Intersections – FruitfulNicki Salcedo
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
My mom was 10 years old when her mother died.
It seems to me that my mom’s life began the day, at age 10, because she doesn’t tell any stories from before that time.
It was a Sunday. My grandmother had been sick, but she felt well enough to sit up in bed that afternoon. The neighbors stopped by. My grandmother socialized and had dinner. She seemed recovered from her illness, but death had only allowed her the chance to say goodbye. By morning, my grandmother was dead.
I don’t ask my mom questions about my grandmother. I don’t know if she cried or how my grandfather reacted. I do know that my mom was changed forever. She sometimes starts her stories with the phrase, “You know, I never had a mother. She died when I was 10.”
That was 60 years ago.
I’ve come to understand my mom through those words and that absence. My mom has always thought about motherhood.
She knew what she missed having and what she needed. She thought about the kind of mother she would one day become. Motherhood was and is very important to my mom. For that I am grateful.
When I was 10 years old, I would daydream about having Wild West adventures and magical powers. I had a vivid imagination. I traded my two real sisters for nine imaginary brothers.
I dreamed of a townhouse to rival Barbie’s and a royal blue convertible. In the future, I would have to wear strapless satin gowns with opera gloves. It wasn’t because I liked to dress up, but because I imagined I would be a spy.
I would be a scientist, a writer, an astronaut, and an archeologist. I never thought about becoming a mother.
I would try to envision my future family, and my mind would go blank. I never dreamed of a husband. I never imagined having kids.
I wasn’t against having kids.
Maybe because my mom was so good, I didn’t have to think about all the things I would fix. Maybe because my mom was so good, I didn’t want to think about motherhood and all the things I would ruin.
If you used your crystal ball right now to see my life, you would find that I have not one, not two, not three, but four kids. I know. This even surprises me.
People ask me the strangest questions.
“Did you mean to have four kids?” Well, I meant to have a cat.
“There’s a set of twins in there, right?” No. No twins. I did this four separate times.
Other people say, “You must have started young.” Yes and no.
I had my first kid at 30. To me that’s young. My mom had her first kid at the age of 24, and she thought she was so old.
At work people say, “You must have a great nanny.” I am the nanny, and so is my husband.
I get this one all the time, “You do know where babies come from, don’t you?”
Of course I know! Babies come from under the gooseberry bush. When I say this, people become shocked and proceed to explain the details of human reproduction to me while I’m in the produce department of the grocery store.
Admittedly, I’m often in the grocery store with my four kids. It makes people want to give me coupons and advice and hug me.
I don’t want any of these things. My life is full enough as it is.
I have my own questions. How did I get here? Destination Motherhood. How did I end up being a mom and a mom of so many?
I have friends who are child-free. I have friends who desperately want motherhood, and it will not happen or has not happened yet. I have mom friends.
I should ask all of them if their life now is the same one they dreamed of at age 10.
My husband doesn’t get a lot of questions. When people ask him how he ended up with four kids, he says, “I. Like. Having. Sex.”
That makes everyone just uncomfortable enough to stop asking questions.
Fatherhood is simple. It is the byproduct of having sex.
Motherhood is complicated. It has do with hope and rewriting history. Motherhood is comedy. Motherhood is a challenge.
Still I wonder how I got to be here. Why do these magical creatures crawl into my bed each morning and call me “mom?”
Was the biological imperative so strong? Like my husband’s virility? Do I need security for my old age? Did I become a mother so I can enjoy life’s best psychological experiment? The experiment is not on the children, but on me.
The best truth about motherhood is how much we don’t know. We don’t know why we lose our mothers. At any age, it is too soon.
We don’t know why we become who we are. We can’t answers the questions from our past or from the strangers who question our motherhood.
I may never know why I became a mother, but I do know what I love about my life: I am a scientist, a writer, an astronaut, an archeologist, and a spy. Being a mother is not the first, or the last, thing I will be. But motherhood is my favorite mystery. That Wild West adventure. Those magical powers I imagined at age 10. These dreams sometimes come back to me while I’m in the grocery store.
No one ever tells you that reality can be better than your dreams.
You might see me in the produce department one day – with my four kids – and I’ll be the one smiling at the fruit.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.