May I share with you my fifth post for my column, Mothering Heights.
My mother, a retired public school teacher, thinks of life in simple terms. Feeding and caring for us has been her crusade and her redemption. Many years ago, while I was rushing work while vacationing in Cebu, she watched me feed a page into the fax machine. She was entranced. “The page goes in here, then comes out in Manila?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Mura’g magic,” she said. Like magic.
I think of Mama now, who just turned 84, while I write this. I think about how these words have been borne through the years and grown from her insight. I think about how my words will meet you wherever you are and whoever you have carved yourself out to be. I think about how they will meet Anna one day, perhaps when I’m no longer around to share them, perhaps when she’ll need them the most. Like magic.
We tend to lose sight of such magic. We complicate things. We lose our awe. We peg our happiness on the wrong things. In our neediness for something monumental, we overlook the momentous.
A few nights ago, while I was journaling, I thought: Nothing remarkable happened to me today.
But that’s the thing: nothing has to. Writing isn’t just about recording the fantastic; it’s recognizing that the very ordinariness of our days are worth writing about, are worth being grateful for. Each day is carved into its own space, separated from the gush of time—each day is sacred and each day’s delights are sanctified. What we do with that grace is our gift, but also our accountability.
Each day Anna’s eyes—trusting, expectant, unpolluted—reintroduce me to life. We feed our parking access card at the automated reader when leaving a mall without thinking about it. Anna, strapped to her car seat, leans forward and asks, “What that?” The boom barrier lifts. Like magic. She marvels at the numbers that flash on the screen. “Five! Zero!” she shouts. She speaks in exclamation points. Her joys are uncomplicated. In her world, things are magnified.
We walk on the pavement, and she points, “Mommy, look!” She tugs at my hand and says again, “Look.” She speaks in italics. In her world, things are highlighted. So I look. And I see how the roots of a tree had broken through the concrete, refusing to accept the limitations of the city. Like magic. In the hills and vales of the roots, Anna finds a playground. She clambers up one root, goes down the other, up and down.
There are wonders even in the shower. She lingers after a bath to watch the water flowing through her fingers. It is the same water that she swims in after she uses it to make a sand castle on the beach. The same water that washes her clothes and cleans dishes. The same water that wiped off the face of the earth in 40 days of rain, but also sustains her, sustains plants, sustains life.
Anna, like any child, has what Henry Miller considers a divine awareness: “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, severely, divinely aware.”
My purpose, like that of any mother, is to guard that awareness and to live it.
Photo credit: Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life