I have fought long and hard for this moment.
Kat is a 2nd grader and Lola, my baby, officially started Kindergarten.
Carpool is always a study for all the different mothers, some walking briskly in heels, blue tooth in ear, dark skirts with pin stripes, on their way to the corporate office. There are the “brownie” volunteer PTA moms, who always have several children that appear as if they just every day woke up and roll over in matching bows, socks, dress pants, tucked in shirts, color coordinated outfits matched perfectly with their siblings.
If you monogram your child’s book bag, just know I put you in this category.
Monogrammed children are walked in to the school personally, all holding hands, crossing the car riders, waving politely. These mothers would follow the school bus if it were a law one of their children had to ride one.
They usually have some kind of flower or gift in their hand, a welcome balloon for the new teacher, a name tag.
Some are loudly speaking Spanish to kids in the back, holding babies in their laps, while other moms are smiling pleasant, but have a little too blank of a stare, like they are in five seconds going to realize they left the stove on, but just can’t remember yet.
I see many moms talking non stop on a cell phone next to the “NO CELL PHONE” sign, a coffee in one hand, the other hand used for dramatic gestures, the phone balanced by their neck and chin. I smile at the ones with newborns, dark circles, still in their pajamas, their heads against the steering wheel, eyes shut in between car movement. Dads are rare but I see them more and more, sharing the work load a common act among our generation. They are beginning to finally blend.
My favorite moms show up in carpool in just a robe.
I don’t know any of them personally but I belong to them, because giving birth alone does not make you a mother.
Motherhood comes with battle wounds, with hard work and dedication, to take it on the chin for constantly being taken for granted, to not be paid or thanked. It is exhausting to be bossed and argued with by three feet tall little people, daily, without any sleep, and not just on bad days, but every day.
It is by far the best thing I have ever done.
I think I would be the most selfish human on the planet without them.
To love so unconditionally, without any thought but to give more, purely because I just love, is a gift.
Love gave me this day. It didn’t just hand it to me. I had to work for every part of it.
This life has been a battlefield, and I had to own the scars and wounds of my life, put one foot in front of the other, pray the way you wish you were dying, but unfortunately are not, asking for the humility to do for your children what you can not do for yourself.
I wonder how I would be here without them.
I sob with gratitude today, watching them jump out of the car, the joy on their faces, Lola and Kat holding hands with matching silver “best friends” bracelets, new book bags, bows, and shoes. I watch closely in my rear view mirror, their little feet skipping with my own heartbeat, and I take a snapshot. These are the pictures I keep in my mind, the memories I wear like a badge of medals, reminding me how far love has brought us.
It has not always been this way.
I found out I was pregnant with Lola, which that in itself was a miracle, or too many margaritas, seeing as he had been living on the couch for months. It was a moment on the bathroom floor, counting the cracks in the tiles, shaking in fear as I held a little white piece of plastic with a red plus sign in my hand.
He lost his job two months later, finding the piece of that plastic wrapper, just the edge, lying on the floor, on Thanksgiving Day, an insufferable moment of denial, love masked in rage.
My brother was having surgery to remove a tumor, to find out if he had cancer, and life was a variety of masks, all lying to myself, keeping me smiling, when in fact, I would rather be dying. Guilt and pain over this unborn baby washed over me, especially because I so wanted Kat, and I thought I must be evil to feel angry at my growing belly, the ultimate symbol I was powerless and trapped.
I became detached from the entire process of pregnancy, from life really, and even Kat had to have felt her mother leave, check out, my emotions a prison, a wall no one could jump high enough to reach.
My walls needed to be broken through, a force I had not yet met.
Until Lola, my baby Lion came.
She was a unique little thing, beautiful and powerful, and she stared at me like she knew me, like she was not opposed to me one way or another, but that she had expectations, and would let me know in time what they were.
She stared as if I had no choice but to accept that we were going to have to talk.
This child scared me to death.
Kat was needy, screamed all day and night, and I never had time to think. She had me in circles, a zombie, leaving me no room but to hold her, rock her, feed her, comfort her.
This one was quiet, alert, awake, feeding and staring into my eyes, like she had business here. She was not mushy gushy in love with me like Kat, but she let me in when I let her in, so at night, when it was quiet, I would tell her things.
She was so silent and awake at the same time, a mystery to me, now I see she was present, and all through our feedings, late in the night and early mornings, she would watch me sob and cry, and her little eyes would not flinch, her finger would reach mine, her soul would tell me enough for the night, to sleep.
She would let me do just that, all during the day, and at night, when the house was quiet, she would stare and feed, and I would talk, and cry, and for the first time in my whole life, sit in my pain.
She didn’t give me a choice really.
I rocked her so I could rock me. I fed her so I could feed me. I opened my heart to her so that I could open my heart up to myself, to life, to the pain of what it had become, to the fear of what had to change.
It occurred to me one night that the guilt in my heart was the funniest thing I had ever had, a huge fat lie I told myself, like I could feel anything but terrible for not loving an innocent child, a baby I didn’t want growing inside of me. The cosmic joke was that I had needed her, and she knew how to reach me.
She knew it all along, my little red headed lion, the gateway to my own heart, the biggest fear I ever had.
I would laugh and cry all the time with her, late in the night, and I fell in love with this beautiful soul.
I know for a fact children come through you, not from you.
The very child I feared and refused to want believed and knew I would come around somehow.
Somehow she knew she just had to show up.
In these quiet moments with her, I would whisper my fears of leaving, of Kat, of her daddy, of all the dreams lost, the pain I knew would kill me.
I would rock her and she would rock me.
I would reflect and she would stare.
She was solid, a strong big baby, and she had something I needed, something called courage and strength.
Kat had shown me the highest form of love but this baby told me what I was made of, just by forcing me to be with myself, the scariest journey I ever went on.
She must have known I could not do it alone.
Today, my little lion, my Lola, skips with Kat, a new girl in a new school just the way she did back then, like nothing in the world can steal her joy, fearless, like the world is here to experience her, not the other way around.
And today, as she leaves my lap, I rock myself alone, and cry.
I grieve because she taught me how in the first place.
And I laugh, seeing how clearly she came, on a whim, not to trap or punish me, but to free me.
Isn’t it ironic? It took me my whole life to have what Lola brings to Kindergarten, while Kat worries she wont find her room, the school store, and I squeeze her tight, wishing I had a sister like Kat, the most loving little girl in the whole wide world.
I tell her not to worry, that of all of us, Lola will always know how to find herself home.
If she makes up a different name for her teacher every day, well, that is another story.
How I will teach her not to fabricate, take sparkly jewelry from Kat, not charm her way into trouble will have to be shown to me, by the mercy of God, and perhaps, the help of a small village.
She may just open the doors of Kindergarten like she did camp, a tiny Kramer on a Seinfield episode, full of spontaneous energy, ready to explode, yelling to a group of quietly coloring five year old children,
“Hey guys, it’s me, Lola! I’M BAACKKKK!!!”
I have fought long and hard for this moment.