“You sound like an elephant! ” That’s how I greeted my beloved husband at the end of a stressful workday in the city. I was resting in bed. I was also 8 ½ months pregnant. He hung his jacket in the closet, turned around to face me, and calmly replied: “You look like one.” And I did. After two months of bed rest I was more than ready to deliver. My own body from its burden of joy, and my family from my mood swings and grouchiness. Pregnancy never caught me at my best. My sister had four children and glowed from start to finish. I had two and did not ask for more. The red on my cheeks came from pushing my babies out. My eyes didn’t shine until I finally held them cocooned against my breast; until I allowed myself to relax in the immeasurable comfort of my love for them.
Four years after my father died, my siblings and I made the difficult decision to move our mother into a nursing home. Lifelong memories accompanied her, along with her favorite picture of my dad, a couple of paintings, and the desk where she kept our old childhood storybooks and toys. Looking to ease her transition and anxious to leave a part of me by her side (she’s in Belgium, I’m in New York), I decided to knit her a blanket. Thick and inviting; each stitch linking us across seasons and oceans. The project proved challenging and time consuming. I picked various shades of pink, cream, and gray, and chose a tricky pattern. I swore and grumbled many times as I undid my work to fix my beginner’s mistakes. I returned to Brussels a year later bearing the fruit of my efforts. It’s been sitting on my mom’s bed ever since, warming her feet and her heart.
My children grew out of diapers and got into rap music. My mother became frail and retreated to her secret world of sadness and confusion. Lost in my own bittersweet journey of growth and letting go I started to fear the emptiness that threatened to permeate my spirit. There was a place deep within calling for attention. It longed to be filled again with expectation and excitement, worry and frustration. It refused to send me into an early retirement frozen in old books and photographs. It wanted to vibrate with the many quivers of carrying new life to term. It wanted to be wrapped in the magic of giving the best of myself. It wanted to create.
So I started to write. The first poems trickled out of me on a chilly October morning. Nine months later, overwhelmed by the summer stampede of foreign thoughts and feelings, I panicked and went into hiding. But like the yarn patiently knitted into a throw, words lured me back to the page one short sentence at a time. They led me to distressed corners I did not recognize and to happy places I never visited. There were familiar faces and new voices I would never have chosen to listen to. I was writing. I AM writing. I’ve come to accept that my creative process is like an unplanned pregnancy: I rebel against it. I welcome it. It annoys me. It frustrates me. It satisfies me. It’s the labor of love; a never-ending cycle of filling and emptying, of receiving and giving. And when all is said and written, I know that each word has strengthened the ties that bind me to my true self. And I can rest in the heartfelt peace of my gratitude for them.
2010 © Maryse G. Copans