Hello, stranger.

Kent is away. He's on a road trip with Jack's mom to Oklahoma for a family reunion, and Jack, Dean and I are going to fly up in two days to join them. Except for our hospital stay when Dean was born, this is Kent's first real time away from us. I know he's going to have a blast. I also know that, as much as I've been craving some time away from him and a chance for him to bond with a grandparent, I already miss him. He's so big, going on a road trip without me.

As soon as Dean and I came home from lunch, I got started on clearing off our monstrously messy computer desk. I sifted through a few papers and started organizing Kent's art supplies, and then I came across a folder from the first church women's retreat I attended a few years ago. They had given us notebook paper to jot down thoughts over the weekend, and I found a little mini-essay I had scrawled. I had completely forgotten about it, but as soon as I started reading, I remembered exactly what it felt like to visit Feliciana for the first time on that spring weekend, to sit outside on a bench overlooking the slope of pine trees and the glassy lake in the distance. It's a beautifully still space, a magical escape. What I saw was this:

"As I sat outside, I scanned the grounds and admired the slender long-leaf pines. The tallest and straightest caught my eye first, but then I noticed that not every tree had such a clear and unembellished way about it. Some forked early, with mighty branches reaching out in all directions. Others were smaller, younger. Before I knew it, I found myself searching for the most crooked that might stand in opposition to the straightness of the others. Suddenly, the trees became to me a community of individuals, each with its own separate path to the sky. Because, in spite of the twists, forks, and sideways growth, they were, all of them, stretching ultimately upward to be guided by the sun. They were all sisters and brothers, parents and children in a glorious lineage of greenness and vitality. How could I not look for that crooked pine? It was the one capable of reminding me that, though I have surface incongruities, I have a family. I also have something that is all my own — the spontaneous perfection of individualism that is treasured by God."

Keep in mind that I wrote this before children, before abandoning a PhD, before I took a hard look at my life and realized academia for its own sake was not my calling. And yet, I still knew that I was a crooked pine. I was grappling with my place in the world, and as usual, was crafting an elaborate analogy to explain it all.

I love being a mother. LOVE. My choices have led me right to this spot in life, this frustrating, exhausting, beautiful spot. I couldn't be luckier. But man, it's nice to have some time to be inside my own head again.

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Yes ma'am!
I had a wonderful time with Kent. He was a joy. Well done, Mommy and Daddy!
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