When a big door opens, others close. That’s just the way it works. So when I accepted a full-time reporter position at our local newspaper recently, I knew new sacrifices would be involved. One day into it, I experienced the truth of this.
On Tuesday, the afternoon faith-sharing group with which I’ve been gathering for around 13 years still gathered, but without me. It was my first day of work, and I’d come home to check on my teen daughter, who’d spiked a temp in the middle of the night. First, there was the irony of one of my kids getting sick my first day of work after a very healthy fall and winter. And then the other of driving a familiar path with a new divergence.
I left home to go back to work around 1:15 p.m. — the time I normally would have been leaving to go to my group. It was a strange feeling pulling out of the driveway as usual but knowing my route would be different than the week prior. I passed my usual turn-off with a tinge of regret and went back to the paper to get at the work at hand. Thankfully, the pang was short-lived, balanced out by the feeling of a new and exciting venture that was seeming so far like a really good match.
Then Thursday came — the day of the school Mass. I’ve been volunteering at these for a good many years, off and on as I can, as a cantor. Sharing my talents and being near my kids during part of their school day and having the chance to partake in the Eucharist midday has been a blessing. This time it wasn’t an ordinary Mass. At the end of it, a special send-off to the teacher from Spain, Pilar, would take place, and several parting gifts bestowed on her. Included was a signed copy of my children’s book, P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet.
“And now, Mr. Salonen has something to bring up,” is reportedly how the announcement by the principal went during the gift-giving portion. That was the cue for my six-year-old to walk down the center aisle of the sanctuary to present my book to his Spanish teacher; the same book that was released to the world the month and year he came into it. I would have liked to have witnessed that moment. Instead, I relished the report and the thought that it had happened. This seemed to symbolize in a good way the reality that many times throughout their lives, my children will be representing a piece of who I am through what they bring to the world (for better or worse, I imagine).
It’s also a good lesson in letting go, and in choosing gratitude over excessive pining. I can hover near regret or focus on appreciation for all of the many “firsts” and special events with my children I have witnessed through my 16 years as a parent who worked largely from home. I can be thankful for all of the blessed hours I’ve spent with my faith sisters. These gatherings have strengthened me as a person, helped me become richer and deeper than I might have otherwise. But the makeup has changed through the years. Women have come and gone depending on what season they’re at in their lives.
Yes, in the end, there may be fleeting moments of wishing I could bilocate and be in two places at once, but mostly, I am filled with a sense of satisfaction and thankfulness at the years I was given to go deep into mothering and sisterhood, knowing those many moments have changed me indelibly for the better. And even though they have taken on a new flavor, I can reach for them in new ways and continue to be tranformed.
Q4U: If you have children, how do you feel about not being able to be there every moment of their lives? Have you been able to strike a happy balance?