Mom, I Need You

Mom, I need you

I’m a newborn babe and everything is scary

Loud sounds, strange smells, bright lights

But I know your voice

And in its soft melody I find peace.

Mom, I need you

My gums hurt, I bumped my head, I’m hungry

Can you make it all better?

Mom, I need you

I’m a toddler exploring the world around me

But I don’t know how to be careful

Won’t you teach me?

Mom, I need you

I’m starting school and I’m a bundle of nerves and excitement

You’re sure I’ll make friends? You’re sure it won’t be too hard?

Mom, I need you

The world outside our home is so harsh

Kids are mean, teachers are demanding

Won’t you remind me who I am?

Mom, I need you

I didn’t make it into the soccer team but all my friends did

How do I deal with this rejection?

Mom, I need you

I have a crush but they don’t even know I exist

What do I do?

Mom, I need you

I’m starting high school and I’m terrified

How am I going to survive these next four years?

Mom, I need you

I just had a big fight with Dad

I know he loves me and I love him too

But I’m starting to feel like a grown up and he still treats me like a kid

Will I ever be an adult in your eyes?

Mom, I need you

I just got dumped for the very first time

My heart feels like it’s slowly dying

How will I ever get over this?

Mom, I need you

My friends aren’t who I thought they were

I feel so stupid and lost and alone

How will I ever trust anyone again?

Mom, I need you

I made a mistake, a big one

I don’t want you to be disappointed in me but I don’t want to hide things from you either

Can you forgive me?

Mom, I need you

I’m graduating high school and I have no idea what I want to do next

Did you ever have this problem?

Mom, I need you

I want my own money and more responsibility

But I’ve never been on my feet for this long

And working with other people is frustrating sometimes

Why is being an adult so hard?

Mom, I need you

Exams are coming up

My professors want more from me than I think I can give

I miss being home

Can I quit college?

Mom, I need you

I’m getting married but I still feel like a kid

Can you tell me everything is going to be okay?

Mom, I need you

We had our first big fight

I don’t want to lose this person I love so much

But I don’t think I’m wrong either

How can I make things right?

Mom, I need you

I’m having a baby of my own and there are so many changes up ahead

I miss when things were simple

Can’t things go back to the way they used to be?

Mom, I need you

This baby won’t let me sleep

My body hurts, my house is a mess, I’m so utterly exhausted

And on top of that I still have to go back to work

Can you help me?

Mom, I need you

My baby is sick and I don’t know what to do

Should I take them to the hospital?

Mom, I need you

My baby seems to need me all the time

I want to rest, indulge in old hobbies, have a quiet moment with my husband

Will I ever get to do what I want?

Mom, I need you

My baby is starting school

Time’s going by too fast

How can I make it slow down?

Mom, I need you

My baby is having a hard time making friends and finding their niche

What words of wisdom and comfort can I give them?

Mom, I need you

My baby is making decisions that I don’t agree with

I want to be a good parent but I don’t want them to get hurt either

What should I do?

Mom, I need you

My baby crashed our car

It’s going to be a while before we can buy a new one

Can I borrow yours in the meantime?

Mom, I need you

My baby is all grown up and leaving the house

I’m so happy but also very sad

Is this how you felt when I was going off to college?

Mom, I need you

I’m enjoying all this free time with my husband but I also miss my baby

Isn’t this what I wanted? Why can’t I just be happy?

Mom, I still need you

The wrinkles in your face are deep and your eyes are misty

But your voice works just fine

And in it’s soft melody I still find peace.

Adulting

The baby shower was going to start in twenty minutes and I didn’t have anything to wrap my present with. I had some tape, a bow, a lot of colored tissue paper, and a plethora of “Merry Christmas” gift bags, and that was pretty much it. I’d just been to the grocery store that morning and had remembered to snatch a card, but somehow I’d forgotten to get a gift bag. Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who was driving us both to this event) graciously offered to stop by the 99 cent store on the corner. I hopped out of the car, ran in, snatched the biggest baby gift bag I could find, and zipped into the check out line. Once outside, I stood at the curb and waited for my sister-in-law to come around the parking lot. I hurried up to her car when she was near enough, tucking a stray curl behind my ear.

That’s when I caught my reflection in the passenger’s side window.

I don’t see myself as an adult. I may be twenty-two years old but, physically, I’ve looked exactly the same since I was fifteen. I’ve had my own car, my own apartment, my own bills, and my own job ever since I was nineteen. I’ll be celebrating two years of marriage this May. I live in a four bedroom, two bathroom rental house with a husband, a very old, very fat tabby cat, and a hyperactive miniature Australian shepherd who can’t produce tears. (We still don’t know why. She was very sick with an unknown illness for the first six months of her life and we’re thinking all the different medications we had to give her might have damaged her tear-ducts somehow, but we can’t prove that. We should really get her to a dog eye specialist but we don’t have that kind of money, so we have to resort to giving her eye drops three to four times a day. Yes, we love this dog.) I plan meals and manage finances while balancing 30 hours a week at the office and 9 credit hours per semester.

