Posted in family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?

Posted in family, friendship, kids, Life, love, People, random, relationships, Uncategorized

Long Lost Sister

sistersMy sister is teaching me what it means to be, and to have, a sister.

“Why haven’t you called me?” She’ll ask.

“Oh, God, I’ve just been so miserable and depressed, I didn’t want to bring you down.” I’ll tell her.

“That’s WHY you need to call ME.” She instructs, “That’s what sister’s DO.”

See, she has had sisters, two other ones, all of her life. As a matter of fact, she had me all of her life, too, except we didn’t know each other. She may have had other sisters, but she never had a BIG sister, which is what I am to her- six years older, actually, although technically, she is several inches taller than me. Still, I am her big sister. I just know nothing about this sister business.

Here’s the story: My mom had me when she was nineteen. My dad (our dad) was also nineteen, and nowhere near as married to my mom as she was to him. Not surprisingly, their marriage didn’t last too long- I’m pretty sure they were on their way to an annulment when my mom found out she was pregnant with me. By the time I was one, my dad was long gone. He popped back in frequently throughout my life, with sporadic little bouts of interest in me…but he wasn’t the kind of dude who would show up for the school Christmas program or who knew any of my friends. He was the kind of dude who liked dropping me off once a year in front of my middle school in his pimped out El Camino blaring Motley Crue. And that was fine with me, I wasn’t heartbroken over it- I had my mom.

Meanwhile, across town, there lived another little girl, sharing half my DNA (and half my child support) that was living without him AT ALL. When I was very little, I remember playing with this little girl (she swears I hit her over the head with my little purse, which sounds about right, although I don’t remember it that way) on the sidewalk in front of a house. One of us was on a tricycle. I had no idea she was my sister. How weird is that? But that is the only memory I have of her, except for this one: When I was about nine, I was at my dad’s boooooring apartment (the ONLY good thing about his place was when he took a shower, I got to sneak peeks at his dirty magazines. Thanks to the ads in the back, I was very confused about whether girls had penises or not. If you have a porn mag on hand, look at the back and you’ll see what I mean.) and I saw a picture in a frame I’d never seen before.

“When did I get that picture taken?” I asked, innocently.

“That’s not you!” he barked. I never saw that picture again. For years, he claimed that she wasn’t his- until her mom had his blood tested and we were .99998 percent sure she was his. After that, there was just no talk of it. Or, if there were, I didn’t hear it, because I just wasn’t around that much. When I was in my twenties, I asked my step-mom about her, and I remember she told me that my sister had a different last name. I looked in the phone book and made a call or two, but got nowhere.

As you all know, I spent a gazillion years being super busy with the pursuit of drugs, so having a sister out there was not on the forefront of my mind. But, when I settled down and life got easier, there was this neat thing call Myspace- you might remember it? Somehow, I actually remembered her last name, after all those years! So, I sat down, did a little search, and found there were several girls with her name. The first one was definitely not her. The second one…my heart started hammering, my hands were shaky. I couldn’t tell you what it was, exactly, because we don’t look too much alike. But I knew. I knew for sure.

I sent her the weirdest message she has probably ever gotten. “Hi. You don’t know me, but I think we may be sisters. If this sounds totally wrong, I apologize. My dads name is blankety-blank. Do you know him?” Or something like that.

It was not long before she replied. “YES! You are my sister! I have been looking for you my whole life!” Or something like that.

We started talking on the phone. It was a little scary- we didn’t know anything about each other, and we were adults who knew how messed up the world can be. Finally, though, we decided to meet. I drove down to where she lives and we met at her apartment. Within minutes, her little daughter, my niece, had uttered a curse word, and I knew we were cut out of the same cloth. We just looked at each other and laughed our asses off.

You would think it would be awkward, right? Uncomfortable, touchy, weird? Well, it has never, not once, been any of those things. It has been easy as pie. Our similarities are outrageous. The lives and struggles we have had mirror one another very closely, and we also both love milk with our dinner, tequila shots, we both are allergic to mosquito bites, and our daughters have insanely curly hair (like our dad). I mean, there’s other stuff, but cut me a break, it’s not even six a.m.

I thought meeting her would be cool. I never dreamed I would love her as easily as if we had been raised together. I never expected to find myself thinking about her, or my niece and nephew, or her husband, as REAL family. But I do. I love them. They have known Cammy, my little one, her entire life- ┬áso her memory’s will not have a hole in them, the way ours do. If only our parents had pushed a little…just think. We could have always had what we have now.

Last time I was at her house, I was laying on her bed talking to her while she did whatever she was doing. She was giving me a bunch of clothes, and she laughed at how much smaller my boobs were than hers (and can I just say, um, who’s AREN’T, Dolly?), and I wondered if she knew how crazy special she is to me? How big of a deal it is that we have the relationship we have? Because she is, and it is. I thought I better write this to let her know.

I love you, sissy. Thanks for training me to do this job, and just being the cool chick you are. I’m so glad we have each other.