, I could go for a little snack…it’s safe to eat this, right? That seems a little steep but, let’s do it.

The mangoes were bright orange and cut so that they bloomed, like a flower. They were cold and juicy and the absolute perfect snack to have while sitting on a hot beach in Mexico. If I could go back in time and hug that man, I would. He introduced me to happiness.

Yes, I’m talking in superlatives here. It’s true. And usually superlatives are the sign of lazy thinking or dishonesty. But in this case, I cannot say it any other way. A perfect mango is perfect.

I used my love of mangoes as the basis for an essay many years later. My first “Spanish Lesson.” It’s called La Temporada.

And since then, this little essay has been rejected by three different publications. So I thought I might as well give it a home here. It takes me back to a very sweet temporada indeed.

It turns out I love ataulfo mangoes. They are small enough to comfortably fit into my hand and have a bit of a hooknose. They are the color of a late afternoon sun and when they are at the peak of ripeness they ooze a little from the stem. They are heavy, full, with skin stretched tight. And inside the flesh is smooth and slippery and sweet. A big parrot mango, so called for its red and green skin, the most common kind around here, can be stringy, watery, and a bit sour, even at its peak ripeness. Not so with ataulfos. They are the perfect blend of texture and taste, sweet without being overly saccharine tasting. All this would make them treasure enough but ataulfos are also rare. They have a temporada within the temporada.

So we overdose on them. We have them at breakfast with corn flakes, mid-morning with yogurt. Then Michelle will make a mango salad with rice and beans and cilantro and vinegar for lunch. They are stir-fried into dinner and for dessert—a marvelously unadorned mango. Any time I think, really that’s enough, I remember they’ll be gone before the rainy season begins and I stuff in one more.

Consequently when the temporada is over, we have made ourselves sick of mango. I think if I ever eat another mango again I’ll throw up. And slowly, slowly the months will pass and I’ll find myself asking my fruit guy again, “Por favor, donde estan los mangos?” It’s a roller coaster of longing and loathing.

Like motherhood.

What I’m Working On This Week

Spanish Lesson: Mira

As a parent, there are childhood developmental phases that you know are coming–learning to walk, eating solid food, starting kindergarten. Then there are phases you cannot wait for–learning to wipe, comes to mind. And then there are the phases that you didn’t even know are phases until one day your child doesn’t do them anymore. Like the last time they say “back and forest” instead of “back and forth” and you feel a weird ache. Like you’ve been cheated. Someone should have told you that was the last time!

The last couple of weeks Zev has been learning to ride a bike and I’ve realized that he, as the youngest, is still in a phase that I didn’t realize was a phase with the older two. No, it’s not the riding a bike without training wheels–I knew about that one. He is in the “watch me!” phase.

Somewhere around the time the kids begin to talk, they entered the “watch me!” phase. Mae, as the oldest, had a long, luxurious beginning to her “watch me!” phase. I must have watched her climb and slide and climb and slide a billion times. Each time she was more delighted than the next and each time it didn’t count unless I was watching. Lalo, as the second child entered his “watch me!” phase a little earlier. Toddling over to me and grabbing my fingers with his own chubby, little hand in order to show me something he couldn’t quite articulate but really wanted me to see before Mae had my attention again. Zev–the youngest, announced his “watch me!” phase from the top of the stairs. He would stand on the precipice of the stairs and yell, “Zevvie, poming down!” And proceed to smiley widely as I stood at the bottom and watched him (/stood ready to catch him) as he took the stairs, one…….a…time.

If I close my eyes, I can almost hear their little voices. Watch this. Watch this! Mommy, watch now! Mommy, look! Their voice full of delight and pride. It’s not a question or a request–Mommy, is what I’m doing awesome? It’s a command. Mommy–you must see this now or you will miss out!

Zev still has this delight and childish pride in his accomplishments. Every shot of the basketball–Mommy, watch this! Every leap from bed to bed–Mommy, watch! Every silly face–Mommy, you gotta see this!

In Spanish, the word for look or watch is mira. It was the same monosyllabic staccatic intensity of watch or look. And now, every time I hear it, I think of this childhood phase. People say it a lot. To their kids, to adults they are explaining things to, to someone trying to park a car. And each time, I hear the echo: Watch this, Mommy!

I wonder when the other kids stopped doing this. They still want to show me things they’ve done, sometimes. Mae, will ask me to listen her piano song, sometimes. Every once in awhile Lalo will want to show me something. But he does it in a grown up kid kinda way. He plays it cool, doesn’t beg or yell and also doesn’t reveal what he wants me to see. Mommy, come here. I want to show you something.

I admit I sometimes don’t have patience for this and will say, exasperatedly, Just tell me what it is. I’m not walking into your room to see your lava lamp bubble again. I’ve seen it!


Maybe kids leave the “watch me!” phase because adults tell them in a million subtle ways–old news! I’m not watching any more. They burst that childish bubble of pride and delight young children feel as naturally as breathing. When they want us to watch, it’s not like they are seeking approval but more like they are giving us their pride and asking us not to drop it. And then, we do.

I was the middle of a bunch of kids, so I don’t remember wanting my parents to watch my every move. Perhaps I was too young to remember. Perhaps there were too many of us to give that kind of undivided attention to. But I do remember being a teenager and not feeling compelled to tell my parents about a poem I wrote that the teacher liked but also the complete elation I felt when my dad whooped and hollered and rang a cowbell (hello, Idaho!) when I spiked the ball in a volleyball game. Someone is watching!

Now I feel a little childish when I present something to my parents to see. Here’s an essay I wrote. Here’s something the kids did that was funny. Here’s something I’m excited about.

But the thing is, my parents lap it up. They are hungry for these details that make up a life.

And I am, too. Because the “watch me!” phase is about sharing delight, I miss knowing what makes my children happy. Mae, why are you laughing out loud at your book? Lalo, what is it about that lava lamp that you love?

I know what makes Zev happy these days. It’s his bike. And it’s learning a new skill that is, as far as I can tell–mind-blowing. His favorite place to ride is in the plaza, where he can do laps. The wide sidewalk full of people strolling around the plaza is the perfect place to practice his ducking and weaving. It’s also the perfect opportunity for me to practice my poker face as I try not to let on the panic I feel as he barely misses an old lady and heads straight toward a stone bench only to swerve toward the man walking a dog and ever so slightly turns to somehow make it around each new obstacle. He comes barreling toward me saying, “Mommy! Did you see you that? I did it! Help me stop, Mommy?” (Did I mention he hasn’t figured out how to stop, yet?)

After a few laps (which is all my heart can handle), we left the plaza, hand and hand, and Zev, in his elation, was struggling to find the right word for what happened.

I’m perfect! Well, I’m not quite perfect.  No, I’m great! No, I’m better than great. I’m amazing! I’m wonderful! I’m amazing! I’m somewhere between amazing and great! Mommy, don’t you think I’m amazing?

Yes, yes. I do. And I’m so glad I was watching!