I have goals for the future which involve finishing school, becoming a published, well-known author, and helping my husband the police officer raise our four kids. It all sounds very adultly, right? And yet, I still see myself as that fifteen-year-old girl who thought Twilight was the greatest love story ever told and didn’t know anything about the real world.

So when I looked into that car window and saw a young lady, all dolled up and ready to attend a baby shower, I blinked in surprise. Because, for a second there, I actually looked like an adult.

My husband believes we never really grow up. We might physically change and become more responsible as life demands, but that little kid lives on inside of us. Sometimes its voice is loud and its influence is strong, while at other times we can suppress it more successfully. With all the “adulting” memes out there, I think he might be right. I find that I feel the youngest when I’m geeking out about Star Wars or when I’m daydreaming about The Magical World of Harry Potter theme park or when I’m listening to the kind of emo music I used to listen to as a teenager or when I visit my old haunts in Mexico. That little kid inside me sure loves to throw a fit when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. But then there’s the voice of reason, the voice of the Adult, reminding me of all the things I have to get done and how much work will pile up if I listen to the Kid and simply pull the covers over my head.

If I take a good look at the choices I’ve made throughout my life, I can honestly say that I’ve listened to the Adult more often than I’ve listened to the Kid. My husband often has to tell me when it’s time to relax or take a break or set the schedule aside and just hang out. Indulge the Kid. So why don’t I feel like an Adult more often?

Good question…

I think it’s because of the conviction that I don’t know anything. All right, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been in college for three years and have worked for three different establishments, and have read more books than I can count. After all that, I should know something, but every day I encounter new things. Every day it seems I come across an article, a person, a conversation heard in passing, or an event that reminds me of just how much I still have to learn about life, love, politics, insurance, government, taxes, credit, education, literature, creative writing, finance, morality, the Bible, my family members and friends, even my husband. There are still topics I don’t understand. There’s still stuff in this world that I haven’t discovered yet. It leaves me feeling like a child who’s still figuring it all out.

Sometimes I have to wonder: will I ever feel like an adult? Will I ever feel like I’ve got this life thing figured out? A part of me would like to have the answers to everything. It might make life simpler. But another part of me hopes that I won’t ever reach that point. Because what is someone supposed to do after they’ve discovered everything there is to know? Maybe that’s why it’s so important the keep that little kid around. After all, without it’s sense of wonder, humility, and discovery, how are we supposed to grow?

A short story for ya

When the world becomes far too large, I jump into the car and retreat to the safest place I know; a village thirty minutes south of the Mexican-Californian border. I know the road well. The two lanes are separated by a faint line of white paint stretched over crumbling gravel and exposed earth. To my left, the mom and pop shops that experienced their grand openings when I was a child advertise their discounted merchandise on faded signs. To my right are the gas station and the textile factory. Then comes the billboard announcing the new neighborhood of duplexes, with all the latest features of the year 2000. Even with the outlandish gate of metal and stone surrounding the property, rows upon rows of perfect, cookie-cutter houses can still be seen painted in various colors.

As a child, I was ignorant of the poverty consuming the land I loved. I saw the barren miles of soil that separated one town from the next, and thought it normal. Different from my home across the border in the US, but normal for the country I was born in. I saw the cluster of buildings constructed around the only highway, inhaled the smog that trailed into the car even with the windows rolled up, waved at the people riding in open beds of pickup trucks, and found nothing wrong with any of it. Why would I? It had been this way for as long as I could remember. That meant things were the way they were supposed to be.

Visiting as an adult, I’m struck with grief.

Once on the highway, the road becomes smooth. The buildings trailing along on either side are more in number and better in quality. But it’s only for a few miles. Then traffic thins. It’s just me and the road again. I get off the highway when I see my exit, cross the bridge when it appears, and enter the village called Tamaulipas. It’s always quiet here, even on New Year’s Eve when everyone is lighting bond fires, sipping hot chocolate, and sharing tamales with their neighbors. The occasional firework will crack through the air or explode with a single boom, but once those fade, the silence remains. Each modest home is separated by a yard or some trees. Only two homes stand beside fields, one of which belongs to my grandparents. I park my car along the iron fence and climb out.

My grandmother loves plants. It’s evident simply by looking around the property. Some flowers grow from the ground, some grow in heavy pots and sturdy planters, and others in cracked, colorful buckets or old commodes. A vine stretches over the roof of her front porch and falls gracefully down the side, like a green waterfall with white flowers.

