Saturday, November 27, 2010

Home Sweet Home

According to the tenant living in my house in Georgia, I have squirrels in my attic.  When I learned of this, my mind quickly starting singing "Squirrels in my Pants," a fun little ditty sung by Candace, Phineas and Ferb's distrusting big sister, that always makes Braden laugh.  (This, sadly, is one of the hazards of motherhood.  Confused by this reference?  Read this blog for clarification)  After that, I excitedly decided that the squirrels were a sign that a trip to Georgia was in order.  (Not that I wasn't already planning a trip to Georgia, but the squirrels provided an excuse that seemed less selfish than "I need a best friend fix.")

So David Tatum, squirrel catcher extraordinaire, and I went to my house yesterday to assess the situation.  Either my attic is home to Georgia's cleanest squirrels or the scampering steps heard by my tenant truly come from the roof because David saw no sign of the squirrels up there.  He set a trap just to be safe, but I am optimistic that no critters will be captured.  And should the tenant call again with reports of squirrels, I may decide to hire a trained professional rather than go back to the house myself because there is little I've experienced of late that is more unnerving than seeing my home filled with someone else's possessions.

I purchased my house in Georgia five years ago.  A three bedroom, two bath Cape Cod with wrap-around porch, it symbolized my true immersion into adulthood and a home where my son and I could build our future.  After viewing nearly twenty homes, I knew immediately that this was the one.  The selling points:  fenced-in back yard, garden tub, and beautiful accent wall complete with fireplace in the living room (to name a few).  When I bought it, I never imagined Braden wouldn't spend his teenage years there.  Yet here I am, five years and 750 miles later, no longer able to call it home sweet home.

From the outside, it looked the same as when it receded from my rear view mirror in June.  (Okay, that's not entirely true given that my hydrangeas were in full bloom when I left, but dramatic license seems necessary here.)  But when I crossed the threshold into the living room, the romance faded.  Gone were the piano and overstuffed couches; gone were the kitchen table and chairs I found for a steal on Craig's List; gone were the pictures that lined the stairway wall from floor to ceiling; gone was the laughter of my son.

Even though the belongings that fill the duplex I currently rent in Missouri are the very same ones from my home in Georgia, the building itself doesn't feel like home.  The laughter and the music are the same, but my heart is not yet connected.  I know that it will take time to feel at home again in the state of my youth, and I am optimistic that this emotionality will eventually blossom, but coming back to my home in Georgia pulled at my heartstrings more than I expected.

And so, I return to Missouri today nostalgic for a home sweet home to call my own and cognisant that, as long as I continue to make decisions with my son's future at heart, we will be home wherever I hear his laughter.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When I grow up, part two

I knew with certainty at a very young age that I wanted, possibly even needed, to be a mom someday.  In my girlish fantasy, my home echoed with laughter and fighting of a child and his siblings--four youngsters in total--while my husband and I prepared dinner and alleviated the worries of our children with a smile and a hug.

Oh, the naivete' of childhood.

I have been a single mom since the beginning of my pregnancy; yet even after 8 years, I find myself continually surprised by the closed-minded, often judgmental responses people give when learning this.  First, they assume I am divorced.  When they discover that I've never been married, they presume the worst about my moral fortitude.  (No one has ever done this verbally, but such assumption is easily read on one's face.)  When learning that my son's father and I conscientiously and maturely decided that marriage was not the solution to our parenting situation, the conversation becomes slightly uncomfortable.  When I announce that my son's father, step-mom, and I get along quite well given our unique parenting roles, brows raise in perplexed confusion.  And when I explain my views about single motherhood being a part of God's plan for my life, they run for the holy water.

Those who know me well know that I believe in God, but that my faith is in many ways cumulus--both well-defined and fuzzy, much like the clouds of the same nature.  This is not to say I am a fair-weather fan, a believer only when it works for me; instead, my faith is mine--a private matter for the most part--that I do not feel comfortable discussing at great length with most people, mainly because my views on God's role in our lives is often controversial to Christians more devout than I.

I inherently believe that being a single mother is part of my path, destiny (or whatever you choose to call it) that God set out for me.  If I had waited for society's definition of the ideal family structure--living happily-ever-after with the Prince Charming from my childhood vision--to become a mom, I would still be waiting for that glass slipper.  Of course, I understand the science behind my son's creation (and give that science its due for its role), but I also know that His blessing came sublimely into my life, giving me hope and faith in something more.  His plan for me, as His plans always do, tempered mine, quieting my longing for a family of my own.  His plan for me, as His plans always do, brought me the endless joy (and frequent headaches) of motherhood.  His plan for me made me me.

