If I had words to wrap around
those mommy days and mother years,
I’d hold them in my hands and say
that nothing ever disappears.
But I can’t seem to feel the page,
and all this stuff just moves so fast––
in bits and pictures, fading memories
of an ever-fading past.
My life is turning over now;
it’s tumbling down a hill of time
and every stone unearthed rolls on…
No looking back, no saving climb
can make tomorrow yesterday,
can soften chin and jaw and cheek;
my smile is no more universe;
my eyes, though warm, they do not seek.
A river runs and so it should;
I would not have it change its course,
but as it rushes to the sea,
it also leaves behind the Source.

©1999 by Susan Noyes Anderson

Motherhood has been at once the most satisfying and challenging experience of my life, and being a mom is pretty much where I live. This poem came my way over a decade ago, when I was feeling the pain of transitioning from center hub of my children’s wheels to one of the outer spokes. Happy as I was to see them coming into their own, growing and flourishing as the young adults I’d always hoped they might be, I was bereft at the loss of their physical presence and energy in my life. Emotionally, my role as chief nurturer, counselor, and caregiver was rapidly morphing into something that hadn’t taken shape yet––and I wasn’t quite sure what it was––or even if I would like it. What I did know is that I was bewildered, saddened, and more than a little bit lost.

Years have passed, and today I am no longer bewildered. I can honestly say that I get it. I know my place, and I know that I have a place…a vital place…in the lives and hearts of my children. But it’s still bittersweet, at times. Now and again, the empty chairs around the kitchen table begin calling the names of their former occupants, eager to be filled. On such days, the bright, repurposed bedrooms look a touch too organized…the sparkling, uncluttered pool a tad too pristine. When nostalgia really grips me, I even miss the mad cacophony of music and mayhem that assaulted my ears nearly every waking moment of our lives together.

Apparently, the empty nest is a syndrome from which I will never entirely recover. My life has many good things in it, fulfilling things––not the least of which is my wonderful husband-–but none of these quite fills the space or satisfies the longing for those golden days when every one of our children lived under one roof…when our family was always complete, not just in emotional bonding but in physical proximity.

I really do get it. My role has evolved. On almost every level, this pleases me.

But it pains me, too, and that’s the truth of it.