being a parent · healing · outside of my comfort zone · parenting · Pathos · the Mother Wound

Over the river and through the woods

To grandmother’s house we go.

In the fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood goes into the woods to bring a basket of goodies to her Grandmother. It seems innocent enough. Then, Little Red encounters the Big Bad Wolf.  The Wolf goes to Grandmother’s house, eats Grandmother whole, and then lays in wait for Little Red.

This allegorically rich tale has been retold and reinterpreted countless ways, while the dénouement more or less remains the same: by various means depending on the telling Little Red confronts the wolf, the wolf is overcome, and Little Red and her Grandmother are saved.

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go!

For the first time in at least four (I think?) years, I made the trek to my mother’s house so that she could see her grandchildren. In doing so, I confronted a few personal wolves of my own.

Perhaps the biggest, baddest wolf is my sense of loss of “home.” My mother’s house used to be a place of sanctuary, a place I could go to ground, to rest, and to re-connect. Her home was my home, it was still full of things familiar to me from my childhood. It nourished me with comfort food and comfort things.
Not so anymore.
On the surface, there was nothing of my childhood left except for the old, broken grandfather clock:

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I wish I could have seen it in its day. It supposedly had stained glass. It must have been beautiful.

I let the girls go free, and Big Girl immediately fell in love with the backyard- something she doesn’t have here in our apartment in the big city. The apple tree was a huge hit.

It was chock full of late-season fruit, and the apples were delicious!

It made my heart so happy to see her run free outside.

While the girls were occupied in nature I took some time to explore the house. I was hoping to find that feeling of “return,” welcome, warmth and love and familiarity.
Instead I found cobwebs and medical supplies. My mother has two full-time jobs: one as a nurse practitioner, and one as a caregiver for her husband who is dying of cancer.
I poked through everything I felt safe and comfortable enough to poke through (spiders and feeling like a rude, nosy stranger limited my exploration). I found a few things that looked familiar:

Pots that my mother uses for jewelry.

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I was delightfully surprised to find this, covered and resting at the back of my mother’s closet. It’s my fancy shawl that I used to dance with. It’s not honestly all that “fancy” (especially compared to what’s out there today!) but it was what my mother could afford at the time and I loved the blue roses.
I haven’t been to a powwow in so many years.

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Old horses that used to fill my days with imaginative play. I even tried my hand at painting a few. The one on the right bears traditional “warpaint” markings.

A championship trophy from the county 4-H fair. Looking at the date I don’t even want to think about how young I was, but I absolutely love seeing how young, glossy, and healthy my beloved horse was.

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These few things, treasures though they are, weren’t enough to make me feel “home.” I wanted my old bed, to see familiar things on the walls, the accoutrements of a life I miss.

I slept on the floor for the night, leaving Big Girl the whole bed while I nursed Babs to sleep safely on the floor where there was no risk of her rolling off of the brand new adjustable bed. I don’t think I could have slept in the bed that replaced my old oak four-poster. It felt like a betrayal.

I didn’t get much sleep that night.

“My, Grandmother, what sharp teeth you have!”

The next day it seemed like old patterns were re-emerging between my mother and I, and it was time to go. I looked in my rearview mirror with guilt and shame as I fled.
Yup. Fled.
“There is a difference between leaving and running away,” my husband said.
“I feel like I ran away.” I replied.
I didn’t help clean up the mess that Hurricane Toddler left. I certainly didn’t clean up my mess of feelings.
And I came home to a messy house.

I still haven’t cleaned up any of the mess. Messes are messy. I took a deep breath and decided that sometimes things just need time and patient, consistent effort. In the end, it’s worth it to construct the life and relationships that sustain me, and my family, both physically and emotionally.

Life is but a dream, and it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.

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