by Zinta Aistars
That’s right. There is nothing going on in my life. Not a thing. And I couldn’t be more pleased. Oh sure, deadlines, that endless pressing, both at home and at the office. I’ve just completed the writing of 115 pages of Web copy at work in a matter of two weeks, and the steam is still curling up from my skull. If there is one grand aspect of such a deadline, arguably unreasonable, then it is the stepping off that ride. Ah, steady ground beneath my feet. The quiet. A weekend of doing nothing. Well, nothing, that is, that holds an axe over my head. Yes, yes, I’ve been catching up with household chores, an almost pleasant routine after all that brain work. Running a vacuum, scrubbing the tub, sweeping the deck, folding the laundry, these jobs that seem almost meditative in their quality, allowing my mind to roam and dream. And yes, I know, there are a hundred submissions waiting to be sorted and read for my beloved literary ezine, The Smoking Poet. There are submissions of my own to make—the poetry manuscript that is nearly complete and ready to send out. There is that novel memoir, wordplay intentional, at which I am niggling away, sculpting and shaping in its unexpected direction. There are reviews to write and a stack of books awaiting my eye, review copies sent by other authors. There are letters awaiting reply. Closets awaiting organization. A garage that needs to be emptied. A flowerbed that needs weeding. A hundred, a thousand, a million countless chores and errands wait for me.
Oh, let them wait. A moment longer.
This Sunday morning I have earned a quiet moment of peaceful solitude. I make a stack of hot pancakes and toss in the freshly picked blueberries my good parents dropped off earlier—they had the time. I sit on the deck with warm plate in my lap, watching the slow drip of maple syrup trace a dripping path. My chow pup curls at my feet, watchful eye, waiting for the last bite. My black calico cat sits watching the morning dove in the tree branches overhead, preening its pale brown feathers. My old diabetic cat, Tommy, who I never expected to survive this long, turns his black head upside down and white belly up on a patch of carpet and purrs, eyes squinched shut.
I hear a very distant siren, and it is not for me.
A mouthful of warm pancake, berries bursting velvety soft and flavorful on my tongue. Yes. This is what I have longed for… for years. At last, my life has moved into this peaceful place. The drama is over and long gone. The years of single parenting, heartbreaking and endurance-testing, chasing my own tail and trying to protect and save what cannot be saved. And yet was. My son, growing up without the attention and guidance of his father, tested every boundary and pushed every limit. I feared, constantly feared, losing him—in mind, in spirit, in body. Those were years no mother should ever know. Yet this past Saturday night, I had the rare pleasure of my grown son’s company. Now 27 years, he spent his evening here, no place better. We sat on the front door step watching the calico cat twirl in a spot of waning sunlight, and talked. He was giving his lady S. some time to herself, and to spend with her mother too, adjusting to the news that her father’s time was nearing end. Her father is my age. But his body is riddled now with tumors spreading their poison. And although my son’s lady has divorced parents, too, when all comes to the finish line—all transgressions find their place, on the back shelf, and the connections of blood and ancestry win out. Mother and daughter comfort each other. And my son, sighing, his powerful shoulders a bit stooped this evening in his concern, sits beside me on the step and for a long time, says nothing.
Life is that short.
My cat twirls and pats at sunshine. A leaf falls from the great tree in front of the house, mimicking autumn. It is a gentle summer, the air is sweet and pleasant, and we sit for a long time, thinking not much, saying even less. A little girl walks by with a bouncy little dog on a leash. A neighbor pulls out of his driveway across the street and waves as he drives away. I laugh, suddenly, realizing I am sitting on my front step in my bathrobe and slippers, hair pulled back in a ponytail, face clean of makeup, and I don’t care, not in the least.
“Ha!” I chortle. “I do believe I am at that age now! At last.”
“What age is that,” my son looks over at me, one eye from under a baseball cap.
“That most wonderful and enviable age in a woman’s life,” I smile. “When I can wear a red hat with a purple dress. Or a bathrobe on the front step,” I flap a fuzzy blue lapel. “And truly not give a damn how it looks.”
“Ah,” my son nods, and I’m not sure if he gets it, but somehow, I think he actually does. He has grown up around women, the strong and reliable gender in his life, and he is privy now to the quirks and deeper wisdom of the feminine persuasion.
I rub his back for a moment, as I used to do, a strong back, and let my hand rest a while on that powerful shoulder. My fear is gone. The juvenile delinquent beat all the odds. He has grown into a fine man, a good man, with great heart, and I am proud with the kind of mother’s pride that hums a deep and resonant chord inside. It is the hum of peace over my brood, at last.
My daughter, meanwhile, has just applied for a seat on the Illinois state board, commission for volunteerism. She believes passionately that good people can accomplish good things, and she is doing something about it. Her life, too, is on its path, straight ahead and brilliant. I silently nod in satisfaction, thinking of her.
And my own? Work is hard and demanding, but it is good work, and I am meeting the challenge. Debts are being paid. The old house is, however slowly, however gradually, seeing repair. The last relationship, with all its drama and cruelty, is long over. While wounds are still healing, and the scars remain, alas, forever, my longing and loneliness have passed. The revelation of my recent trip to Washington D.C., when I realized that traveling alone through life really is better, that I in fact now prefer it, is lasting. I see others around me still playing that game of love and courtship, flushed romance with all its giddiness, and I can cheer for them even as I feel no longing to move that way myself, ever again. Been there. Oh, so done that. And while most my past loves I now see as golden memory, with a smile on my lips, a honeyed heart of sweet remembrance, I can also now move beyond that one that sliced my heart into tattered shreds.
I’m okay. At last, I am fine. If some parts of who I once was are now gone forever, something else has taken their place. I am a woman now, in midlife, who can sit on her front doorstep in her fuzzy blue bathrobe and know I am presenting the world with truly my best self. Unafraid, comfortable in my own skin, blessedly imperfect. I wear my scars with pride, and my wounded self no longer hinders me.
My life is peaceful, at long last. Even among all the rush and usual hurry, the crowded busyness. I cherish my work, both personal and in my career. It is good work. I cherish my circle of friends, there when I need them, gone in their own lives when I need solitude in mine. My children are raised, taken wing, and I watch them soaring in flight and know the hardest part of my job there is now done. Now, I can simply stand back and cheer, listen, wave, observe, applaud.
I can sit on my deck on a Sunday morning, licking the last syrupy crumbs of a blueberry pancake from my fork, and smile into the sunshine, equally light. I’ve earned this place in the sun. And I’m not going anywhere.