Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Plane Rides and Parenthood

There is something about a plane ride that never ceases to launch me into a world of reflection. Perhaps it is the transitory state a plane ride offers. There you are, midair, essentially hung between two worlds, existing between them, but within neither. Because of this, you allow yourself to evaluate both, independently, yet together as you wouldn’t be able to were you living on the ground “trapped” within only one world. You are removed. Apart. Above.

As I think back on the many plane rides I have taken before this one, a startling truth comes to mind. I am not the girl I once was. Interesting revelation, huh? Of course Claire! You may think. Your life has changed so why should you remain the same? But yet there is something in the core of me that has shifted. Something that defined me once that no longer does. Can I tell you what it is? I am not sure. It escapes me. It is but a breadth out of my reach and I cannot grab hold of it. But there has been a shift. A change. An erosion of sorts in which some things were washed clean and others were merely washed away.

The plane is gliding through the night sky and outside my window all that is visible is an expanse of darkness and black night. I wonder what earth lies beneath us and who lives there. I wonder if as they enjoy their evening, they have looked up to see a light gliding above them. I wonder if they’ve thought of me and where I’m headed.

I wonder, in a sense, the same thing that they might. I wonder where I am heading. I know the physical location of course, but where exactly is it for me? I am leaving my parents house and headed back to my house. But which of those is home? The one I know so familiarly, the same one I’m leaving behind? Or the one which holds my future, a place of some mystery and shallow memory?

There are two roads in these two “homes”. One was the path of my childhood, and now one has become the path of my parenthood. Worlds apart, yet connected by a little girl who may or may not have quite realized that she is now a woman.

As I carry this life inside of me tonight, as I journey through the sky, I wonder what my child’s life will be like. As I watched my parents this week slowly adjust to the strange and foreign territory of having adult children, I thought of how one day this little life inside of me will grow up and leave and form a life of his or her own. Will I grieve my loss? Or will I rejoice in my child’s independence? Perhaps a little of both?

It’s an interesting thing to observe my parents through the eyes of a soon to be parent myself. I suddenly see past their actions and words and into their hearts. A place of deep emotion.

I spoke with my brother today about the idea of adult children. We both had noticed a couple of comments that my mother or father had made in which it was implied that we are still very much children, unaware or unlearned, when in fact, we knew much about the subject at hand. As my brother observed the situation he remarked that it must be interesting to see your children “catch up with you” in a sense. I saw it in a similar yet slightly different light. I realized that although my mother knows that that I am indeed a capable adult, she has not only known me as such. We, as children, have always known our parents as adults, whereas our parents see us as the grown up version of the 3, 5, 10, 16, and 18 year old they once knew. My mother looks at me now and sees a woman, but there must be times when she catches glimpes of that 4 year old little girl with the mussy blond hair and pouting chin. She must look at me sometimes with longing, remembering when I was a helpless infant in her arms, content to rest against her bosom and giggle at her smiles. She must look at the secure and matured woman that I now am, while remembering the broken hearted early teen who sobbed dramatically on her bed, longing for approval; the one whose hair she stroked as she empathized with my "end of the world" scenario, which she knew all along was nothing out of the ordinary. She must hear me state my now intelligently formed opinions and remember a time when all I knew she had to teach me because I was a young girl, a student, with her as my only teacher. My father must grieve the loss of the little daddy’s girl who once looked to only him as her hero, when he sees his adult daughter look lovingly at the eyes of another man--her now husband,. He must hear my “adult” sarcasm and think back to a very different sarcasm--that of a 12 year old girl who once thought she knew best. He must watch me calmly walking down the stairs on Christmas morning and remember the cute little girl who would come running hastily down the stairs in footed pajamas, teddy bear in arm, eyes twinkling with Christmas joy. He must remember standing there not as a father who must keep some distance as his role has now changed, but as a father who would scoop that little girl in to his arms, hold her, and excitedly show her the beautiful gifts he had waiting for her under the tree.

Suddenly as I carry this little one in my womb, I think of how difficult it must be to be a parent. You love so much, and invest so much, and then when your work is complete and you finally are able to observe your successes, they fly aloft, and you are left with the distant memory of what was. What must you feel as a parent? Perhaps unrewarded. Perhaps unappreciated. Perhaps disrespected. Perhaps mournfully sad. But perhaps also, you are proud. As I watch my parents grapple with the drastic change of an empty nest, I am reminded that I, one day, will experience the same. And I realize with such urgency, that I must enjoy every moment of my child’s life. No matter how stressful, how trying or how taxing. I must remember that in the blink of an eye, in the subtle turning of a day, it all changes. Such is life, I suppose. And perhaps it is only in a plane ride that we can sit long enough in transition, pausing our lives where they are, and realize what has been, and what will be without fearing either.

As I close one chapter, and open the next, I realize that I can never stop the wheels of time. I can never turn back the clock or race it forward. But I can simply live in the moment I am given, at peace, in joy and with treasure. I know now, as I carry this child in my womb and experience my first small drink of parental love, that I am deeply loved by my own parents in a way I am only just now beginning to slightly comprehend. And it wraps me in an unspeakable joy that I cannot express, because I know this love is secure, untainted, and complete.