Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 1 comment

Two Weeks on the Other Side of the Dream

Thirteen headscarves.  Thirteen pairs of şalvar.  And me.

I crossed and uncrossed my jean-clad legs, self-consciously tucking a piece of uncovered hair behind my ear.  

The teacher entered the library, nearly twenty minutes late.  He passed around an attendance sheet and began his speech with a welcome.  Around the time he switched topics from how wiggly the girls are now that spring is upon us to whether or not the school will allow street clothes instead of uniforms next year, the paper arrived in front of me.

“Name of student.”  I filled in her name.  “Name of guardian.”  My name in the blank space.  “Relationship to student.”  I glanced down the previous entries in the column.  Mother, mother, mother, mother....  I sighed internally.  “Mother’s friend.”

It was my first ever parent-teacher meeting.  Except the child I represented wasn’t mine.    I’d been braiding her hair, washing her ballet costume and tucking in her and her little brother for two weeks, and tomorrow I would be taking off my “temporary-mommy” hat and wistfully replacing it with my usual “favourite abla” (“big sister”) one.

People kept asking me how I was holding up. “Motherhood is a lot of work,” they’d say with a knowing smile.  Yes, my days were fuller than they normally are.  No, I hardly spent a minute on writing or my taxes like I thought I’d do “in all that spare time while they’re at school.”  But the truth was, I loved every minute.

For two weeks I got to be someone I’m not, but long to be.  I got to test drive all the ideas I’ve stored up for my own kids that have sat collecting dust inside my heart for so many years.  I got to be the one posting all those “My kid said the funniest thing” Facebook statuses.  I got to be “that mom” who makes cinnamon rolls with the kids on Sunday morning (and lets them lick the frosting bowl), who takes them hiking up to the caves behind the house and laughs as they conquer rocks and dodge hungry goats, who helps them create their very own Mary Poppins board game (complete with bonus “spoonfuls of sugar” to help your umbrella cross the finish line faster), and who writes lunch box notes on the day when Girl has a big exam that she’s worried about.  

I remember a time a few years ago when I was having coffee with a friend who is a mother of two active boys.  I was telling her how very ready I was to have a family of my own, and she kept having to put me on pause to go chase down her two-year-old.  When she finally got him to sit still, she looked down at her now-cold cup of coffee and then back up at me and said, “Are you sure THIS is the life you want?  It’s exhausting.”  

“I’m sure,” I replied, knowing she’d give anything for an hour of my single-person free time.  “That’s the kind of exhausted I want to be.”

These last two weeks, so many times as I was hanging Scooby Doo footie pajamas on the line, squirting nasal spray into stuffy nostrils at bedtime, or simultaneously French braiding and flipping pancakes, I thought to myself, “This is the life I was created for.” 

I felt like, for thirteen days, I got to live inside of my most cherished dream - one that I’ve longed for from the outside for what seems like an eternity.  I suppose it was really only half the dream, since the other half is the husband that made the children possible in the first place.  But waiting with the other moms at the school gate as I scanned the crowd for “my” little dark heads, carpooling home (amidst encouraging cheers for “not stalling the car even once today”), and sitting on the couch with a head on each shoulder as we watched “My Three Sons” episodes on You Tube, I could pretend that the place that fit me so well was mine, even if only for a little while.

The night of the parent-teacher conference, the power was out for several hours, so we scrounged up all the candles we could find and the kids finished their homework by flickering light.  Papa called from India during the blackout and said that Mama was on the plane and would be home in the morning.  They wrote one last entry in the “Meanwhile, Back in Turkey” journal we’d been keeping and then we settled around the gas heater with gingersnaps and milk for their bedtime story.  I found myself wanting to read “just one more chapter” of Johnny Tremain before tucking them in - partly because we were right in the middle of the Boston Tea Party, but mostly because it was our last night together and I wasn’t ready for my coach to turn into a pumpkin just yet.  

The kids got up extra early the next morning, practically dancing with excitement over the fact that Mama was almost home.  I stuffed away the tinges of sadness threatening the corners of my eyes and focused on getting breakfast on the table and helping them hang their artistically scribbled over “Welcome Home” poster on the front door, along with the special decoder glasses with which to read it.  When I dropped them off at school, they gave me extra big hugs.  “Now we’ll have a new problem,” said Girl.  “We’ve missed Mama so much, but now we’ll be missing YOU!”

I’ve seen them twice now since I put my “abla” hat back on.  They’ve kept me up to date on what’s been happening with Johnny Tremain (“The Revolutionary War has started!”) and My Three Sons (“Katie had TRIPLETS!”).  And yesterday Girl proudly informed me that they got the results back from that exam she’d been so nervous about and she not only got first in her school and the city, but in our entire province!

I know I had it easy with these two well behaved little gems.  And I know that there’s a whole lot more to motherhood than just inventing games and going on picnics and singing lullabies after nightmares.  But I am more convinced than ever that this is the life I want.  And while I’m grateful for all I’ve learned through my extended stay in the tension of the “now” and the “not yet,” my two weeks on the other side of the dream have got me spending more fervent time on my knees, asking the One who “graciously gives us all things” and “opens His hand at the proper time” to hurry up and provide the one who will do French braids and footie pajamas with me.  

And, as Boy and Girl have reminded me, right about the time I’ve got my own little munchkins, they’ll be old enough to babysit.  So when my mommy-glasses are no longer so rose-coloured and I need a break from clothespins and lunch boxes, I’ll know who to call!


I understand that ache, and trust me when I tell you, its worth the wait! Dreaming with you!