10/8/08

The Extraordinary Ordinary Story

Yesterday I asked moms two questions. I'm excited about some themes I saw in the answers. There is a common thread that I think is truly interesting. I'll get to that hopefully in the next couple of days, but let's start with a bit of a lead-in, shall we? A lead-in to what I'm discovering, and an explanation for my cheesy blog title...
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A friend and I went for a walk one evening over ten years ago. We were roommates at the time, spending our days sleeping in, waiting tables, and hanging out with friends late into every night. We were walking down the sidewalk near our apartment, past house after house, all lined up with their fences.

My friend stopped suddenly. Her face expressed her fears as she looked over the fences. She said she didn't know if she could ever do it. She spoke of feeling a bit panicked when picturing herself behind those fences. She admitted feeling a resistance to this cookie-cutter family existence.

We stood and stared at the houses, the moms, the mini-vans in the driveways, the fences, the children, the dogs...

My friend said it was terrifying to think about every day being the same. An endless repetitive routine. A hamster's wheel.

As single people at the time, we couldn't imagine NOT being able to just get up and go, spending our time selfishly, forgetting responsibility. The most disturbing part of our conversation was the realization that it seemed every house and family was exactly the same, the people inside living the same days over and over, mirroring their neighbors.

I don't know why, but in that moment a wave of peace came over me, so I tried to articulate what was in my heart. I said that I realized it looked like all these people had the exact same life, but we were forgetting something.

Even if these lives we observed seemed similar to their neighbors in nearly every way, each person within those houses had a different story to tell. A different road that brought them to this place, behind fences. And even if their routines were much the same, these people all did these daily tasks in their own unique way.

I also thought about the love that existed there, bubbling out of the children with their giggles, and in their mothers hearts. I didn't have any idea what that would really feel like, but I knew it would be profound. An extraordinary kind of love in the ordinary lives of people.
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My friend got married and had two beautiful children long before I did. She now has a husband, a six and a seven year old, a dog, and even a fence. She is everything she was back when we took that walk, and so much more. She is living what could be considered an ordinary life. And yet she carries all of the memories and experiences from the days before her family arrived. She became that cookie-cutter wife and mother, and in my eyes she became even more extraordinary. Because of the intense love in her home, behind that fence, she wouldn't go back those ten years for anything.

Today my friend is working hard, focusing on her family and their daily routine. She is all mother and wife, and yet she is still simply my dear Kate, able to laugh and cry with me and share the depths of her unique spirit, just as she always has.

There are a thousand little ways that Kate and I are now living that once feared cookie-cutter existence. Our cars are messy and there's a lot of dog hair clinging to our hardwoods. We are woken up much too early most days, and face the repetitive tasks that motherhood requires. We spend far too much time thinking about what to make for dinner, and we get tired of cleaning the bathroom. Sometimes we get frustrated and impatient, and make a lot of mistakes.

But one thing will never change.

There is a love that can't be described in our hearts as mothers. People have often tried to give this love words, but there just aren't enough in any language.

It is this love, and our own unique ways of showing it, that make us extraordinary in this ordinary life.

Kate with the Miles and Asher.
She sings and laughs with my boys
on many an extraordinary ordinary day.

27 clicked right here to comment:

LisAway said...

I love this story, Heather. It's such a simple concept, but profound at the same time.

Looking forward to more of what came of your poll. I'm sorry I didn't participate. I seriously spent a good part of the day trying to single out one fault and searching and searching for anything positive. I suppose that tells you something right there...

Kristina P. said...

I have to admit, I'm still like Kate at times. The thought of the perfect picket fence and the same routine over and over does scare me. That's possibly why we don't have children yet.

But, I'm willing to deal with that and address it so that I can have a happy family.

Sounds like you are an excellent role model for that.

Mrs. Dunbar said...

You were reading my mind. My roomates and I had the same walk 10years ago...

Sara@ Butterville said...

This was such heartfelt post. I love the name of your blog, I "got" it right away. I need no explaining. It reveals how clever and endearing you are. I too can't wait to see what became of those questions.

Sabrina said...

I like Kate too. :)

Lara said...

Beautifully said. I remember feeling like that well. I just had no idea how wonderful it all really was, or how hard.

Erin said...

That was really beautifully said. I always wondered how you came up with your blog name. Thank you for sharing!

Kazzy said...

