photograph by BeesKnees
Live in fragments no longer."
(E.M. Forster, Howard's End)
The year I was pregnant with Malachi (yes, it felt like a year), my word was "fearful." I wanted a different word, and I prayed and wrestled to get past it, but when I look back, my journey during those months was marked by fear.
Then he was born, and although things were rocky at first, with extra days in the hospital due to severe jaundice, eventually we settled into a peaceful routine. The whole next year was marked by gratitude. Everything seemed too good to be true: the helpful big sisters, the beautiful baby boy, the relaxing schedule of home schooling. The wilderness of illness and joblessness that our family had wandered in for seven long years seemed to be coming to an end. I was tired, taking care of a new baby, but in a lot of ways that mattered, I was rested. Deeply rested. And the word that I most often flung up to heaven was, "Thank you."
Yesterday something happened, a small thing, but it made me stop and notice. I noticed a new feeling, one that's been sneaking up on me, but that I disregarded until now. The feeling was isolation. I explored it as one explores a sore tooth, tentatively, worrying it, nudging it. Drat. I am most definitely feeling isolated.
As I write this, my daughter is enjoying a day with one of her oldest friends. I'm the one who gets the ball rolling on these play dates. I've been concerned since she started home schooling that she wouldn't have enough time with friends. She's perfectly happy to be home with me, as long as she gets to see her cousin and her big sister every week or so. But friend time is important. Friends don't have to choose us. Around them, we learn to be a bit more careful, a tad more polite, a lot more forgiving. A friend cannot be taken for granted.
I remember 22 years ago, when we were frantic, frazzled young moms, my friend Michele asked in desperation, "Where are all the fifty-year-old women? Can't they help us?" Well, I'm not quite that age yet, but I'll tell you where they are. They're working. They're busy making money to pay for their kids' college bills. They're going to Bible Studies. They're exercising. In short, they're making up for the years they spent with young children, when they couldn't go anywhere easily.
So here I stand, with one foot in the Young Mommy Club, and one foot in the Older Mom Club. I thought I would belong to both clubs, and happily skip between my older friends and my younger friends, but that has proven a difficult dance. It seems like I'm in a club all by myself. My attempts to go to Bible Study at my church have been dismal, because I was too nervous to spend the money to put Malachi in nursery. On rare Tuesdays, I convince Anna Kate to come with me, and she plays with the baby for a half hour while I pop in on my small group and reconnect. It's not ideal. I feel guilty for taking her away from schoolwork, and I hardly get any time with my wonderful group.
I don't know what next year will look like. I don't know if we'll move, and if we do, if my friends will be willing to drive that far to see me. I do know that I'm learning a bit more about living life with eyes wide open, looking around to see if maybe there are others who are feeling the way I am. I'm sure there are, because we live in fragmented times.
Here's a song for you, to bless your friendships and your weekend.