And so, when I grow up, I want to be a mother.  My home will echo with the laughter of a son and I will alleviate his worries with a smile and a hug.  I will relish in the naivete' of childhood, knowing that when I grow up, I will be whole.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When I grow up, part one

Pro skateboarder (or X gamer) like Tony Hawk.  A pianist like Billy Joel and Ben Folds.  A base and electric guitarist.  A teacher.  An Olympic swimmer better than Michael Phelps.  A magician.  A special agent for NCIS (but a real one, not an actor like Michael Weatherly).  A soldier in the Navy.  President of the United States.  An inventor like Phineas and Ferb.  A singer, dancer, and song writer like Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake.

Aside from magician, this list of things Braden wants to be when he grows-up are consistent with his talents and interests.  With the exception of a newly discovered love of skateboarding, Braden has long voiced his interest in these careers.  (Yes, he's only 8, but he's wanted to be President of the United States since he was 4.)  The shows we watch on television, the books we read, and the vacations we take are often influenced by these pursuits.  As his mom, I don't see these announcements for his future as fleeting fancies and eagerly await his future, grown-up job.

But his varied interests prompted me to reflect on my childhood aspirations for "when I grow-up".  As far back as my memory serves, I have wanted to be two things:  a teacher and a mom.  No bold decrees about my future as a fighter pilot or aerospace engineer; instead, my desires to teach and mother stood simple, solid, and resolute.  Aside from a shift from early childhood education to secondary English education and a current longing to get my doctorate and move from high school teacher to college professor, my vision has remained steadfast.

However, Braden's battery of options and hopes and talents made me question myself.  What does it say about me that I've only had two career aspirations during my life, even during my childhood days when my imagination could have encouraged anything?  In search of the answer to this question, I did what every self-respecting 35 year-old woman does--I called my mom.  My mom, like moms are supposed to, alleviated my worry:

"Knowing so certainly what you wanted is a gift," she said.  "Many people spend years finding their niche.  You were fortunate to know and to heed it.  I always wanted to teach, too, but people told me I was too smart, that I should be a lawyer or a doctor or something else.  And believing that, that I was too smart to be a teacher, led me down the wrong path for many years.  Smart people can be teachers, should be teachers--people like you and Travis [my brother] and me.  And for the really good teachers, the ones who do it right, it's the hardest job a person can have.  It's perfectly okay that it's all you ever wanted."

And so, when I grow-up, I want to be a teacher, just like my mom and my brother and both of my dads and Stephanie Tatum and my Chaucerians (and a long list of other smart people I know who are teachers).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trivial tidbits, week eight

Mr. Jones.  Rain King.  Round Here.  A Murder of One.

These hits propelled The Counting Crows from relative obscurity to top twenty ranking on multiple Billboard charts in 1993 and 1994.  August and Everything After, one of the few albums I can listen to from start to finish without tapping the fast-forward button on my iPhone, spoke to my poetic, optimistically melancholy spirit.  Song after song, lyric after lyric, I devoured every allusion, every minor chord, every whimsical statement and in the process blossomed my love affair with The Counting Crows.  And Adam Duritz.

Adam Duritz.  This is no accidental love.  Adam Duritz fashions language in a manner that makes this wannabe writer envious.  The populace knows the lyrics to the hits above and A Long December, but Duritz's true magic unfolds in lesser known songs.  Sullivan Street.  St. Robinson in His Cadillac Dream.  Holiday in Spain.  We're Only Love.  Color Blind.  Within these ballads (primarily), Duritz illuminates love and lust and longing and loss with hues of blue and gray and yellow as reflected in lighted mirrors and billowing clouds in a style reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  But the most beautiful song in the entire Counting Crows' library:  Anna Begins.

I cannot divulge much about why I adore Anna Begins without ruining today's trivial tidbit, but in my opinion, Anna Begins embodies unconditional love better than any song.  The speaker struggles to accept the love before him, for fear of giving up too much, for uncertainty of reciprocation, for all the reasons we all hesitate to love.  But then his love does something simple, a slight gesture, a common behavior, and he knows that this is love.  So what is it?  What does she do to solidify his love?

Braden, maybe 6 months old, with my other great love

The winner of today's trivia gets 99 cents to download Anna Begins from iTunes.  Good luck!