Every now and then, Herself visits a trunk that resides in the corner of the closet in the master bedroom. It is heavy and nondescript, and rarely opened. There is no hint whatsoever about the contents it holds. Lift the lid, and you will find a jumble of hand-written correspondence. Letters. Cards. Pictures. Letters. More letters. The occasional pressed flower, scrap of fabric. Small works of art. A ring box. Still more letters.
For over three years, Herself and her Beloved lived in separate states. They had dated a mere month before he moved away. For the first year, there were 2,000 miles between them. For the second and third years, there were merely 300 miles. You'll recall that this was in Days of Yore, long before e-mail and text. There was the telephone, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Herself's habit was to write to her Beloved just about every day. Sometimes the letters were short; sometimes they were long. Either way, it was always an act of love to make those pilgrimages to the mailbox. Her Beloved wrote back - not nearly as frequently, but that did not matter. In fact, it made his letters perhaps more valuable, since she knew it took him more effort to write. Each letter was saved, and when they finally were married, all of the letters were placed in the trunk together.
Three years' worth of love and longing and plans and dreams, all within the trunk. To visit the trunk is to find hope anew, and to remind Herself and her Beloved of all that is yet to come.
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. - Mignon McLaughlin
Here in the wide open spaces of Texas, the primary method of locomotion is the car. Wheeled transportation is vital for even the most ordinary of errands, as nothing is within walking distance, particularly in the hundred degree heat of the summer. My family has three vehicles, each having a different personality, and each serving its own purpose.
The primary mode of transportation is what Herself affectionately refers to as "the big honkin' van". It is an older white conversion van, perfect for long drives on family vacations with the camper-trailer. The van is slightly less convenient for daily activities; though it easily holds three fully-loaded taekwondo bags (and more), its rather bulky shape renders it ungainly in local traffic, not to mention problematic for parking. Nevertheless, it is a solid family car. Herself uses it to shuttle the Offspring back and forth from school, to do hunting and gathering at the grocery store, and to run the myriad small errands necessary to keep the Family Machinery running smoothly.
The second vehicle is Herself's Beloved's car. A wee little sports car, it holds only two people. At the moment, only one person in the family can drive it, since Herself does not drive stick shift. (Nor does she parallel park. Those are two things she never learned properly, she tells me.) It is a bit of a luxury to have this car, in view of its limited capacity for passengers and family drivers. Nevertheless, it makes Herself's Beloved quite happy, and it soothes him and brings him happiness after a long day of work. So this car is A Good Thing Indeed.
The last vehicle is the oldest of the three. A sturdy green pickup truck, it was purchased used many years ago, but still retains its shine and pep despite having nearly 150,000 miles upon it. The whole family can fit in it if necessary, although that is a bit cramped. It is generally used for trips to the dump, errands to the hardware store, or pilgrimages to the firing range.
Lately, Herself has learned that the truck is, in fact, her favorite vehicle.
There is something magical about the truck. It's a modest vehicle - nothing flashy or noteworthy about it. All the same, and perhaps because of its humbleness, the truck suits her personality best. One should be sufficiently independent, capable and practical to drive a truck. And she is.
I asked her, why does she enjoy the truck so much?
Well, it is difficult -- she tells me -- not to be consumed by the job of motherhood. The Offspring require such involved and almost constant care. So many times, she is known (and addressed) as "This Offspring's mother" or "That Offspring's mom". That is normal and expected. She accepts it, for she loves the Offspring with a visceral force that permeates every cell of her body.
Yet there are moments when she would like to recapture the tranquility of being just herself. She thinks nostalgically of the days when she did not have the responsibility for so many lives other than her own, and somehow, the truck has an ability to transport her back to that time. When she is behind the wheel of the truck, she is her own woman. She's not just somebody's mother, ferrying children in a van like everybody else's mother. She is herself.
It's a lovely sensation. It passes too quickly when she parks the truck and enters the house full of Offspring, pets, laundry, work, and miscellany. Yet those few shining moments in the truck provide her inner fuel for the continued journey. And that is also A Very Good Thing Indeed.
As you may recall, this past Saturday was was taekwondo belt testing. Herself felt better going into this test than she had in previous tests: she knew her form cold, the expected combination kicks were difficult but tolerable, and she was comfortable with basic movements and even with sparring. The one item that worried her was the breaking. She thought it would go reasonably well.
And then, her brain got up and marched out of the room just as she was about to begin her form.
