Friday, February 22, 2008

love story

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve been a slacker. I tell myself, “hey slacker, get that motion drafted, or that settlement letter out the door, or that demand letter finished, or or or or or, and then you can take a break and add to the blog. But you’ve got to earn it first, you big slacker.” But, hey, who’s the boss here? So I gave myself permission to work at home this morning, and after six years of self-employment, can you believe that this is the first time I’ve let myself do it? I bring home work to finish at night after the girls are in bed, a lot, but I grabbed enough to keep myself busy for hours this morning so the girls can walk home from school. They usually go to after-care, so for them, walking home in the afternoon is a big treat. So for today, they'll get to briefly see what it feels like to have a SAHM for a change. But sheesh, I can’t believe I’m so thick and haven’t allowed myself a work at home morning (I'll take the girls to the office this afternoon to finish stuff) like this before now. But, since I’m blogging and not working, hmmm, maybe not so thick. Maybe I know myself better than not.

So back to the subject that impels me to break the blogging silence: Ellie.

Yesterday was my tenth anniversary of motherhood. Ten years ago, my delicious bun, wrapped in layers of clothing, red-cheeked and stunned, was placed in my arms in a crummy hotel room in Changsha, Hunan Province, and I became a mother. The memory of that moment will be one that I hope to take out and unwrap over and over again when I’m a very old woman with a dowager’s hump and bullet-proof support hose.

I’ll remember her chapped cheeks and head lice. I’ll remember her noodle legs that couldn’t hold up all sixteen pounds of her weight even though she was fourteen months old when I first held her close. I’ll remember the sound of her sweet little mouth as she sucked and rubbed anything smooth she could get her hands on against her upper lip. I’ll remember coming to the understanding that the callous on her upper lip came from her self-soothing technique and feeling torn up about not being there for her from the beginning, the first of many episodes of inadequate mother guilt. I’ll remember bursting into tears when the facilitator stripped her down to listen to her heart and seeing the burn on her upper arm for the first time. And crying harder when he misinterpreted my tears and asked me if I wanted a different baby. And I’ll remember the gift of sharing the joy and the excitement of that moment with my own mother. I will remember how proud and happy she was for me and how much I needed her advice, guidance and confidence in me that first week of my stumbling but earnest mothering.

I’ll call this memory “The Day I Met the First Love of My Life.” I’ll take it out and hold it up and turn it all around and feel the indescribable warmth of loving a child who needed and deserved a mother’s love so badly all over again. So even though I may not have much set aside in my Roth IRA account, my memory banks will be full, the strength of this memory should be enough to keep me warm, even with the bad circulation in my ankles.

And speaking of my mother and her connection to Ellie from Jump Street, there was definitely a little extra magic in the dingy room with loogies ground into the carpet on that memorable day. I’m not a big believer in the red thread adoption lore school of thought. I’m grateful for the gift of Ellie, but don’t believe it was pre-ordained by a big spool of thread in the sky. I do, however, think that there is some value in the idea that even though they were born on different continents sixty years apart, Ellie was meant to be my mother’s grand-daughter. Somehow the Big Spool of Red Mercerized knew that my mom needed Ellie, and only Ellie, to sleep by her chair and jump up without complaint several times every night to help her during her recovery from bypass surgery. That she needed Ellie to stay by her side for weeks after she got home from the hospital. Mom only wanted Ellie's help because Ellie eagerly complies with any request, without hesitation or a hint of resistance, and can even anticipate my mother's needs before she needs to ask.

Somehow too, Ellie got matched with a grandma who knows just how to make her feel important and special, who likes to play card games without end and indulges her fussy eating habits with great kindness and tolerance. Sometimes when I see them together, engrossed in their mutual admiration society meetings, I feel like just a conduit, chosen by the Big Spool, for bringing Ellie and her grandma together. And even I, in all my skepticism, silently thank the Big Spool for the privilege.

So to Ellie, queen of babies, princess of tweens, thank you for making me a different and better person on that cold and damp day in February 1998. Thank you for loving your grandmother with such fierce devotion. Thank you for leading your sisters by sterling example. Thank you for being the first love of my life. I couldn’t have asked for or ever imagined a more perfect gift.