Friday, October 7, 2011

The Child Inside the Parent

When we become parents, long forgotten things from our own childhoods return to us. Consciously or unconsciously, we are often make our parenting choices within the framework of our own experiences. Those experiences always seem to loom in the background, both what we want to keep, and what we would just as soon let go of.

As I have been thinking about the reasons why I co-sleep with my two year old with my recent blog post, The Road to Resilience, a poem I wrote in my early twenties has come back to me.

Now, as a mother, I am understanding the childhood memories I described in a whole new light.

Here's the poem:

Intimacy and Absence

There was a time when intimacy
meant floorboards under my feet
cool, then warming with the weight
of my slight
child’s body.
Absence was the terror
between two worlds,
my room, where I hardly
knew myself,
and my parents’ bed.
Held between them
their sleeping breath
song in my hair, one
of them would turn away,
my mother a cheek,
my father, the whole crib
of his body.
I’m tunneling backward
on my belly
with a lantern
into the hallway
where my father left us,
where my mother adorned us
with autumn sweaters
and then winter coats.
Farther still, the rooms
we lived in,
the smell of birth giving,
my mother’s huge
effort visible in the
vapor of her sweat
and the blood of the meat
my father cut in the kitchen.
His hand coming up with the knife
has also come to me
with sweets, my mouth
gorged on its sugar.
It has cupped my cheek
with his “I love you.”
I have danced with my mother
in the living room
in our nightgowns
her legs bandaged
the length of my body.
Our triumph then
over all that was
to come.

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