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Nicole and I are on our way to see Fleetwood Mac in this photo, taken in 2015.

At 3:33 pm, on the third day of October, it is 82 degrees where I live in Michigan. The house is cool inside, too cool, so I’ve opened a window for balance–just one. The sun is a golden god today, and the trees are waving happy branches in the breeze–lots of them have managed to hold onto their spring green color. From where I’m sat at my desk in the living room, looking into the backyard, I might easily be fooled into thinking it was June.

I am peaceful this afternoon, listening to the clacking of keys as my fingers deliver my thoughts. Melvin is asleep in the window just inches away from me, and he keeps making these fat kitty errrmm sounds that melt my heart. I want to pick him up and rock him like the baby he is, but the poor guy hasn’t been feeling well, so it’s best I let him be; the sweet thing, I wonder what he dreams about, all curled up and cozy.

I’m going to prepare a chicken stew with dumplings tonight for dinner. I feel good enough to cook, so I want something special. I only wish Nicole still lived at home so I could feed her, too. Oh, my girl. I miss the smell of her shampoo permeating after her nightly shower. I miss going to bed at night, and seeing the soft light of her bedroom reaching just beyond the edge of the closed door. I miss waking up to the sound of her tea kettle. She and Isaiah have just moved into their first house, about ten miles out of the village. I still see Nicole several times a week, and we text, or speak on the phone every day.

I am peaceful this afternoon, but I really feel like I need a hug.

 

 

 

 

 

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If you’d let me, I’d count your freckles—each kiss print from the sun—I’d connect the dots of constellations tattooed on your alabaster skin—a magic map to be deciphered by the moonlight. You are the cosmos in human form—all-encompassing and beautiful beyond description. When I’m with you, I am energized; positivity radiates from your being, and in your eyes, I see the universe and the purpose for life. You are the solar system I was meant to bring forth, my darling girl—a part of you is an angel singing on high in the dark of outer space. I am blessed to be your mother. I am in awe of you. So sometimes I stare, because to look upon you is to see that some sort of divinity does exist. You are perfection to me, and I love you. I love you endlessly, my daughter, and you will always be the pinnacle of my life.

All my life, mother,

I’ve loved you above myself

even when you’ve loved yourself

more than you’ve loved me in return.

I now know you’ve hated yourself

for making me abandon myself

in hopes you’d love me in return.

You’re sick, my mother;

you’re aware.

But I am strong, and you are proud.

You don’t have to change

because I am

me.

I erase your guilt

because I am strong,

and I can handle you.

Self-hatred comes only in

tolerable intervals.

Tolerable for yourself;

when I’m teaching you lesson

I’m fucking hating myself

because I know I’m making you

fucking miserable, reminding you that you’re

a shit mother–and it’s not even your fault.

Do you know the rage in my heart

kept hot for your mother and father?

How is it that you can forgive them–

have a relationship with these two fucks,

but I cannot stand to even think their names?

I am your offspring, and I love you better than a mother.

I have taken care of you, chased off men better than a father.

I am your daughter, and sometimes I don’t want to be.

But really, who the fuck would I be without you?

I’m grateful for my life with you because

you taught me how to live.

 

I knew for certain I was pregnant three months before my eighteenth birthday; I was a high school senior. I wanted to die. Or at least I wanted her to die, though I couldn’t show up for the abortion my step-mother had arranged. I just couldn’t bring myself to take an active part in the death of a life growing inside me. So, I prayed for a miscarriage; my conscience could rest easy if my body naturally rejected the fetus. Or, I’d hope for an accident. Standing at the top of the stair, any stair, I’d invite a good trip and tumble. But as self-absorbed as people can be–as unaware of their surroundings–they always were aware of me.

Wishing for tragedy was equally sickening, but I could not silence the obsessive thoughts that beat against my eardrums. Until the time came when I first felt my girl kicking and pushing against my womb. Magic. Absolute magic. My little sister was the first to witness this delight.

Nicole moved, and I was in love.

