As you already know, I’ve been in love with mommy chick lit lately. Tales from the Crib by Jennifer Coburn, Baby Proof by Emily Giffin, and a slew of new books waiting on my shelf have captured my heart.
A dear friend of mine, author Melissa Cistaro, just came out with an essay that isn’t chick-lit per se, but falls in the same vein and I thought you all might enjoy the quick read.
Her essay, The Undertow, is a finalist in the Notes & Words Essay Contest. If you enjoy the piece, please head over and “like” her essay on their Facebook page.
Here we go – “The Undertow” by Melissa Cistaro:
My sandals clap across the hardwood floor and into the blue room where my children sleep. There are school art projects that dangle from clothespins, Legos in every color, stuffed animals of every breed, and shelves full of books. My son is asleep on the top bunk. My little girl has called me back in for the third time. I remind myself to be both patient and firm. She is four.
“Mama, I keep thinking about the scary cat with red eyes.”
“Have you tried thinking of all-things-blue?” I ask.
“Yes. I tried that. I can’t sleep,” she says with a whimper.
She reaches out and pulls at my arm. I do not feel the patience in me tonight.
“Mama, can you stay on my bed? Please?”
She doesn’t understand that I am goddamn tired. If I lie down, I won’t be able to get back up. My mind is on the school lunches I haven’t yet made, the stacks of dishes lined up all the way around the kitchen counter, the wet towels that are beginning to smell because they haven’t made it into the dryer yet, and then there are the twenty-four shamrock placemats that I promised to cut out for the preschool class, and the haircut appointment I need to cancel.
I look out to the yellow light in the hallway. I can’t do this drawn out routine. I can’t do the twenty questions, not tonight. Okay, I think, take a deep breath and count to ten. That’s what all the parenting books say to do.
“Bella, please, it’s time to sleep.”
“I’m trying,” she says.
I watch her eyes blink, and tuck the covers back snug around her body. I place her velvet bear underneath her chin, and her shaggy cat in the crook of her arm. I lean down to kiss her goodnight. Her eyes pop open wide and stare at me.
“Mama, what did your mom do when you were scared?”
The room seems to tilt slightly sideways. I don’t feel dizzy, but heavy, like I might not be able to stand on my own two feet. I recognize it, this feeling, this physical sensation of being pulled backwards, like standing in the undertow at Stinson Beach.
In this moment, I do not recall the specifics of slipping off my sandals and laying down alongside Bella on her bed. But I am here, staring up at the ceiling with its tiny glow-in-the-dark stars.
“Mama,” she asks again, “What did your mom do when you were scared?”
“I can’t remember, Bella,” I say. My body is stiff on the bed because I am not telling the truth. I am trying so hard to do the right things, to be a good mother.
“I didn’t get scared much,” I say.
That’s not the truth either. (Continued…)