A former student arranged it for us the night before.
A special invitation to be on the tarmac when the president arrived in Maine.
It was concentrated thrill from the time we were brought outside, to this moment.
He walked right over to us, off of Air Force One.
He said; “Good afternoon gentlemen.”
He shook all of our hands.
When it was my turn, I wanted to say; “My sons think you have to be brown skinned to become president…” But instead I just held both his hands for a moment and said; “Thank you.” We held a gaze for three maybe three and half seconds.
In my fantasy world he looked at me, and Sam and Marcel and thought; this feels really familiar….
Afterwords Sam said; “What’s the big deal, I’ll meet many presidents in my lifetime. Marcel was a little more enthused; “Mommy between Halloween tomorrow, and the president today I am too excited to tell you anything.”
Mama C is now Mrs. Mama C.
It was a joyful, profound, and deeply loving day. Our magnificent and remarkable seven children and our extremely dear and supportive family and friends made it off the charts memorable.
It signifies, I imagine, the greatest shifting moment in my life second only to Sammy being placed into my arms. (By the time Marcel arrived, my knowledge of myself as a mother was fully under development…). To become a wife, in my case anyway, may possibly be one of the most radical things I have ever done. How can that be? I am working on a piece about this for the Huffington Post. When I publish it, I will link to it here. Suffice it to say, I have plenty of material.
Even with the transition back to full-time-everything around here (Shrek and I have seven jobs between us, and the boys are at two different schools, with six after school activities between them) we are still deeply dropped into the mystery and ease of this being married thing. This weekend we were able to take a “mini-moon”, a term I coined to describe what newlyweds with seven children between them do, to have a nano second to say; “That was an incredible wedding. I am the luckiest person in the world. I love you too. Goodnight. Want another cup of coffee? We have to be back to the soccer game by noon. Can you start the car?” We went to the lake. It was perfect.
I had to be at work at 6:30 this morning to set up for writing group. Lunches were in the fridge, everyone’s clothes were set out, and the the coffee maker with two individual cup holders had my husband’s coffee waiting for him when he woke up after I left.
It’s all very familiar. It’s all very new.
This recent self portrait represents who I have often wanted the world to see when they look at me: heroic, larger than life, capable, confident, and self reliant for starters. My convoluted sense of who I believed I needed everyone to think I was started to take shape almost exactly a decade ago as my journey to becoming a parent, on my own, began.
I remember standing on the end of that very same dock asking the “Lady of the Lake” as I call her, if I was ready to become a parent on my own? I had come to this little cabin for a solo weekend in June 2004, with gobs of paperwork to complete to submit to the adoption agency the following week. I knew that this was the one place that I could listen truthfully to my own fears, and leave my doubts at the bottom of the lake if I decided to say yes. I had been coming here since I was seven. It is my spiritual home.
I showed up at the lake with a little more than a change of clothes, a jar of instant coffee, and my favorite pen. In the plastic bag that I had bawled up in the bottom of my backpack was my secret: a full length fleece bear costume for an infant-size six to twelve months. By the end of the night, I would be dancing around the cabin in front of the fireplace rocking my imaginary child back and forth. I had placed a towel inside the onesie to give it some heft. I wanted to know what that little body would feel like in my arms. I was intoxicated with the possibility.
Like Athena popping out of her father Zeus’s head in full armor and ready to go, my single mother persona emerged from the dock certain that I could prove to the world, I had what it took to be a stellar parent all by myself. I probably fell in love with my potential and my image of my single motherhood that night. I knew I was crazy to do this on my own. I just didn’t know how crazy. I imagined that it would be hard, and expensive, and lonely, and confusing too. But I also believed that I had mothering and loving to give to a child in a fierce way. My determination and commitment to make the transformation from single woman to single mother was in motion, and there was no turning back.
Each time a friend or parent seemed the least bit questioning of my decision to adopt, I would get bigger, not smaller. I would smile wide, and offer them a chance to come help out when the baby arrived. I put together the crib by myself, and bought a big freezer for all the food I had asked my friends to make for me when the time came. I interviewed day care centers, and pediatricians. I read books, prayed, and sought out others who came before me. I had purpose. I was reinventing myself for a higher calling. I was ready.
Becoming a mother was not something I did in partnership, like most do. Becoming a single mother meant that I didn’t need a partner. I convinced everyone, and especially me, that I was so capable, and so gigantic that I didn’t need a partner to do this. I had many close friends who made up our chosen family. At least three times a week friends arrived with meals, encouragement and open arms to hold Sammy while I got a shower, or a much needed run around the boulevard. As he grew, and our family grew to include Marcel my network grew too. I was parenting, blogging, teaching full time, working out, accepting interviews, and speaking engagements. I was all that.
Once, I had a friend tell me in secret from the other side of the playground; “my husband is worried that if I spend too much time with you, I’ll start to think I’d be better off on my own…” I had to keep myself from agreeing, because I really did think her husband was probably right, and I liked the guy a lot. Daycare providers, teachers, doctors, parents, and coaches knew that I was flying solo, and that was just fine. With each successful milestone passed, I grew more and more into my role. So much so, that to an extent I was not Sam’s mom, or Marcel’s mom, I was “Catherine the single mother who makes it look easy…” I had a lot at stake at keeping up that image, but little to no understanding of what I was letting go of in the process: the chance to open my heart to a loving romantic partnership.
Sure, I dated a few times in the last few years. I drew wonderful people towards me and the boys. But I had no business doing so. To say I wasn’t ready would be false. I was to busy celebrating my own daily accomplishments, and those of my kids. Every letter from the tooth fairy, or successful parent teacher conference and I deserved a gold star. I was amazing. Who could possibly add up.
Then I met Shrek.
Becoming an almost married person, I am discovering, is not something one can do alone. In the next few weeks, leading up to the wedding I am hoping to shed a little more light on just how complex and powerful, and yes radical an act it is for me to agree and want to be married. When we were at the lake a few weeks ago, Shrek called out from the grill where he was creating yet another magnificent feast for the boys and I; “Maybe you can be a married single mother?” To be continued…
Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to attend the Black Fly Writer’s Retreat in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. Four different sessions were happening simultaneously. I was with the poetry group. It all went by in a blur. Three days is not enough time for me to drop into my poet self in the kind of way a week allows. So, now I know–but it did allow me to have several pieces work shopped. I was very pleased with how the group responded to my voice, and overall poetry process.
My “water poems” as a body of work moved forward, and I made a few very cool new writer connections. On the final night we had a bonfire reading. Here is one of the poems from the weekend that I wrote and read. The form came from an activity where you list, but only allow yourself one verb. Mine didn’t follow directions exactly, but I was pleased with the outcome:
The Minister and the Snake
The missing goldfish
(nine now dead)
the rusty spade
at the back of the shed
a gardener’s rage
a snake’s split head
on Easter Sunday
bread and wine
for the visitors
in their best dressed
more promises of forgiveness
except for the serpent
now dead behind
the minister’s shed.