Always the Phoenix

I just finished reading another nicely written blog written by a woman with small children, the crumbs, the dust, the sticky fingers, the constant neediness of those miniature nazi storm troopers. I once had to bring my then 2 year old unwell son to a class I was teaching at the local University because my ex husband was traveling and really nobody can comfort a sick kid but mommy. The secret plan? Stash him in the podium with a bottle and his blanket, give back homework, apologize and leave. Well, it didn't go so smoothly. In the middle of a brief lecture on my expectations for thesis statements, he staggered out clutching his bottle in one hand, his blanket in the other and bellowed: "stop! Stop! You are my mommy! Stop teaching." My students were appalled and amused, I was ashamed and embarrassed. He, aware of an audience was delighted with himself and began to dance. Another time I found myself in the English department office of the chair with the same child sobbing about how hard it was to manage my professional life with a baby.

But now I have a twenty year old and he is no longer needy. I don't have a body transformed by childbirth but one transformed by years- my knees hurt in the morning, my neck hurts at night, my freckles are cause for alarm and a visit to the skin girl who barely looks old enough to vote. I am older than the president and everyone except my 89 year old mom looks very young. My father died a few months ago and it was terrible because you just don't think it will happen even when he's been an old man for a while. In my memory he is strong again, young, brilliant, lecturing on James Joyce, opening a bottle of wine, my wicked, handsome father.

Memory. I recall a meal with my first boyfriend, broiled chicken, green beans, roast potatoes, white wine, I wear a blue dress, I am 20,how the grass smelled, the amazing fact that someone I loved, loved me back but I can't recall the name of my neighbor, the fucking fifth password for my mileage number, to take that stupid pill. Everything moves too fast and then too slowly. I remember singing Suzanne to my darling boy, his arms around my neck, my lips close to his ear, him murmuring momma, momma, I love you, the garbage and the flowers-why momma? The kisses, the sense of total happiness even with the divorce, the tiredness, the full-time job...and last winter I bring him to Iowa where he has to serve his house arrest for the accident he had while drunk, a fearsome crash that could have killed him and that would be three, my best friend at 19, my sister at 26 but somehow this time that bad angel of death failed to swoop and so I remain in awe of possibility.

Yes, I have written another novel, I am writing a memoir and a YA. Why not? I remarried at 47 and his children have produced 6 grandchildren. My son still melts occasionally and reaches for me and in those moments I recognize that life is a series of circles, of memories and dreams, of letting go and never giving up and I still claim that Phoenix as it rises more slowly, older now, for the ashes.


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