© 2010 David Parker
It’s taken me nearly 28 years, but I’ve finally learned how to be alone. It sounds simple, but I’ve found that simple things (sticking to a budget, having patience, sharing, being nice) can be the hardest to accomplish. Being alone is one of the trickier simple things for me because I haven’t had much practice with it. I had roommates from the time I left for college until I left grad school to have Ruthie, at which point I swapped my roommates for a husband. Now that it’s just me and Ruthie and a boyfriend who works often and out of town, I have a lot of alone time on my hands. Especially in the summer time.
Before the summer began I made a conscious decision NOT to fill the days with furtive trips out of town, major projects, work. I made NO plans (very uncomfortable for me). After two days at home with Ruthie, I realized that I hadn’t done this since I was on maternity leave, nearly five-freaking-years ago. It took some trying, but I finally learned how to relax into being by myself. This was all new to Ruthie too. When I came to get her out of time-out (on a rug in her room), she asked (in her excited voice with her eyebrows raised) if she might be allowed to play in her room. It struck me that Ruthie has also spent a great deal of time away from home. During the week she was at daycare, and I’ve always packed the weekends with “fun things to do.” And so this summer turned into a nice, wide stretch of time for Ruthie and I to learn how to entertain ourselves at home.
The thing about me is when I’m really enjoying myself, I have this overwhelming urge to share it with someone. Whenever I find myself becoming immersed in a moment–coffee on the front porch in the early morning before Ruthie wakes up, making dinner with music and a beer in my hand, eating a pretty breakfast of yogurt and granola with fruit, catching fireflies with Ruthie before bedtime–I always want to call someone. To make it real. I mean, if I have this beautiful moment, and only I witness it, then it’s like the proverbial tree in the forest. And isn’t that why we write, take pictures, talk? To preserve something the way we see it or the way we want to see it so that others can witness it as we did?
When you have a child, everyone says, “Write it down. You’ll forget all of this.” They say that because they’ve already forgotten. And the other night when I was putting Ruthie to bed, just after she fell asleep, I kissed her fat, smooth, perfect cheek and pressed my palm to her chest to feel her fluttery heart. Her mouth was kind of open and she was clutching her favorite stuffed animal: an elephant named Audge-A who smells like love. And I thought of how I so desperately wanted to preserve the moment because I’ll never have it back. It’s our job as parents to remember our children and how we loved them while they’re small because if we don’t remember it, no one will. No one will know Ruthie as she is now, at four years old. No one but me. And I’m going to miss so much about little Ruthie when she’s big. Like how she treats a glass of chocolate milk like a bottle, sucking it over the rim of the glass until it’s gone. Or how she will spend nearly an hour making shapes on the floor with bobby pins. And when Ruthie gets older, like when she’s a teenager, she’ll think I hate her. And it’s my job to give her little-self back to her when she’s older, through stories, pictures, my writing, the drawings she’s done, the videos I’ve taken with my phone.
So I call people when I’m alone and loving myself and my life and what I’m doing. Or I write about it. Or I take a picture of it. Or I sketch it miserably on a napkin. And it’s spectacular how little I have to record for the moment to come flooding back to me. For example:
Sleeps like superman
Ruthie: “I gotta show Mr. Bear what’s the deal”
Magic number: 113
David & Max come in from a walk–smell like dirt and leaves ground up between my fingers, like cinnamon and heat
I’ll see these in a month, in five years, and I won’t just remember, I re-live them as vignettes. These snippets become gorgeous talismans. Without them, those moments would be lost. Forever. And if no one remembers, it’s like it never happened. But if I record it, I can remember it, and share it, and it can be lived and re-lived by more than one person. Forever. And that’s publishing: putting something down and sharing it with others so that when the moment has passed, or when you have, your life is still there, pulsing in ink.