H-
Those are honest concerns. I think every free single woman wonders about that possible future day when she is more obligated. But the cool thing is the freedom that actually comes from making the decision to be a mother, have the van, the kids, the dog. All of a sudden you have decided what you want (mostly) and you pursue that course. Not as much floundering, etc. Terrific post! Here's to fences and the extraordinary in all of our ordinary lives!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Gorgeous post! The monotony of motherhood always scared me before. Although I do find it mind-numbing at times, there is also a sense of peace that means everything to me.

Mommy Madness said...

Beautiful story, beautifully written! I love being a mom but this expresses how I once felt. Thank you for sharing.

Becky said...

I was like Kate, too. And now I wonder what all the worry was about. Sure, it's hard. Sure, it can be monotonous. Sure, some days I feel like giving up. But I love what I do.

Being a mom may not be all there is to me, but I will give it my all to be a good one.

Debbie said...

This is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

This is a beautiful post. It articulates much of how I feel about being a wife and a mom. It's amazing how years ago I actually was in your friend's frame of mind when you took that walk. I also told my best friend I just couldn't see myself ever being married and having kids. I am so glad I was just a kid who didn't really know what I wanted back then and eventually matured and made the right choice. Sometimes I still feel like I have such an ordinary life, and I am so unaccomplished and insignificant. Then I look at my husband and my kids and my heart is filled with a feeling that worldly honor and glory and all the jewels in the kingdom would not be able to duplicate.

Heather, have I told you before you are an amazing writer? If not, I'm telling you now.

Abra said...

In grade 10, sitting with some classmates we played a game.
It was called "where will we be when we grow up."
When it was my turn to be guessed about, the votes were unanimous.
"I see Abra married,living in a house, with two or three kids, a cat, a dog, and a goldfish, and a white picket fence." My friend Sommer proclaimed. Everyone was quick to agree.
I thought this absurd since I abhorred dogs... and I felt like I was being typecast as the typical Mormon girl.
Well I showed them!
I don't have a goldfish...
My two cats we gave away
I have a bunny
Two guinea pigs
oh, and a dog.

Not the Norm said...

Perfect words. I don't consider myself a "typical" mom because I am in the Air Force and don't drive that minivan but I find a way to balance work and still make those school field trips. My daughter is the best gift I've ever recieved. I didn't really start living until she arrived and that itself is extraordinary.

P.S. Thanks for those words of wisdom you left. ;0)

Melanie J said...

This really strikes a chord with me. I've always excelled in my given career field and I was terrified to make the change to mother. But when my baby will only do something if he can do it sitting right next to me, it makes me feel good because I know he's happy. And that's becoming far less ordinary in this world.

Bonnie Lewis said...

this is such a great post. i am far away from thinking about kids, but when I do, like you there is a peace that comes over me. what a great story

Heidi Ashworth said...

I really loved hearing the story behind your blog name. One of the truly blessed things about blogs (I am finding) is the universality (is that a word?) of the human condition. It doesn't matter our country or religion or circumstances--the common goodness in people shines through in so many ways. Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly said...

Such a beautiful story. Like Lisa said, simple but profound.

Annie Valentine said...

I don't mind having a picket fence, as long as I can paint it bright pink. I think we all took that walk.

Lisa said...

Your blog title was exactly what brought me over to you the first time a couple weeks ago. It holds so much meaning and you did a beautiful job explaning it.

I was like Kate, had sworn off kids forever, but after 11 years of marriage, we finally decided to give it a shot.

Our lives are forever, wonderfully changed, as everyone with kids knows.

Eowyn said...

Beautiful.

charrette said...

Wonderful!

I think I ran across that original question the first time I visited your blog. I went back and answered it later. But it was that thoughtful approach to motherhood, and life, and love that drew me into your blog...and your heart.

My BFF and I could have written this story. (Only watching mothers and routines like that actually made her _nauseous_!) And with the same conclusion. Now of course she's the most incredible mother, incredible woman. I've seen a depth in her heart expand exponentially with the birth of each child...

--and she was already pretty deep, because I have no shallow friends! :)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I LOVED this post. I think you and your friend were actually quite bright, because I probably thought motherhood was going to be easier than it really is. (But still not easy enough to not fear it.) And like you said in your own great way, it becomes the vehicle of personal development in deep and moving ways. Nothing better, nothing harder.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

p.s. I live in Minnesota too. :)

Jessica said...

This is so good. You're right, becoming a mother is everything. Extraordinary ordinary is the perfect description.

Mammatalk said...

I am so glad I read this post. I am a bit of a late bloomer of a SAHM. I think I am catching on...

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