Wholesies

Every time I’m *this close* to shutting down my Facebook — a few too many political posts, too much voyeurism — something newsworthy, something heartworthy shows up at the top of my newsfeed. Because we, as a people, are either totally predictable — or Facebook’s Big Brotherdom has me nailed.

I know. It’s the latter.

The other day, I had been texting with two of my sisters — half sisters to be exact — because I’d been having a not so stellar day, and they showed up for me with an ear, their support, some laughter. A Tina Fey GIF might have made the rounds — because, well, the levity. The oh so necessary levity.

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Half sisters. This means that, although we have the same father, we have different moms; they are products of my dad’s second marriage. My brother and I are results of his first. I also have a third sister, another half, adopted from China when she was 3, by my mother and her then husband. And — there’s more! — I have an ex-stepbrother in here somewhere. Don’t get caught up in the flow chart. It doesn’t matter.

These folks aren’t halves. These people are family.

Which is why I was so struck by this video, one in a series, in my newsfeed.

Wow, Angel Soft. {#uglycry} I might have used a whole roll on just one of the videos.

Because when you or your children — or your sibling, or an aunt, or a friend — are affected by divorce, when your family has been divided, is there anything more for which we can hope?

To know a child, and encircle them with love. To observe a challenge, and still pull them in closer.

Sometimes it’s a tall order. When we let our ego take the wheel, and allow ourselves to be guided down a path that we think our lives should traverse — taking notes from a rule book that doesn’t actually exist — we are limiting ourselves. We are limiting our people. Because this life, with parents and step-parents and siblings, whether halfsies or wholesies, and then an ex and ex’s partner, and his or her family: Well. There’s nothing clean or linear about it. Even when you squint. 

We’re like an ink gushing octopus — with five times the tentacles. 

Collectively, we are brutiful — brutal AND beautiful — a word coined by Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of the very real, heart on your sleeve (or perhaps face) blog, Momastery. It’s sometimes a little religious for me, feel free to sub out God with Buddha or the Universe or Tom Brady, whomever you feel like. But her messaging is clear. 

It ain’t always pretty.

And so…although I can’t speak for allllll of the tentacles — whether they see what I see — we’re connected. We are.

This is not to say it doesn’t take effort. A strong will, even. I can’t say relinquishing — or should I say, sharing — some of my mommy duties with another woman was the simplest box to check off inside the walls of my aching heart. Those first few months, when my house was bereft of its usual cacophony of childhood birdsong, were some of the darkest days of my life. Where once it had been a constant flurry of activity, my tiny people burying their faces in my lap, the sound of giggles carrying up the stairwell, it was now — half the time — eerily quiet. No midnight calls for Mommy, no beds to make, no boo boos to kiss, no meals to prepare. I could eat a Clif bar three times a day, and no one would be the wiser.

Still smarts to think about it.


But, then.

Witnessing my girls’ dad and his partner on the field sidelines, cheering on our children, the harder edges of my heart began to soften. To know that my kids are fiercely loved, so unconditionally, is an enormous gift. Here is another person, showing up for my girls, and yet still respecting my role as their mother, greeting me with a smile, and loving my children as if they are her own.

Deep, deep gratitude. 

Because that’s what it’s about for me. Showing up. Being a part of a village.

Taking in all of the tentacles, and then offering them a seat at the table.

A step this, a half that?  No thanks. As a friend offered recently in a conversation — and my apologies if I’m delivering it in Hallmark packaging —  why go looking for holes, when you can enjoy what’s already whole?

Being a part of this equation, it takes a little grit. Some determination. But there’s no actual cost, unless you count the opening of your hearts and the rising numbers of your village. Unfurl those closed fists, outstretch your hands that know so well how to hold, and pull your people in. The rewards are there for you, patiently waiting.

 

10

An open birthday letter to my eldest daughter.

Dear Blondie,

You’re officially 10. Double digits. A tween. How in the world did this happen? And when I say how in the world, what I really mean is HOW IN THE HELL but that’s not okay for you to say right now because you’re 10.

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But how in the in the hell of a world did this HAPPEN? You were just born. I was just holding you in my arms and you were falling asleep while I sang the lyrics to Blackbird. And why did I always sing that song to you, my newborn infant turned toddler turned girl child? Sunken eyes and broken wings, not so warm and fuzzy. A bit morbid for a baby. So nice to meet you, tiny human, now go to sleep while I sing to you about a dead bird. Of course, I get it, I know symbolism when I see it. But I find it compelling that I would sing to you about the Phoenix rising and you would lie there, having nursed, looking like a wee and happy drunken sailor in my arms. A perfect bundle with peach fuzzy hair and velvety pink skin. That little O you would make with those baby bird lips. Those teeny tiny fingernails, and how that one time I clipped your pinky because can it really be possible that fingernails come that small? It was, and you howled in pain and so then I cried, and then you drank from my breast and all was right with the world. Everything was always all right after those moments of closeness.

I had the power to make it better.

I won’t lie, becoming your mother was one of the most soul-satisfying jobs I could ever hope to have. And I haven’t looked back, not even for a fraction of a second. My Dad, your Grandpop, always used to say that in college I majored in People. I think that’s about right. I dig community, I’m like an archaeologist of the spirit. With perhaps a minor in Connection.

And so, connect we did. From the day you were born, you were keen and enthusiastic about life. Always up for an adventure. Always gratified in nature. Chock full of giggles and guffaws, you laughed at any and every thing. Comedy was your bag. You have always adored animals and used them as pillows whenever the opportunity allows. You have always had a kind heart, sensitive to others who are hurting, aware when friends are feeling left out. And dogmatic from the start, you were my little CEO — right out of the gate. No one was going to push you around. Boys that were bigger than you and being unjust? Knuckle sandwich on a plate — that, my dear, is what you’ve always served.

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Some of my favorite moments with you are the dance parties in the kitchen, where we Cha Cha and breakdance and moonwalk, channeling Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise in his Risky Business or even couch jumping days. The history of dance so often takes a tour of our living room. I also love having you come into my bedroom, as you do each morning, and Velcro-ing your long body next to mine. Still my baby girl but not unlike a big foal, my lanky tween, all arms and legs.

You are a love. And also, some days a bit of a crab. But unfortunately I’m your mom, not your friend. Saying that is a little tough for even me to swallow, but it’s true. I’m doing my best to guide you to the edge of the nest. I’ll keep your wings appropriately clipped for now, but when you’re ready…and I think we’ll both know when that day comes…I’ll be here to watch you go, to support you and love you and to stoke the home fires for those days when you return.

Meeting you was the best day of my life. Yet knowing and loving you has meant so much more.

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And that Phoenix? That’s not you, my sweet girl. You’re the baby bird and there’s a vast expanse of blue sky out there waiting for you. That bird, rising from the ashes, will be me. Because when you and your sister are grown and have gone out into the world, I know myself. I know my heart. That space that you both so lovingly fill will be broken wide open, and I will have to light my own way. Finding a path of not only having just been your mom, but a path that leads to a place of so much more, having known and loved you as my own. And just as I have tremendous faith in you, so do I in me.

Happy birthday, baby. Now would someone please spin for us a little PYT.

xoxoxo,

M.