I’m not a circus clown or a magician or any of a dozen happily ever after, fairy godmother aided princesses. I don’t have magical little friends who chip away underground while the sound of their whistling fills the mineshafts. I am, however, a single and newly salaried mom. And that recent development has me yearning to fill the hills with my own music, while I search doggedly and dazedly for footholds and haul myself up the craggy side of things.
It isn’t easy, but I never thought it would be. Working at a “real” job for the first time since before Zahara was born is incredibly empowering and undeniably exhausting. And there are sacrifices.
Like waving goodbye to two busloads of family members off to share in my baby sister’s joy at her wedding reception and finding the self-control to dry my tears, fix my hair, and face eight hours of customers followed by an eerily empty house.
Or prying my little girl’s hands off my uniform and rushing away from the sound of her unanswerable question, “Why you go to job, mommy?”
It’s almost a siren song, this question, beckoning me to give up and give in and quit. Making me wonder, always guilty, if I’m doing the right thing.
But it is the right thing. Because someone has to take responsibility for us. Not the man who disposed of us like used toilet paper and laughed at the suggestion that we even exist. A man who can deny his own child’s life and give her nothing of the fruits of his own has no place in our world.
The friends and family we do have try to fill our lives with their own whistles, tweaking and tinkering with what little they can fix for us. It’s sweet and it’s been our little slice of stability, but nothing can make up for not having control over our lives other than my finally taking control of things MYSELF. And this is how it starts.
Forty hour weeks and rotating schedules. Aching feet and a semi-permanent twitch in my right eye.
Remembering that while I had to sacrifice sleep the last few weeks to do it, I did at least get to be there as, God bless them, my baby sister and her former fiance took each other’s hands as husband and wife. Thanking God for the new friends I’ve made at work who traded shifts with me and lunch with me and spent their breaks curling my hair and painting my face to be a sparkling, if sleepy, sister of the bride.
Remembering also that I was lucky enough to spend the first two years of my baby’s life with her as I nursed my heartwounds and found the road to recovery with her warm snuggling in my arms. Telling my babygirl that mommy goes to work so I can give her everything she wants, and quelling my desire to stop trying when she says it isn’t fair that I missed her first drop-off Gymboree class, or the busride she thought was magical and exciting, or the moments between bright early morning and bedtime that I’m not with her.
It isn’t fair, and she’s absolutely right about that. She did nothing to deserve her father’s deceit and she’s given me nothing but love and strength since. My mistake was to have loved an unlovable man, but in exchange, I was blessed with this child. And in being her mother, I found my own previously untapped and surprisingly expansive goldmine of resourcefulness, humor, and bounce back-iness.
When she’s older, I think my daughter will understand the unfair unfun unexpected sacrifices I make for her sake and for myself. We’ll find our way to the top and look out over a brand new exceptional view and we’ll whistle and whoop and celebrate to our hearts’ content.
Maybe I’m not a clown or a magician or a Disney princess, but I AM A MOM. And that makes me want to be the star of my child’s lifestory, the hero with a twitchy eye and multiple mutated superstretchy arms to catch and balance and dip and spin.
I am the juggler, a whirlwind of unyielding precision and tireless timing. Or really, the master of distraction, keeping the eye off the occasional small ball being dropped…the toys and clothes that don’t get picked up, the passenger with an expired passport that I somehow let through (and thank God THAT ball was caught by a colleague and tossed back to me before it became a much bigger misstep!)
All that matters is that the big things don’t fall, that I don’t fall. That my little girl learns what it means to be a woman in charge of her own piece of the world and how to balance on your tiptoes when you’re forced onto a precipice. The thing is, I didn’t ask for this or expect this or want THIS, but my life is at yet another crossroads and where I go now is my decision. My choice is to work my arms off, juggle the heck out of everything that means something to me, and find the pace that will keep things moving onwards and upwards. I WILL work harder and train harder and get the promotions. I WILL earn flight benefits for me and Zahara to travel the world and I WILL show her the world as soon as I can. Maybe it isn’t fair, but it’s a fantastic second chance to get things right, to have the life I always wanted and to give my daughter the life she was born to live.
I promise one thing and it’s the thing that keeps me going: this is going to be one unforgettable show.