I see this faint city skyline often when my nine month old daughter and I go for walks around our quiet, leafy neighbourhood.
It’s a snapshot for me of how it sometimes feels to be a new mother.
Like standing in a back alley, looking wistfully at a horizon filled with busy, important people making things happen. Wearing clothes without spandex that will never get splashed on or need to be easy to nurse in. Having conversations that don’t involve comparing nap times, baby carriers and local coffee shops with change tables and high chairs. Sipping a glass of wine on a patio by the art gallery and simply admiring the flowers instead of worrying that someone is about to eat them. I used to be one of those people.
Being a mother carries a hidden kind of piercing solitude buried under a veneer of constant motion and urgency. It’s like moving to a small town where no one knows what you used to be like. Oh, sure…you can take the occasional weekend trip back to the city, wear your fancy, dry clean only clothes and pretend, but you’re a small town gal now. And yes, you happen to be the mayor, doctor, city planner, waste disposal department and only restaurateur of that small town aka New Babyville, and nothing runs without you, your hands are always full and there is always more to do, but it’s not quite the same as being a city gal, moving freely from bustling street to shop to work to cafe at will with only a wallet to lose.
Or so I tend to think on the days where I feel wistful for the past. I am reminded of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Jude the Obscure (it’s a terribly depressing read and I don’t recommend it unless you are required to…even though the metaphors are golden) and the title character’s unflinching dream of reaching the glittering city that lays on the edge of his field of vision:
Through the solid barrier of cold cretaceous upland to the northward he was always beholding a gorgeous city–the fancied place he had
likened to the new Jerusalem…and the city acquired a tangibility, a permanence, a hold on his life…”
Jude eventually makes it to the city, and finds it painfully real and unromantic, smelly and crazy like most cities are, all the while realising all the things and people he missed out on back home because he was so focused on being somewhere else.
So as I stand in my back alley, in my small town of new motherhood and gaze out over the glittering city, I take heart and take note:
I live here now. And that’s okay, because soon enough, sooner than I want to admit, this town won’t be big enough and the big shiny city will reach in and draw my favourite citizen away. We’ll pack up and move to stay close to our kids and I’ll be someone different yet again and find my old self renewed and refined, clarified by the experience of small town living.
I might even miss it.