by Amy Ruhlin
I received an unexpected gift this Mother's Day, delivered from my past and wrapped in an old, quilted, lavender bedspread. I found it in the back of our storage closet, propped up between the wooden crib where my babies once slept and the plastic crates that my daughter recently brought home from college: our first dining table; a golden piece of oak with detachable legs.
I remember when my husband and I discovered it at an antique store in a small town along the banks of the Mississippi river in the late 1980s. I remember that back then, my individual and creative needs seemed to be effortlessly met by creating a home and building a life with my family.
I had forgotten about the table, and the bedspread we used as a cover to protect it. I remember laying my baby girl down on the soft, lavender cotton to change her and to play with her. I remember that as I met her needs, I felt my own needs being met too.
But as the years passed, I became a pro at meeting other people’s needs and at making adjustments for my children as they grew and changed. I put baby dolls in attics to make room for Barbies; I moved dress-up clothes to the back of the closet so prom dresses could take front and center. I packed away plastic trucks and toy chests to create space for electric guitars and hockey sticks.
I made sure that my children had a place to study, to learn, to create: a desk in the corner of their rooms with a lamp and Wi-Fi; pencils, papers and pens. I was so busy watching their progress and helping them grow, that I wonder if I sometimes forgot that I was growing too.My daughter is home for the summer after completing her sophomore year in college and my son is finishing up his last week as a junior in high school. They linger in the kitchen and talk with each other over coffee. They discuss their summer jobs and hatch plans for their futures. They are busy meeting their own needs and I realize that I need to meet my own too.
I ask my husband to help me carry the old dining table upstairs to our bedroom, to an open space in front of the windows, and together, we assemble the legs. I add my laptop, some paper and a pen.
Then I remember that it is Mother's Day. And I realize that I have given myself a gift. I have recognized my own needs and have created a place for myself to learn and to grow and to create.