She knows now that her right foot moved when her left should have in the beginning. She's not quite sure why it happened, really - it had never happened during the 8 million times she had practiced the form previously. She eventually recovered and more or less completed the form, but the damage was done.
Words truly cannot describe what ran through her head: horror, panic, anger, and most of all, disgust with herself for the error. She is a bit of a perfectionist at heart. That, combined with her innate and intense dislike of the spotlight, made it a fairly dreadful moment.
She got through the rest of the test, though. Her friends were comforting and helpful, as always. She even eventually managed the flying side kick board break. That was good.
She knows that all it means is that she is human. She is fallible, she makes mistakes. As she told me later, it's to be expected that she will occasionally reveal to the world she is that pretty far out of her comfort zone. All the same, she will keep trying.
What was most helpful was going back to the familiarity of the gym on Monday. Class always brings her happiness. She has her friends and taekwondo, and she is content. She will forgive herself and move onwards. Tally ho!
Fears and self-criticisms hidden by sweaters and jeans during winter are now visible in daylight. To many women (and to men as well, I suspect), exposing certain body parts to the eyes of others can be as unseemly as bringing cave-dwelling creatures to twitch and scramble unexpectedly in the sunlight.
Every person has his or her own maligned and disliked body parts. There are scars, stretchmarks; there is too much fat, too little tone; this area is too thin, that one too hairy; there are effects of years and gravity that we cannot control. No one is spared from these insecurities, especially Herself.
Herself struggles frustratedly to find a bathing suit that covers that which should be covered, and reveals some, but not too much, of what can be revealed. She tries on suit after suit, attempting to look at herself in the mirror only long enough to ascertain whether she can be seen in public in that particular garment. If she looks too long, she becomes much too aware of her own flaws and shortcomings, and all hope of finding a tolerable bathing suit is lost.
She recalls wistfully the days when a bathing suit was nothing more than another piece of clothing, to be selected easily off of a rack in any store and worn with carefree cheer. She wishes that she could feel that confident again, but knows those times are long past. She confesses that what pains her most is that she still harbors what seems to her to be an unacceptable vanity: the wish to know that other people find her attractive. It should not matter, she tells herself. How self-centered, how frivolous, how ridiculous she is, she thinks.
And yet, how very human, I think.
We will try to remember:
Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical. - Sophia Loren
Should you care to write (and only the saints know why you should) you must needs have knowledge and art and music - the knowledge of the music of words, the art of being artless, and the magic of loving your readers.
It has been a complex twelve months. There have been poetic vacations; quiet frustrations; and miscellaneous odd ideas requiring expression in print. Success. Failure. Hope. Love.
I am quite indebted to you, my few, stalwart readers, for taking the time to stop by the blog and read the thoughts I have written. Blessed by your presence, my joys have been multiplied, and my sorrows divided. Hopefully, I can somehow return this act of grace to you.
The family trip to Rockhound State Park was immediately followed by the last week of school, with final exams for the eldest two Offspring, and grade-school graduation festivities for the youngest Offspring. Herself ran around like the proverbial headless chicken, valiantly attempting to accomplish all that needed to be done in a timely manner. I just tried to stay out of the way.
Rockhound itself was lovely. Quiet, spacious, easy access to simple hiking paths as well as slightly challenging trails, areas for bicycling, beautiful sunsets. Lizards aplenty. Herself's Beloved actually took a true break and did not open his computer or place any work-related phone calls for the entire weekend. The teenage Offspring, who had been significantly less than delighted about this particular destination, rose to the occasion and were pleasant and humorous. Offspring the third tried his hardest to be a good sport, as always. Herself had time with the family, and time alone hiking. It was good.
The last week of school was complex, as always.
Herself always feels somewhat fraught at the beginning and ending of school. She does not transition well. Routine and habit are important, and establishing or ending the customs of a particular school year was always tricky. There's a sense of unrest, of loss and uncertainty that pervades these days. Even though it has been eighteen years since she attended school, the sentiments are deep-rooted and arise as predictably as the changing of the seasons. While none of the Offspring has mentioned feeling similarly, Herself senses that they do, and she is patiently working to provide them with the bit of extra care and attention that they may need right now.
Now it is Done, and the Offspring will have some days of well-deserved rest before charging into summer activities. They are lying about, like lizards basking in the sun. Enjoy, Offspring, for these days are all too brief and pass all too quickly.
The family and I went to Rockhound State Park in New Mexico for the Memorial Day weekend. It was lovely - a lush corner of the desert, with hiking, interesting rocks, and beautiful flowers. More details to follow shortly!
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.