Monday, May 6, 2013

Mile 140,021

Last night Ayla came to me with tears in her eyes to ask about time and space and the origins of the universe and also, is Santa Claus real? I was sipping a cocktail in the dark and waiting for something to start. I was waiting for a tv show to start in the dark when Ayla came brimming with questions and tears in her eyes that she was trying to hide from me.

I know this is made in a factory, she said, picking up a throw pillow. But see how it's stitched together here and like, someone must have done that. I know these books are made from trees but I don't know where did the first tree came from and all the ones after that and everything is like, made by someone but I don't know where they came from. Some people said that apes turned into humans but I don't know how that's true. And is Santa Claus real, or is he like, real like the Easter bunny? I'm not crying, my eyes just water when I yawn.

(She was trying so hard not to cry, she was smiling through these tears).

Weeks ago, Indy came home from school in one of her moods where she stomps around the house and says things very loudly and with unpredictable emphasis. Usually nonsense things like "WHY are the TORTILLAS in this CUPBOARD?" or "WHERE did my DOLLY put her SHOES?" But this time she came home in a mood and said to me, in a steely way like someone out of True Grit: "Ayla and I found Easter candy wrappers in your closet and we now we KNOW the Easter bunny is you and I DON'T believe in Santa anymore." Her air was of accusation and hard truths, and I stood in the kitchen at three in the afternoon nursing cold coffee and a broken heart. If I could do it again, I would never tell my children these fanciful lies in the first place, but I have, and so here we are. Sunday night after bedtime and Ayla is asking about God and Santa with tears in her eyes and I can't tell if she's crying because Santa might not be real, or beacuse she knows I have lied an am lying to her right now. I raised my cocktail to my lips to buy myself time, to try to find a way to save both our lives.

140,021. Those are the miles on my car today as I drive out of the leafy birth canal of Pisgah forest, the trees a thick canopy, a semi-dark passage bearing me into the mysteries of life and light. The sun has returned after ten days of rain and the trees are green like Crayola. My husband has just asked why I want to move to Los Angeles/Paris/Taos and I have heard stupid reasons fall from my mouth like betraying stones and I have understood them, at last, for a fanciful dream; the kind of fancy I have entertained long past the time when it's seemly. Nevermind, I think. Nevermind. I have driven this red van across Monarch Pass in the snow hoping not to slip and plummet to our icy deaths, along Trail Ridge Road, backbone of the earth, where I saw cars crawling a thin blue line between mountain and sky and knew I was headed to that narrow road at the very crest of the world and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I have sped through the red deserts of Utah and the silver deserts of Nevada, seen Joshua tree at dawn and finally stood in the pacific ocean on a gray morning after Christmas, when the mimosas have been drunk and the champagne is gone. And then one day I got in this van and drove it east, through farmland and plains, crossing rivers wider than mountain valleys to the land where I am now, this earth that is wet and spongy and misty like any unknown feminine place we pass through on our way toward our life.

I don't believe in signs and portents. I might gamble with my life on prayer and instinct, but I wouldn't bet a dime. I don't know what to tell a child about the origins of the universe other than that I just don't know myself, and nobody does, even those who will tell you they do. Imagine yourself by the ocean, under gunmetal light and restless palms. You have experienced the isolation and vast majestic landscapes of the west. You have been wrapped in leaf-shook arms and cradled by the gentle curving comforts of the south. Tell yourself you have been guided, if it helps you sleep. You have tasted these pleasures, each distinct and in their time. Tell yourself that they have touched you in some deep place and that surely they must have worked magic on the rushing river of your soul, magic that is beneficial and will aid you on your way. Even if you lacked the wisdom to see it at the time.

(I took Ayla by the hand. I put her back to sleep)


  1. I want to fold all of this up and stick it in my pocket. I want to stomp with Indy and her unpredictable emphasis and to not-cry with Ayla. These girls of yours, they touch the very nerves of all that is, don't they? They must get it from their mama.

  2. Sometimes it is too hard to be a mother when they want (need) all the answers that we do not have.
    But at least your daughters have a poet for a mother. Poets do not know everything but they can imagine it all. This is a gift to your daughters. They may not know it yet, but it is.

  3. I love what Ms. Moon said. And I'd add that my son Oliver is similar to your girl in his questioning, defiance and questing -- it's exhausting and exhilarating and never, ever boring. I, too, walk the fine line -- wanted to BE there for my son as he questions and rails and defies but not wanting to indulge him when it just plainly gets out of hand. Especially at night, before bed. As for the "lie" of Santa, I firmly believe it's a good one and am so happy that I did so for my children. No regrets.

  4. You make parenting sound simultaneously wonderful, beautiful, and heartbreaking. This must be true.

  5. xoxo I can't answer any of this except to say that all of it, both your experience and your girls', is universal. For better or worse. Beautifully written as always. Am I right to think of the forest the forest birth canal as meaningful? Surely.

  6. this broke my heart too, and it also took my breath. i read it not daring to breathe, the writing was such sorcery, you have such a gift. i know i say it again and again. but i am gobsmacked again and again. your girls, they shiver with insight. what marvels they are, you are.

  7. I don't know your daughter, but I adore her. What depth! I let my daughter in on the Santa secret loooong before other moms tell their children based on questions about who loves her more, Jesus or Santa? And I hope you don't mind my sharing this video with you, but it is where your sentiments took my mind. You said something to the effect ... even those who say they believe must still wonder. Of course we do! But I have to remind myself to be true to the faith that I do have. I have had experiences that I cannot deny, confirming my belief that there is in fact a divine creator. I believe out of the mouth of babes are many profound truths dug up from our soul. Our children teach us so much more than we probably will ever be able to teach them. I truly believe that. And, finally, will you please write a book? Your words are just hypnotizing! really.

    1. Thanks for your comment Alicen. I do believe in God and am very spiritual though I don't subscribe to any religion. I do see the Divine as a creator but as for the actualities of it all, I believe those are a mystery and always will be. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Thanks for being here :)


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