The Scary Private Years

“But I often long to talk to Ellen, with whom, after all, I have done a million things in these scary, private years. We drove the kids up every damn rock in Central Park. On Easter Sunday, we pasted white doves on blue posters and prayed on Eighth Street for peace. Then we were tired and screamed at the kids. The boys were babies. For a joke we stapled their snowsuits to our skirts and in a rage of slavery every Saturday for weeks we marched across the bridges that connect Manhattan to the world. We shared apartments, jobs, and stuck-up studs. And then, two weeks before last Christmas, we were dying.”

This is a quote from the short story "Living" by one of my favorite authors, Grace Paley, z"l. It's not my absolute favorite quote of hers, but it's one of the few I found on the web, saving me the trouble of typing another one in. But I do happen to love this one for the way it encapsulates the experience of mothering young children and being a younger mother, particularly the way she describes these years as "scary, private years". So much of child-rearing and being a young (and youngish mother) is indeed "scary" and "private", which is probably why mommy blogs and Mommy and me groups are so popular.

I also love her mention of snowsuits, which reminds of a great red one that I had when I was four. Now that we live in Israel, no need for kiddie snowsuits. :(

(The image is from another favorite piece of literature of mine, The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats).

I also love her honesty. I think it's rare to find a mother who's never screamed at her kids because she's tired. But it's also hard to find a mom who doesn't who doesn't pray for a more peaceful world for her children. I think it's important to acknowledge that the contradictory emotions of motherhood (and childhood, for that matter) don't negate each other.


Leora said...

I like Grace Paley. I haven't read her stories in so long that I would have to go back and look.

But I do remember the Loudest Voice, which the main character gets the main part of the Jesus play because she has the Loudest Voice (and she is a little Jewish immigrant child in New York).

Have you ever read Flannery O'Connor? Southern and Catholic, but I really relate to her. She died tragically of lupus at age 39.

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