I fell out of the tree in the front yard once. My father told me not to climb it because it was dangerous, but I didn’t listen. My grandfather saw me disobey and promised not to tell, knowing I’d learned my lesson in the fall.

More trees, wild shrubs, and bushes grow beside the house. I used to race along the walk separating the wall from the greenery on my bicycle, imagining I traveled on horseback through a dense forest. Citrus trees line the west side of the property better than any fence could. There I had many a jungle adventure with my cousins.

My father said there were once cows and horses on this property, but they were sold long before I was born. The chickens remained for a time but were also, eventually, sold. Blackberry vines used to grow up the side of the coop and over the roof. My cousins and I would climb up the vine, scraping palms and bare feet as we raced to collect the sweet berries in the summertime.

Today, only the dogs remain. There always seems to be at least five. They flock to my grandmother from places unknown. She feeds them scraps from her table even if she’s never seen them before.

Some things stay the same no matter how much time passes. My grandmother still hangs clothes on a line. They flap and wave at me with the help of the whimsical breeze that always seems to be blowing. She still has the thirteen-year-old watercolor painting of sunflowers my sister gave her for Mother’s Day hanging up on the fridge. Every awkward, horrible family portrait we ever sent her still sits in a frame or in her hutch, telling the story of our development. The battered radio broadcasts the same station while she makes fresh tortillas at five o’clock every morning. Despite being “retired,” my grandfather still wakes up early to tend to his crop. He drops in for lunch at noon, returns to his work, and then comes trudging in after sunset, covered in dust and sweat. Every few years the furniture is rearranged or the house is painted a new shade of creamy yellow or a new appliance finally replaces the one that should’ve been thrown out long ago.

And yet, as I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed the almost magical appearance of things that don’t seem to belong here. Like the landline and the flat screen TV for example, or the laptop and the internet that I suspect were installed to accommodate the needs of our ever-growing, ever-changing family. They’re too strange for me to acknowledge. Most of the time, I pretend these new toys simply aren’t there. The antiquity and simplicity of this place must be preserved.

I don’t remain indoors for long. I can’t seem to fight the call of this land. I walk the well-worn path through the citrus trees, to the edge of my grandfather’s field. I give the tractor repair hangar a wide birth. Because of the sharp machinery, I was prohibited to play near the hangar as a child. The instinct to skirt by remains. I follow the field around the property of an unknown relative, past chicken coops and barking dogs chained to stakes in the ground, to the natural canal that cuts through the village. The earth is different here, dry and powdery. Little puffs of dirt erupt at my feet each time my shoes make contact with the earth. I hike along the bank to the old, old tree.

I don’t know what kind of tree it is exactly. Its bark is rough, with crevasses and fissures running up and down the trunk. Like the weathered face of an ancient, wise man. Its branches are thick and strong, but the leaves are strange. They’re long and thin, like the needles of a pine tree, and they hang down low. Like wispy locks of hair that get caught in the wind. Its roots are firmly buried in the loose, chalky earth, reaching deep into the core of this land. Its trunk curves out and up; its shadow falls over the field. With today’s technology, I’m sure I could look it up by description and find its true name. But it will always be my old, old tree. I crouch at the tree’s base and take in my surroundings. The quiet is deepest and purest here. The breeze hissing through the strange pine-like-needles is all I can hear. From this vantage point, I can see what was once my whole world.

This was it. All I knew. There were times when I’d come here and squint against the glaring sun, hoping to see what lay beyond the horizon hundreds of miles away. Did the field truly go on forever as it appeared? Or was there, perhaps, something greater that lay beyond? At my most adventurous, I imagined myself packing a bag and simply running until I discovered the answer. But then I would realize just how far from home I’d have to go. Home was here, where I belonged, where I would hopefully stay forever.

Unfortunately, this thing called “life” happened. This wonderful, monstrous thing took me away from everything I knew and farther than I ever imagined I would be brave enough to go. Sometimes I’m proud of how I turned out, of the places I’ve dared to venture, and the decisions I’ve made. But the world is never completely discovered and life is never truly figured out. Sometimes I need to return to what was simple, safe, quiet.

I take a deep breath of earth, sunshine, and memory, and rise from the base of that old, old tree to begin trekking back to my car. Because I can’t stay forever. I can’t go back in time. I can only move forward. As I reach the bank of the canal, I can’t help looking over my shoulder. I can almost see the shadow of a little girl, sitting in the shade of her tree, fearfully watching the horizon, arms wrapped tightly around her knees, bare toes curled against the loose dirt. Waiting for life to start.