Guest post from Deidre Price of Rogue Homilies Press and Online Journal.
I was holding my youngest daughter—as I am always, always, always holding this daughter—when I read about the attacks in Brussels. Twin explosions in an international airport and at a city metro station killed more than 30 people with dozens more injured.
Two-year-old Evangeline slept through the news as children do.
The photographs of smoke and bodies felt so real they crowded onto my own couch. It was as though I’d invited ISIS into my living room with its chaos and death hovering over Lego shrapnel, a Jake the Pirate invisible ink book, and hardened bits of Play-Doh so sharp they cut like broken glass.
Terror blurs the lines, ignores the borders, and doesn’t ask my permission about anything—and I’m one who issues a lot of permission every single day. I pick the socks out, I say whether it’s a pants day, and I say Honey Nut or not. I have the illusion of control, and it’s enough to sustain me.
You can imagine then how I had to talk myself down on September 11, 2001, when I strained to see through tears as I commuted to a college class two hours away, wondering whether I’d see my first daughter again. At the time, she was my only, and when the news of the Twin Towers falling hit me, I imagined buildings in every city burning, our own house turned to ashes in the aftermath of a fury I could not have caused and that we did not deserve.
I’m not in a real city, I used to think. I don’t work in a tower.
And my language changed, but I’m still in the same stupid denial: I don’t take the train. I don’t brunch in Paris. It might be me eventually, but it’s probably not me next.
These lies are how it goes. I act like I’m invisible, but another mother probably borrowed that lie from me yesterday, and then today she and her children were seen. And then her world was taken.
These women are mothering in the midst of terror. They are seated on couches, holding their daughters and sons through naps that may not end. ISIS is standing in their living rooms, and these women did not give permission.
We are all mothering in the midst of terror, but the words, the scenes, the proximities are different. But it is here, and what shall we do while it is among us?
I say we breathe so that our children learn to breathe.
I say we hold our babies tight so that they learn to hold tight to others for life; this is the only way we make it out alive.
I say we talk until we fall asleep to keep the tears away.
I say we cry sometimes, too.
I say we keep believing in good because where evil is, good surely must be.
I say we take turns giving one another hope because it’s too great a job for one person to have all the time, but if we split it up, we’ve got this.
I say we open our homes anyway, we feed the hungry anyway, we invite those who are different into our lives anyway—because a life that’s not lived anyway isn’t much of one at all.
Recently, my husband and I have been trying to parent more intentionally. We’re kind of big kids who have grown up alongside of our early daughter who is headed at breakneck speed toward fifteen this spring.
Her whole life has sped past us, it seems. I had her at 19; he had her at 20. He dodged that “teen parent” label by four short days. I’m still left saying congratulations.
We’ve spent her whole life catching our breath. Even though I’m still short of it most days, we’re pulling out the stops more often now and taking on the overly optimistic task of stopping time.
We know we can’t, so I’ve asked her just to hold still so that I can stare at her nonstop until she moves out in, I don’t know, twelve to fifteen years—you know, whenever I’m ready (a.k.a. quarter past never).
We compromised on weekend family outings, and two of these have given me a little perspective on this whole messy mothering thing: a trip to the Battleship U.S.S. Alabama and to the Marianna Caverns.
First of all, I am a real charmer on outdoorsy trips like these (read: I am not a real charmer on outdoorsy trips like these. I actually sent at least two snarky Snapchats to friends dubbing these days “surprise exercise #dirtytrick.” I am a horrible person, I know. But I also know I sunburned while visiting a battleship and a cavern, and I don’t believe either has ever been done. Again #realcharmer.
I had moments and realizations though when I thought deep things like “How did people fit through here?” and “Oh my gosh, all those people are dead now, aren’t they?” followed by whispers to my history-loving husband that sounded like “Oh my gosh, all these people are dead now, aren’t they?” Let me say again that time freaks me out, and when I think of all the dead and dying alongside me with all my birth and life and Goldfish crackers, I get a little, well, freaked out.
But I also had moments and realizations when I thought, “Thank God we’re not alone” and “Thank God we’re here to see this right now if nothing before and nothing later” and “Thank God you’ve given us each other even if just for now.”
I can muster gratitude in the tiny moments like these, and they take my Lego-bruised feet and worn-well heart, cut up from fractured images of broken people on laptop screens and move them toward wholeness again.
It’s the divine smallness that brings the divine wholeness that gives me peace in places I’d never expect it—or me—to be.
Deidre Price, author and speaker, is a mama of three, lit Ph.D., and believer with a mess in the margins.
Deidre is the creator of Rogue Homilies Press and Online Journal, and her most recent work is a chapbook of poems called Lie/Lay/Lain: The Body in Tenses.
She lives in Florida where she teaches writing at Northwest Florida State College.