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LAce Posted Monday, June 25th, 2007
The Topography Of Motherhood
Amy Hatch

My daughter experienced an important rite of passage recently, and skinned her knee on the playground.

I wasn't there.

The babysitter has been here a lot this week, as I lock myself in the office and work frantically on my freelance piece. I was up there writing Monday afternoon when I heard the front door open and the sound of the girl crying.

I didn't think much about it, figuring she was angry at being made to leave the park for whatever reason. The sobs got closer as she clamored up the stairs, yelling my name. After a few minutes of this I poked my head into the hallway to behold the girl's tear-stained face and bloody knee.

After a few heartfelt and weepy repetitions of her tale of woe, the child settled down on the couch with a cold cup of juice, a cookie, a magic Band-Aid and trademarked Mommy Kisses.

I left her there for quiet time with our very capable sitter and went back to work.

*********************

The hours I spent working were nothing short of exhilarating. Making phone calls, asking questions, crafting the answers into compelling copy ... I hadn't realized how I missed it. When the director of a museum I admire greatly called me "interesting" and offered me a private tour of the archives, I caught a glimpse of a girl on fire with the desire to tell stories.

The girl who once inhabited my body.

***********

Living in a university town, I am surrounded by untapped potential. The warm weather provides the optimal environment for short skirts and shirtless frolics on the front lawn of fraternity houses.

Driving up and down Campustown I see the ghost of myself in these children. Yes, they are children, mostly untouched by life's hardships – at least to the naked eye. Some days I listen to the screams from the backseat and watch as these unfettered souls march toward their destinies.

"Was that ever me?" I think.

The answer, I've come to realize, is no. I was never unfettered. I was born into this world with the mark of someone made to question, to over-analyze, to dwell on the negative. I look for the underbelly.

I prefer the gloom of introspection.

************

Motherhood altered the topography of my heart, creating strange terrain where once I roamed with absolute confidence. What I knew best about myself, what I understood to be true, was that I would never find the right path. I was certain to spend my life in the unhappy fog of uncertainty, leaving behind the passion inside me for the more acceptable life expected of me.

Mothering my daughter leaves little room for indecision. Decisiveness is required, whether I am resigning from a job I hated at a large, impersonal company to stay home with her, or assessing the severity of a scraped knee.

Having a child left scars on my body, yet healed my heart. I understand now how brightness is all the brighter for its juxtaposition against the dark. I understand that the girl inside me is now a woman, prepared to choose a path that may not meet with approval.

A path that is unexpected. Even to me.

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