I was in labor for twenty three hours–without an epidural. I was given a magical liquid in my IV drip to help me sleep between contractions. I actually DID sleep. Toward the end, I was legit conking out in sixty second intervals. I can’t recall being so delirious as I was those hours leading up to Nicole’s birth.

I was in a lot of pain; and in duress instigated by Adoption Lady. Adoption Lady had come into my room during the most wicked contractions, and wanted me to sign some paperwork. Jeff had called her after we’d arrived at the hospital, per her request. Jeff had decided during my sixth or so month that he and I were not capable of raising a child, so we met with Adoption Lady at Adoption Place, and made arrangements for a closed adoption. I went into labor a few weeks early, before we’d finalized our case.

My contractions were so fucking severe, I couldn’t hold the pen to sign the finalizing papers. Adoption Lady said, “I’ll come back later.”

I didn’t want to give up my baby.

The pain though, transcended comprehension. I wanted to die. I actually said at one point, ” I want to die.” And my mother said, “Don’t say that!”

I did, for a while during labor wish for death. My contractions were so strong, they were off the charts–literally. How the fucking hell have women managed to survive childbirth for thousands of years?

At eight centimeters dilated, I said, “I have to push.” And my nurse said, “You can’t yet.”

I’ve never been good at following rules. I began pushing before my doctor was even scrubbed and in position. Nicole was born at 5:04 p.m. After twenty three hours, I only pushed for like, five minutes.

When Adoption Lady returned, my attending nurse took the pleasure of telling her she’d be leaving the hospital without my baby. I didn’t give one fuck whether or not Nicole’s dad wanted to be a part of her life. All I knew was that my girl was MY GIRL.

And I haven’t wished for death since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Year 20

I look to my Sun–

alabaster skin

blue-grey eyes;

still seas

but never silent.

Year 20

She’s aged 100,

immortally kind,

ageless wise;

true mouth

but never savage.

Year 20

Nicole, I may have given birth to you, but you have given me life.

 

I’m glad my parents failed me, because in their failure, they were actually succeeding. I grew up knowing my parents were human beings, like me. I learned that there are consequences for everyone; I learned humility, and that taking responsibility for one’s offenses was honorable. Imperfect people raising imperfect adults–that’s where’s it at. It makes sense if you think about it. We aren’t simply bringing up children; we are bringing them up into adulthood. And we want our adult children to be good, ethical people. How can they learn how to be good and ethical people–people equipped with critical thinking skills–without trial and error? How can they learn to be what we want them to be without showing them human frailty? We have to be open, and admit that yeah, Mom and Dad make mistakes, too, and this is how we move on positively. Parents should not be exempt from due apologies, and acknowledgment of poor decision making.

I know too many parents who are afraid of laying down the law–who are obscenely lenient; and those who are hell bent on upholding a charade of perfection. No family is without its troubles. Neither of these types of parents are teaching their children valuable lessons. In fact, they are only setting their sons and daughters up for disappointment.

Some background on me: I became pregnant before I graduated high school, so some people reading this opinionated post may roll their eyes, because shit! What does an eighteen year old know about parenting? Fucking nothing, if I’m being truthful–and I am always truthful. I wasn’t raised on the fucking prairie with Laura Ingalls, or with my grandma, who knew what it was like to help raise children because my great-grandma had seven or twelve fucking kids. I was just a teenager who did well in school, but had sex with her boyfriend, and became pregnant; one who’d decided that no movable force was ever going to take her baby girl away from her.

So, Nicole’s dad and I did what we believed was best in bringing up our stellar adult. It was a tough experience at times, but a beautiful one, too. And as much as we taught her, she taught us how to be better human beings. In our imperfection, we are all perfect, because we are all real. Nicole knows what humility looks like, what reflection feels like, and what forgiveness tastes like. She knows the value of honesty, and kindness.

I dare anyone to spend time with my daughter, and then look me in the face and tell me I don’t do justice to the honor of motherhood. I dare anyone to tell me that my daughter is not one of the many great faces of an ideal future.

We shouldn’t look at our children as mere subordinates. We should look at them as the future, and raise them to be the future we want to one day see–a future better than our own. But we have to help them build that future.