"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

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Monday, June 11, 2012

The Carousel

In the final episode of Mad Men, season one, Don Draper talks about nostalgia as translated from the Greek, meaning, “the pain of an old wound”. A delicate but potent emotion, the twinge in your heart that is far more powerful than memory alone. And I can’t agree more with the sentiment.

I have an unrelenting nostalgia for early motherhood. That twinge pulls hard when I think of both my boys learning to walk. I would get down on my knee and open my arms real wide from across the room. They would come toddling towards me in their soft shoes, arms up, gaining speed and then toppling into me. So proud to have arrived at their destination! So proud of their new tricks!

I look at them now, still young but not babies, and I can’t reconcile their growing bodies and lanky legs, the ways in which they move, swagger, and saunter. One wants to be in a garage band. One wants to play Texas hold’em. They both want to learn to cook. And a twinge pulls.

Maybe it’s made worse, as I stand by and witness my adult stepson, embarking on his own great adventure, and my husband so infinitely able and full of grace, as he lets it unfold. All as it is meant to be. He’s calm and confident. And I watch him and I swear that just by taking the phone in his hand he gets larger than life, and while I listen to him talking to his son, I hear his words building strength in us all, so that we don’t collapse under the weight of the nostalgia. And instead of sadness, we are calmed by the inevitability of this next rotation on the carousel. We spin. We spin together from wherever we may be standing on this great wide world.

And so I learn (because he teaches me) that every moment since they first learned to walk, every moment has been a tiny spinning carousel. More about my getting down on one knee and opening my arms, and turning my boys, one degree at a time, so that they can run, move away from me and towards a different destination, arms up, into the great wide world. And on these tiny carousels that we create out of the safety of our arms, there are ups and downs, other passengers get on and off, but it never stops moving. Tiny motions, ever turning. Here … let me show you the way, point you towards it, ease your condition, guide you, love you, release you, protect you, honor you, welcome you home. The motion is delicate, and with each potent degree turned, the nostalgia lessens and confidence replaces pain, the twinge pulls less as the pride swells, and the carousel spins.

In the same episode, Don Draper says this about the carousel, “It’s a place where we ache to go again, to travel like a child travels, around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.” And with that, I am hopeful that my children -- all of them -- know that as their carousels endlessly spin into infinite adventures, at its center, unmoving and steadfast, is home.

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