This is what we did the day I was a bad mother: Went to the park. Twice. Ate chicken salad for lunch, cookies for dessert. Had lollipops. Bought a dress for Easter Sunday. Took a nap in the redwoods by a creek. Story time at the library. Dinner with Daddy at the Indian food place where we sang Cat Stevens songs sitting at an outside table, the warm evening air heavy with jasmine and samosas. Trouble! Oh trouble, can't you see-ee-eee, You're eating my heart away, and there's nothing much left of meeeee... Trust me when I say you have not seen cute until you've seen a two year old girl sing "Trouble."
Our house went on the market yesterday, the day I was a bad mother. All day long Zoey and I were displaced persons bumbling from one event to the next while strangers walked through our home, trailing their fingers over our countertops. At the park I thought of these people who might sit on my bed. Mama! Mama! Zoey jumping off a purple polkadotted frog. Did you see me? But what I saw was this: business cards on my kitchen table. The look a wife might give her husband when she notices the way the dryer is vented. I saw chocolate chip cookies in my oven not meant to be eaten, the scent false security where really there is none. Who do I think I'm kidding anyway? The way I set the table before I left just like our realtor asked me to do. Three plates, three napkins, three placemats, one family, ours. Motherhood: I called it in yesterday, short and distracted. Discombobulated. Displaced. Zoey did not nap well under the redwoods, and later, she was cranky. Zoey! I called her a brat and then apologized. She ran away from me in the parking lot, laughing. Get in your car seat! Now! Yesterday I was somebody else's mother, the mother I quickly look at in the grocery store, half with sympathy but more so with scorn, Zoey's shoulder alarmingly small in my grip, my table set for a dinner I would not be serving.
Cry me a fucking river, right? We went to the park. Twice. Still--later, after Zoey went to sleep I stood above her in the dark and whispered yet another apology. Kissed her warm hair and resisted waking her up to watch her jump off a polkadotted frog. Yesterday I was weak, brittle, split between a house and a home, the fabric of my motherhood sewn from crinkly white hospital paper, each move a sound waiting for something. But today, today I will be made of silk, of velvet, of skin and eyes and present, yes, I see you. Today I won't look away. Trouble! Oh trouble, please be kind. When Zoey sings she warbles her voice and shakes her head back and forth, she feels it. She knows.
And I know this: There will always be trouble. Of one kind or another. But I need to be better. I need to be bigger. I need to be more. Mama? Watch this! Did you see me? I must look, really look, because I have seen HER face, and it's too much too much for me.