Sunday, May 06, 2007

My New Gown

A more serious post than usual today. Skip on down to the pictures, if you're not in the mood.

By this point in the mom-blogosphere, writing about the surprise you feel discovering the loneliness of parenting is a cliché. Everyone knows how no one knows how lonely it is.

We try to meet with friends. We try to make new friends. It’s trickier than one would think. We’ve cancelled plans three times in a row with a particular couple and their darling little girl, because Q’s gotten sick. All three times, including two trips to the emergency room. And unlike before, where we’d just get together the following evening, or the next weekend, schedules are so complicated that we need to wait for the stars to align before we can try for another invitation. It’s disheartening.

Our babysitter cancelled at the last minute Friday night. We didn’t have extraordinary plans, but we were going to dance, see friends, and cheer other friends perform in their troupe. We enjoyed a DVD at home, but I later found out that we’d missed an appearance from a visiting dancer whom I once would have wanted to impress, and admittedly still do. A few years ago, I would have been at the center of it, bringing creativity together. Instead, I just heard about it afterwards.

Last weekend, a friend of ours emailed a link to her wedding pictures, and I sat at my computer, clicking through the images. She and her new husband looked wonderful, photographed against the romantic setting of a hacienda garden in full bloom. I was in tears by the end. I miss that glamour in our lives, the clothes, the music, grand balls, attention paid to me, to us. Time spent not keeping my child’s fingers out of power sockets and guacamole dip.

I used to have a beautiful dress made each year to wear dancing. I loved every minute in silk velvet and bugle beads. The last gown was a spectacular red Regency number, designed before Q was born. If I had a gown made now, where would I wear it anyway?

Just because my life doesn't have a place for a new ball gown doesn't mean that I don’t still want it and miss it.

The day after the photo-viewing debacle, I ran an errand in a neighboring town where it seemed they had gone through some kind of war-era-like exercise of removing street signs, perhaps to keep enemy spies from finding their way to the best pho noodle shop. I eventually located my favorite cafĂ©, and selected a pearl milk tea - a drink, by the way, that I was only able to buy because I didn’t have Q with me. The tapioca balls would be a choking hazard when he demanded his tithe. To hammer in how the environment has changed around me, even the teahouse had undergone a renovation, going from a cheerfully colored, IKEA-furnished student hangout, to something darker and more sophisticated.

I sipped my red bean tea and walked down the street, finding that I am different from the person who used to stand in that same line and buy the same drink. I watch other families in a way that never used to interest me. I am drawn to children. I like to wave and smile back at them. I’ll hold a door for a stroller-wielding mom. I am missing something there alone on the sidewalk. I am incomplete without Q on my hip or holding my hand, pulling me over to SwingDaddy.

My new gown is my son. He clothes me in how people perceive me – a mother, with all the joys and sorrows. That’s my life now.

Later that day, I had a moment where I was lucky enough to recognize contentment in the very moment that it was happening. I sat with my arm around Q, and he leaned his head on my chest. I looked across the food court table at my husband, smiling back at me, three of us chewing, of all things, corndogs. Mundane, modest, nothing glamorous, but family.

If I were a better columnist, I’d end the post right there, but I’m not disciplined enough to let it alone. I'm fortunate that my scales tend to be weighted towards optimism. The dark times tend to be passing thoughts. They don't stick around too long, but I'm learning that it doesn’t make them any less legitimate. Sometimes, I will be sad that there are pieces of my life outside my grasp, either gone forever or perhaps just waiting for our lives to shift again. Mostly though, things are good, and delicate baby kisses tip the balance.

A good, restful weekend was had by all.


Lara said...

i'm just sitting here crying. i want so much to be able to help you find your way back to the glamorous ball gowns and nights out, and yet i'm so happy that you have bubbers keeping you warm on nights in. you are so very blessed, in so many ways, and it just brings tears to my eyes to know it. no one deserves it more, M.

Mayberry said...

This is a great post -- you've really captured how it feels to miss your old life and love your new one at the same time.

Mamacita Tina said...

"My new gown is my son." This line impacted me so much that it made me run and grab a tissue. Although we all write about the changes our lives undergo with children, each other's perspective is so very different. It gives us more insight into who the writer is. This is a wonderful piece!

YF said...

great post... i relate. we hope to see you guys more when we get back. i think the summer will be more fun to wear your new gown over to our pool. xxoxo C

Lady M said...

Thanks for the thoughtful notes, my friends. :)

wayabetty said...

Oh, I can so relate to this poignant post Lady M! The hubbie and I can't believe how we didn't take advantage of all the time that we had before kids, and now 3.5 kids's always about the kids and the family.

So any time we have our rare one-on-one time together, it's so much more appreciated.

ewe are here said...

I can completely relate to this post. We often do have to give up things we love to have children in our lives. But you're right; they are our ballgowns. Or our sailboats. Or our last minute trips to whatever city and cheap airfare catches our eye.

And they are so worth it.

Bon said...

i'm a little late catching up to this post...but wow, it's beautiful, M. i have never danced (though i'm fascinated by it) and never been a gown person, and yet as you led me through the narrative i found mySELF wanting the elegance and adult freedom of one...and then...

"my new gown is my son."

weep weep. really gorgeous. i'd love to steal the line except no one would ever believe the idea of me in a gown anyway. :)

thanks for the image, though...and the thoughtful, perfect representation of what it is we miss and gain in this parenting gig.

Anonymous said...

You're a great writer, Lady M. Your post moved me because it articulated so well how I feel sometimes. And you are right, the baby kisses tip the balance every time.