Last night I picked up a book I recently borrowed from the library, Magical Journey, An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison. Who knows where I happened upon the book review- I’m always jotting notes when I see interesting books in magazines, in the bookshop, here and there- but I remember being intrigued enough to add it to my library queue. Perhaps this particular note, which actually led to action was a bit of divine intervention. This book feels like it was written for me personally, though its author is at the other end of the mothering journey, while I’m just beginning mine. Katrina has two sons, now grown, and she writes about redefining her life once her sons leave home. The pages are laced with such wisdom, such valuable reflection on how we give of ourselves as mothers, and how mothering shapes our identity so strongly.
She begins the book with a quote from M.C. Richards, which reads “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.” This quote rang so true for me, in where I’m at in my life. I don’t have dreams of grandeur. I want a life filled with mothering, gardening, faith, cooking, knitting, sewing, reading, and copious amounts of family time. I want my life to be my art, so to speak. When I am gone, I would be perfectly happy if I was remembered by only a handful of people, but to those people, I was their world. Especially my boys. If I go down in their memory as the best mother ever, my mission here on this earth is accomplished. But there is life outside of mothering, and I love that Magical Journey reminds us of that…one day, God willing, our children will leave home, and then we will be left with ourselves and our marriage. Neither of these can be neglected for the sake of the children, not oneself, or one’s marriage.
Katrina writes, “The little boys whose lives once seemed to consume mine are young men now, their bedrooms silent and empty as shrines. The communal rhythms of eating and sleeping and being in our household were disrupted as my sons became adolescents and then vanished altogether when, one after the other, they left home. There are no more muddy footprints to mop up, no piano recitals or big games to attend, no book report to proofread when I’d rather go to bed.”
This struck a chord with me. I am not busy in the traditional sense- running to meetings, juggling a family and full-time job, working 80 hours a week. I am busy wiping tears and building blocks, reading bedtime stories and changing diapers, making snacks and digging in the dirt. The boys play so well together, but can’t be left alone for more than minutes at a time. I do indulge in knitting while I watch them play, which feels like stolen ” me time,” but mostly, from the moment I open my eyes, I am “on.” Sometimes the never ending cycle of laundry/ cooking/ dishes/ cleaning does threaten to overwhelm me, but I can’t imagine the opposite. No little clothes to fold, no mouths to constantly feed. Hearing Katrina write of a quiet house reminds me how lucky I am to have a house filled with laughter, muddy footprints and sticky little fingers.
I’ve often thought, as I know my friends do too, that once the kids are in school there will be some breathing room to my day. “I can’t wait,” we say to each other as we pass the afternoon hours at the playground for the umpteenth time. But I can wait, I’ve realized recently. Vijay is turning into a young boy before our very eyes, sprouting up and thinning out, the baby chub gone seemingly overnight. He speaks with insight and humor that leave me astounded at times. “Vik is feeling crabby and out-of-sorts, mama,” he told me yesterday. “He just needs a nap. Don’t you worry.” We have chosen a preschool for him next year, but him and I are both hesitant to let go. We travel as a merry band of three during the day, and I can’t imagine how much Vik and I will miss him next year when he begins school (even though it is only two mornings a week).
I was at the library with the kids a few days ago, talking with another mom, and I said something along the lines of “Now that I am out of the baby years…” A man standing near us started laughing. “It looks like you are still in those baby years, if you ask me,” he said with a grin. But I feel like we’re moving out of them already. Everyone in our house sleeps through the night, eats solid food and 3 out of 4 of us use the toilet (there is a statistic I never thought I would be so damn proud of!). In a way I can’t imagine starting over again- the nursing and sleepless nights, the 9 months of pregnancy followed by mind-numbing exhaustion. Then again, I can’t imagine that those years are behind me already.
All this to say…the Magical Journey is such a gift. It is the first book I’ve read in a while, but it is so full of wisdom, especially for us young mothers, that I simply had to share. Have a beautiful spring weekend.