I was reading Zoe stories on the way home from the cabin last month. A gorgeous hardcover book based on Grimm’s fairytales with illustrations that looked more like tapestries.
I don’t know that I have ever known that Cinderella grew a tree , a Willow tree from her tears. Beautiful birds come and settle on the branches and all the leaves unfurl, a symbol of hope and renewal; but then of course I also had to read about stepmother, Stepmother who figures so prominently in so many different stories, so many of our narratives. Isn’t she just like the wicked wolf lurking in the forest.
But here’s the difficult part: if I were to try to imagine another woman entering Zoe’s life… It seems an impossibility. That is where I owe the deepest gratitude of my life. W’s mother and I often have this exchange where I will say “thank you for letting me love your son” and she will say “thank you for loving him as much as you do.”
W was little… Younger than four, G would ask me why I didn’t just scoop him up in my arms more, cover him with kisses. I, of course, regret now that I didn’t but, I come, remember from a fatherless family. There were times when people tried to enter the space that had been occupied by my father and I remember the visceral feeling I had against that space being violated.
I try as best I can to balance that line between loving attentiveness and respectful distance.
W and I have evolved into kind of a bickering relationship where I do nag him relentlessly about what he’s up to. His father sometimes misinterpreted that as if he and I weren’t getting along but really the opposite was true.
He had taken to a lot of unsolicited I love you’s lately, and while that might be routine for a mother and son it was not as routine for us. It was often left unspoken. I’m so grateful for it now. I can see him closing the car door, opening the back of the station wagon and grabbing his hockey stick before practice — and an easy and familiar I love you.
I love you too kiddo