Thursday, April 02, 2009

Reclaiming her life

In line at the coffee house, she stood leaning on her left leg to prop up the baby on her hip. He sucked noisily on a yellow pacifier, watching over mom's shoulder as people queued behind her, huge blue eyes with an intense open stare greeting each new patron. The canopied stroller was therefore empty of its occupant. An SUV of child carrying conveyances, it was constructed to withstand the impact of an army of toddlers. Currently however, it served as transport, loaded with an assortment of quilted belongings, stuffed toys, a cell phone, bottles of baby food, and several zip lock bags distended with a plethora of toasted oats, wafers, and carrots.

On the opposite side of her infant son was her three-year-old daughter; clinging fiercely to mommy's leg for protection, burying her young face in her mom's thigh whenever anyone made eye contact. From her small hand, dragging across the tile floor was a white, weary, worn blanket, emblazoned with a smiling penguin.

Mom was only 32. Yet with her long dark hair hastily hoisted above her head in an elastic band, a gray oversized sweatshirt with "UCLA" (and numerous drool stains) across the front, and faded, fraying black sweatpants, some days she felt as well worn as her attire.

She retained an attractive shape (albeit heavier from bearing two children), but could still "pretty up" quite nicely provided she had the time - or desire. She adored her husband; he was a kind, supportive, gentle man, who appreciated her for whom she was. Their financial situation required him to work long hours on the road, leaving her to attend to the house and the children. When he was in town, and the kids were finally in bed, and the maintenance of home chores at long last completed, romance ranked low compared to sleep. So neither of them spent as much time concerned about appearance as they had in earlier years.

Staying at home with her kids was vital, and she enjoyed it. It also provided her life with a value that working at the insurance company never could. Yet, everything bears a price. When you take care of everyone else, who takes care of you? The lack of self-attention was taking its toll and she felt it heavily.

She used to jog each morning; now she changed diapers, washed sheets, and prepared meals; always tasting while she cooked. In those all-too-fleeting, precious, rare moments of solitude, she escaped with a novel and a bag of chips. Every afternoon - just so she could get out - she scooped up the kids, walked to this place and ordered a cookie for them and a muffin for herself.

This afternoon, while the kids napped, she noticed her shape in the mirror and suddenly felt very old. In that instant came the spark of change. "Just take a step," she told herself. "Not everything, anything. It's a beginning."

When the clerk asked for her order, the whirlwind of thoughts collapsed into silence. She replied, "Juice, yogurt, non-fat milk, and a diet soda."

With that simple action, she felt alive again.

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