Before I left last June I wondered what would become of the Me that I was then. I wondered who I might become instead. I was afraid I would no longer be myself when I no longer had my children to be someone for. It’s been a struggle to find the threads that lead to the Me I thought I lost when I had wrapped myself up in motherhood. I still look at myself as less than whole because I’m no longer filling that role.
I was always the magic-maker for the children, and Christmastime was an especially intense time for me. Lots of magic was required and everything had to be perfect. It takes a lot to make that happen year after year. This year was different; not only was I at a distance physically but I was also immersed by necessity in a whole host of new life changes. Canadian immigration wanted me back across the border so I had to move on short notice, while a new job heated up in intensity and time demands. After I moved, an unexpected snowstorm moved in after me and covered everything with a blanket of quiet and isolation. It doesn’t snow here often, and I was snowed in. There wasn’t much I could do for the children’s Christmas this year, and the only magic I could send was in the trust I placed in my hasty online purchases. The gifts that I had lovingly chosen and wrapped in years past weren’t what made the holiday perfect for my children — it was that we knew the magic would be there.
The children’s father was never big on Christmas. In the past few years his contribution to their holiday was to take them to a store a few weeks afterward and tell them to choose their own presents. This year, because I wasn’t there to create it, I had low expectations of the magic happening for them. I sent my gifts and hoped for the best. There was no time to do anything else.
I needn’t have worried. Their father came through without me there. All the elements were in place, everything that the children have associated with their special day — tree, wrapped presents, stockings, cookies. It was all there. They had the magic.
When I hung up the phone after talking to Nathaniel and Eric on Christmas Day (Serena was too busy playing with one of the two identical video games that her father and I unwittingly had both bought for her), I felt odd. Something had shifted. I wasn’t there to make their holiday for them, but it had shown up anyway. I thought about what being a mother had meant to me.
Somewhere in this journey, I’ll find more about what motherhood is for me. I thought I knew once and I allowed it to cover me until it choked out light and air and only showed one path ahead. I look around the world now and I see billions of women, all mothers, each weaving their own stories, walking their own paths, and creating their own magic. In a few days I’ll catch Serena in a game of run-to-mama and hold my sprite close. The children and I will step back into one another’s lives for a brief moment and remember where we’ve been. When I’m gone again we’ll take those moments and our memories and create something new with them. I don’t yet know what that will be, and the not knowing frightens me, but I know it’s the next chapter in the story that together we are telling.[originally published at Literary Mama Jan. 10, 2009]