Mothering in the Age of Extra
Every day, I wake up to a roller coaster of days, strung along to one another like wagons — each filled to the brim with things and people and emotions and the aching for something else. What a gift another day is–to read Rumi and Anne Lamott, another day to learn about the world and listen to Deepak Chopra and Deva Premal.
One more day to pick up my daughter from school kiss her flushed cheeks as she climbs into the car in a hurry away from the desert summer outside. She always smells something like youth and sunshine and chewing gum and Moroccan Argan shampoo. She is tired after her long day at school where she has been working hard, learning to be a young woman in the world.
“How was it?” I ask her.
Sometimes, I also smell perfume, liberally reapplied during the day, in trips to the bathroom with her friends, other long-legged, long-haired and doe-eyed fifteen-year-olds. All of them on the verge of a magical discovery, breathless with anticipation, quivering limbs and heart and trembling lip-glossed lips. My heart surges over when I see them exit the school in clusters, like grapes or cherries on a stalk, with so much to tell still, even though they have been together for almost ten hours, but it’s not enough it’s never enough, because the world is wild, and life is breathlessly filled with awe, and stuff, and boys, and drama, and music, and Instagram magic. There just isn’t enough time for it all.
“It was good.” She glances at me and is busy on her phone as soon as her seatbelt is on. She smiles at it like it’s a living thing that she missed dearly. While we wait at the traffic lights, I notice how tight her uniform is across her chest and how short her skirt has become. She pulls at herself constantly. Pulling the shirt sideways, the skirt downwards over her thighs, flicking her hair, touching her face, moving. All the time. A sadness envelops my day. I hate the world that tells young doe-eyed magic-expecting girls what they should be but I don’t say this to my struggling warrior-daughter.
“I cooked lunch.” I say when we pull into the driveway. She swings her hair and her brown eyes light up.
“Cool. What did you make?” She is joyful all of a sudden. I know my daughter well. It’s not lunch that intrigued her – it’s the mother who has finally risen up, like an apparition from a black mountain fog, casting away the dirty yoga pants to wear a breezy Bali dress, and layered bead necklaces. I can be a sporadic mother, a random, awkward mother. I’m too much sometimes.
I don’t tell her the scenarios running through my head. I am intense and afraid of scaring her. For example, I was thinking, that it was imperative, that I wanted/must make memories and more special-ness with her. Take her on trips and have her breathe deeply because she is holding her breath. I can tell, with her fixed gaze and her hip pains and hurting feet. I see it in her eyes, outlined with long eyelashes and carefully applied mascara, In her hair cascading like dark water. She is stoic. I want her to become untethered, like an idea, and roam Paris and London and Madrid streets with me, and browse for small treasures in old musty bookstores. In my mind’s eye I see her settle on a book, blue and bound hardcover, filled with Marcus Aurelius wisdom words because I told her to do so and this is the book on the nightstand next to her bed, along with a soft white owl and a sea-scented candle.
I want to take her to that high waterfall in Oregon and see wonderment in her eyes again, the water thundering inside both of our hearts together, at the same time. I want her to sail down the Danube with me, to see her dip a hand into the eons-old water molecules and let it run through her fingers, like girls from previous eras. I want her to prod a laboring snail with her little finger in rain, and hug the baby goat among thick forests where air tastes like love. I don’t tell my daughter any of this and let my dreams and all my extra words pool in my mouth like sticky candy, gluing them shut.
“I made grandmother’s soup.” I tell her instead, as we walk into the cool interior of our house where we can remove the masks we wear and just be.
Her bag is slung over one shoulder, even though I warned her about her aching back and a girl whose clavicle broke for the same reason.
“With dumplings?” She deposits the bag, kicks her shoes off and hurries to the kitchen. She is wearing a green and white sock. I don’t mention it anymore; it’s the fashion apparently. Nowadays, this made my life easier. My daughter twirls and turns in the kitchen like a ballerina, setting red plates and silver spoons on green placemats. Outside, a purple bird chirps on the balcony but is quickly gone. There is an aroma of coffee from the neighbors and fried chicken perhaps. Everything reminds me of a time when I was young and my mother made me soup and roasted chicken in the oven when I was fifteen. I pray for this moment to stand still. Then I ruin it. Words tumble out of my mouth like a bag of tricks always tripping me up, and getting me in trouble.
“Ah, I wasted so many hours looking for matching socks when you and your siblings were smaller.” It’s too late to stop. “What a waste of life. Could have written that novel already, instead of plodding away for a decade at it.” I grumble, suddenly and inexplicably my good mood is gone and I am irritable and hot. “Even Hercules would have done better by now.” I stir the soup on the range to warm it the old fashioned way, and it spills making the flames sizzle.
“Mom, you are so “extra.” Thankfully, she just laughs.
Months before I also learned that extra in her world means dramatic, overboard, too much – extra.
“I don’t mind extra.” Just as suddenly, the storm in my blood is gone and calm winds soothe my cheeks. I am always humbled and shocked by my children’s compassion, their acceptance and their knowing. Now, I watch her slurp her grandmother’s soup and fish out the fat dumplings with her fingers and I watch her cheeks go pink and eyes soften.
“I don’t mind being extra at all.” I sip the soup and she sips the soup and we are silent except for the sounds of a softly humming fan and our hearts.
Zvezdana Rashkovich is an American immigrant writer and poet. She is mother to four children. She was born in the former Yugoslavia and raised in North Sudan. She has lived in Oregon for a decade. She now lives between Dubai, Balkans and Arizona. She is trilingual. She is a graduate of Creative Writing and English and has worked as an interpreter for refugees.
Her work was nominated for a Pushcart and can be found in anthologies, online and print journals in UK, Lebanon, USA, Greece and Sudan.