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Life Lessons in the Rearview Mirror

happy-birthday-1305615-mAs I sit down to write this post, I am inching ever closer to my 34th birthday.  And, as happens every year around this time, I find myself turning inward, reflecting on the life that has unfolded around me.  Getting super mushy about the blessings that have been bestowed upon me.  Wondering about the pieces of life that haven’t played out quite as I may have once hoped or planned.

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my parents.  The last time I spoke to my dad was on my 29th birthday…five years, and an entire lifetime, ago.  A couple years later, my sweet little boy snuggled on my lap nursing while my shaky relationship with my mom finally imploded with just one short conversation.  The reasons and stories behind the end of each of these relationships are long & complicated and filled with the kind of pain that you eventually accept is never going to go away.

Most days, the pain lurks in the background.
There are moments, though, that push it front and center, and I’m left reeling.
Feeling empty and hollow.
My birthday is one of those moments.

And then there are moments where the pain dulls, and I’m flooded with memories.
Feeling nostalgic.  Aching.
Somehow, my birthday is also one of those moments.

That looming date on the calendar creates within me a intense tug-of-war between happy and sad like nothing else ever has.  Except that a few weeks ago, something else found a way to pull at me in that same way…

“Mommy,” came the voice from the back seat, “why don’t you have a mom?”  His words hung in the air for a moment before I managed to gather myself enough to respond.  At first, I tried to leave it at a simple explanation of how far away she lives, but he followed up with more questions about why he doesn’t know her, whether he’d ever met her.  When I told him yes, that she’d visited once when he was a baby, he asked me to tell him all about it.

I took a deep breath, my mind racing, tears threatening to fall. When I finally started to speak, I was surprised by where my heart took the conversation.

I shared with him the story of his first trip to the airport when he was just a week old.  I told him about how he wore a special outfit that she’d bought for him while I was pregnant and about how we’d ended up spending the majority of the day waiting because her plane was delayed.  I told him how excited she’d been to hold him for the first time and smiled as I thought about that moment when I put him in her arms.   “Mommy,” he asked, “did she like me?”  I swallowed past the lump in my throat as I replied to him, “Yes, baby, she did.  In fact, she loves you very much.”

We sat in silence for a few seconds, him gazing out the window while I concentrated on the road.  Then his excited voice declared, “I loooooove airports, Mommy.  That’s why I’m going to be an airplane for Halloween!”

I haven’t been able to shake the wave of emotions that came over me as we chatted in the dark that night.  For so long, I’ve tried to prepare myself for these some-day talks with my boy.  In my head, they’ve always been these deep, heavy conversations that leave me searching for words, hoping to make him understand.  Praying to hold it all together while I stumble through sharing with him these stories and decisions that leave me with so much sorrow.

I never imagined they’d start this way, but I realize now that I’m glad they did.

I know there will come a day when the conversations will go deeper.  There are big, lifelong lessons to be shared with my son through the story of my childhood experiences and the relationships that I entered adulthood in with each of my parents.  I hope that I’ll be ready for them when the time comes.

In the meantime, I will cling to the lesson my little boy taught me that evening in the car.  I’ll look around the pain, nudge it to the side, to live in the good memories.  I’ll help him to discover the magic in the clouds, tell him about school breaks spent criss-crossing the country with my dad in his semi.  I’ll share memories with him of camping trips and days spent on the river, and I’ll teach him to master some of the same meals my mom once taught me to make.

He needs to know the good stories, to have the opportunity to live in the light of the happy.  I need that, too. I think I’ll start by asking him to help me make Mom’s famous fried chicken for my birthday dinner…

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About Aramelle Wheeler

Aramelle Wheeler is midwestern girl at heart, hailing from Minnesota. Love brought Aramelle to the Reno area after she met a boy online. Nearly a decade later, she still claims to be “new to the area,” but has come to truly love the city that is now her home. She married that boy from the Internet, and together they are raising a spunky, rambunctious three-year old little boy, their miracle baby after a two year infertility fight. After more than two years as a stay-at-home-mom, Aramelle went back to work full-time shortly before her son’s third birthday. Working for a local non-profit organization, she loves her job but looks forward to a time when life can feel a little more balanced than the transition has. She often finds herself wondering whatever happened to the robot maids The Jetsons once promised us. Aramelle spends a lot of her free time with her camera in hand, clicking away snapshots of the life that’s unfolding around her, despite her son’s protests. She and her family enjoy exploring the Reno area in search of new, fun things to experience together. Aramelle loves to write and finds blogging at “One Wheeler’s World” to be a great therapeutic outlet. She also enjoys cooking, watches too much reality TV, and spends far too much time online. Follow along with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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