Diary of a Mom Facebook status, Saturday at 2:33 pm
for the first time in (literally) as long as i can remember, i am about to get in the car with three girlfriends, take a road trip to go visit eight other girlfriends and – get this .. i’m SLEEPING OVER! am i feeling guilty as heck leaving the kiddos for the night? yup. am i gonna let that stop me from finally doing something for no one but me? nope. deep breath – here goes nothin.
I kissed my sweet Katie good-bye. A case of the weepies was to be expected, and as if on cue, the waterworks came. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to leave my big girl, but so too, I knew that it shouldn’t be so hard. She’s ten. We’re talking less that twenty-four hours. And SHE would be gone for four of them – out at a birthday party. I knew I could talk to her on the phone – hear all the details of the party.
She’d be fine.
I went downstairs to steal a hug from Miss Brooke.
“Baby,” I said, trying to steal her attention from Blue’s Clues – a futile task by any measure, “I have to go now.”
She rocked absent-mindedly in her hammock swing, eyes still glued to the screen. Her eyes didn’t move, but a little arm shot out of the swing and landed around my neck. I begged a kiss and got one, but her eyes were still on Blue.
“I love you, little Boo,” I said softly. “I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, OK?”
She rocked. And watched. She put her hand over my mouth when Steve asked a question. And then she nearly killed me.
She said, “But I don’t want you to go.”
Katie has been begging me not to leave the house since she was old enough to say my name. She has been scheming about how we could raise enough money to pay the bills without Mama having to work (emptying her piggy bank and bringing me $2.63 with which to pay the mortgage was the all time best, followed closely by the lemonade stand plan) – or barring either of those working out, scheming to change our economy to a barter system so that we would no longer need money at all. We’ve talked through the reasons that Mama has had to leave the house for one reason or another for YEARS. I expect it. It still hurts like hell, but I am prepared for it.
Brooke has simply watched me go. Or not watched me, as the case has been. While I cried on my way out countless doors, she sat seemingly undeterred and unfazed by my departure. For a time, she began to register my leaving by saying, “You are going now” but for all indications it was an objective statement of fact rather than of her feelings about the fact itself. “You are going, I am staying, so be it.”
It has only been in the past few weeks that something has changed. She has told me on three different occasions that she did not want me to go. And I nearly crumbled. This would be one of those times.
The ‘But I don’t want you to go” nearly did me in.
I didn’t want to go either. I knew I did – I really, really did – but I didn’t. For heaven sake, my baby said she WANTED me. The girl who for years would not flinch when I walked in or out of a door TOLD ME THAT SHE WANTED ME TO STAY.
I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. Her little cheek settled in just under my neck.
I had to find my resolve. This was important – for both of us.
I dug in and told her that I would be back the following afternoon. I told her I’d be home in time for lunch. I told her again and again how much I loved her – how much I would miss her. I told her that it was important to Mama to see my friends. I told her that I was excited that she was going to have some special time with her Daddy.
I kissed her again and squeezed her one last time.
She turned back to Blue.
And I went.
I went because I deserved to go. I went because we ALL deserve to go. I went because I have a husband with whom I don’t have to think twice about going. I went because nothing will REALLY fall apart in twenty-four hours no matter how pivotal to our family’s existence I (or they) may think I am.
I went because I needed to set an example for my girls. I went because if and when they become Mamas they will need to know that it’s not just OK, but it’s VITAL to do some things that serve no one but themselves. I went because they will have to understand that in order to continue to take care of others, they must first tend to themselves. I went because they will deserve to know that THEY are worth the same care and effort that they dole out so freely to those around them.
And so I went.
I wish I could write it all. I wish I could share every precious moment, from the first hugs to the last. From the roasted marshmallows around the campfire to the self-deprecating laughter that pulled me in like a delicious undertow. From the war stories to the PTO stories to the how one of us was deflowered stories.
I laughed. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. I laughed so hard I found myself sitting on my friend’s kitchen floor. I laughed so hard that I remembered who I am.
I looked around at this amazing group of women. Autism Mamas every one. Not a soul who I had known before this journey began, and now a group closer than family. They are my sisters. There’s no missing the bond we share.
We are different. We come from dramatically varied walks of life. I dare say our paths might not have crossed in any other way. Yet the feeling that we were MEANT to be friends is undeniable. These women heal me. Their very presence in my life is a salve.
We don’t always agree, but we always respect each other’s points of view. And we respect and cherish EACH OTHER.
We name our insecurities and laugh openly at our quirks. Cats don’t have dogs, my friends, this is a quirky group.
When the room gets to be too much for me, I walk outside. I stand beneath a light and watch the trees blowing in the wind. I listen to the party inside and smile as I happily eat my dinner alone. Anywhere else, I’d have needed an excuse. I’d be pretending to make a phone call or grabbing something I didn’t actually need from the car. I might be pretending to use the ladies room.
A friend walks out and asks what I’m looking at. “The tree,” I tell her. “I thought it looked pretty in the light.” She asks if I want to sit. I admit that I’m pretty darn happy right where I am. The room was more than I could handle so I’m taking a break. She smiles and we hang out for a few minutes in front of the tree.
No pretense. No socially acceptable answers. No judgement. Just honesty.
When I got home yesterday, I wrote the following on Diary’s Facebook page:
Outside my (blood) family, I know no greater gift than the delicious freedom inherent in true friendship. To unabashedly be nothing but who we are – warts and all – in the company of others who are doing the same is something far too rare in this world. To my mama-sister-friends, THANK YOU.
And I wrote this to my friends:
“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
- a favorite quote by Toni Morrison, given to me years ago by my sister-friend Jeneil.
To each and every one of you reading this, may you be a Mama or a Dad, an adult on the spectrum, a sibling thereof or a dear soul who for whatever reason found this place and stayed, I wish you a village.
I wish you a place where you can fly your freak flag high and proud and know that you are loved. There is no greater gift and I could not be any more grateful to have that place in my life. It was hard-won, but it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can be done.
i love you too, scrappy doo
you know why?
cause when God had this mad crazy idea to challenge us with these extraspecial kids
He said to himself (or herself)
i’ll give her a friend
a really good friend
who will GET it like no one’s business
i’ll put them on opposite ends of the country
that’ll be fun
then i’ll watch them find each other
you know what, God?
look what else we can do
~ Drama Mama in one of the hundreds of e-mails that fly back and forth between us – filling my heart, holding me up and sustaining me day after day