Kaleidescope

This is a diary entry from Sarah Noack (aka Urban Nomad) about how a divorce transformed her life--by helping her to shed possessions and rely on sharing through her networks and communities.

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To Shayna...

Your world is a kaleidescope. You need nothing to be happy; sometimes only the air moving makes you laugh. It's tomorrow, and you're still talking about yesterday—how full it was of colors and sights and voices. You remember jumping in the moon-walk plastered seductively with inflatable ice cream cones and candies, and I remember how the attendant had to crawl in and pull you out long after your group's turn had ended. You remember watching the boats on the marina with me, pointing out each airplane and boat and building. You want to know what is going on inside each one. You are fascinated with each roll of the waves as you stand on the floating dock; I don't even need to buy a ferry ticket to entertain you. 

You remember drawing on napkins at the diner and watching a booth of rainbow suncatchers twirling in the spring breeze. You remember riding on my shoulders, being fed slushes, brownies and popcorn by so many loving hands. "What did you say?" you asked anxiously after each offer, as if checking to make sure that you heard correctly. You, who are always so demurely oblique about hinting what you want. "I see something cold," you note coyly as an ice-cream stand comes into view. I make you tell me what you really want. I don't allow you to get what you want unless you ask directly. I want you to understand that the universe functions by asking and sometimes even taking, when no one seems to allows you to realize your dreams. I never learned this, growing up. I was always told to wait, be polite, ask indirectly, mind my own business. I want you to know that the world is yours. 

When I see you on your hands and knees later on the rubber tarmac of the park, crawling behind park benches to stalk pigeons with the most serious hunter's expression, I need nothing more than you in this moment. When I see you try to reach up to an airplane from the highest rung of the jungle gym, I cringe—unlike you, I have always been terrified of heights—but I love you even more as I call out to you from the bottom to hold on. When I watch you ferociously riding the metal-spring powered dummy cars as if you were taming a wild stallion, I live in your screeches of unchained bliss. You are never afraid to go too high on the swings, to get too dirty, to try something new. You would rather walk all day until your feet are sore and you collapse limply in the bed, than to stay in bed watching cartoons. You would rather count the letter "M"'s on D.C. Metro trains for hours, than to shake Goofy's costumed hand.

Why do parents think that it costs so much to entertain and educate children? I have never taken you to Disneyland and never plan to. I never take you to Chuck E. Cheese or "family restaurants." I don't buy you educational CD's (unless I get them at yard sales), and don't even have a functioning TV.  While you were in the womb, you heard the sounds of customers in the health food store where I worked, and pneumatic drills in the subway stop where we waited each day for my train. You did not hear Shakespeare read to you through special speakers. Yet there is no denying that you are a walking poem... my best and most important one ever. And, like all my best poems, the ones I've let go of and allowed to fully awaken—you are not actually mine at all. I have only borrowed you, tweaked you, nourished you into ripeness. You belong to yourself, and to the sun itself. I knew this from the day we met. 

Your eyes contain so many ways of seeing. Kaleidescope, mirror, prism, window. Sometimes you reflect and observe, sometimes you process and analyze, and sometimes you simply react in pure emotion. I watch you run along the rolling park by the cliff's edge, where the Palisades begin their journey out of the rock. I wonder how this ancient schism in the earth once emerged, and watch you, still gushing with excitement about the glass floor mosaics on the walkway from the free elevator that leads you to the top of this "mountain," and know you are made of the forces of tidal waves, of thunder, the forces that split rocks and form new continents. You were born during a thunderstorm, and your appearance heralded the last clap of electricity, the last hour of night. The sun rose, and there you were. I knew your nature instantly from that night, and felt as awed to be entrusted the burden of your care as if I had been given a baby wolf. 

It isn't always easy, being your mother. You are so easy to love, and so hard to tame. I have given up on this task. You tame yourself when you are ready, but insist on your childhood with a force that thrusts me in my place. I have learned to follow as much as I lead, to learn as much as I teach with you. You are not the sort of child who requires a lot of rules and material things, but you require all of my patience, all of my intelligence, all of my respect and honor of your selfhood. You learn best by conscience and instinct, so I have learned to teach in ways other than punishment. You are so powerful, and so self-contained. You have learned to live on so little of me. And on days like this, I see what I wish I could give you every day. You are so much already on your own. And yet so much more when I am able to be there for you like I am today. 

We are headed on an adventure together, little friend. We are moving soon and starting a new life. You will be starting kindergarten; I will be starting a new job out of my field, and going back to art school to audit classes so I can eventually be able to support you on my own without help. I can no longer tolerate poverty. I have never been good at being poor, and as a parent, poverty is even more intolerable to me. I need to be the house on the block people go to for support and a hot meal, not the other way around. So whatever it takes, I will have to make this change. And I feel good about it. We will not be alone. We will be loved and supported. You are embraced, wherever we go. 

There will be a lot of adjustments. We will live without a car and go back to apartment living in one of the world's biggest cities. I moved here once when I was 18 and lived here for six years, so it's not new to me. But I am much older now, and so sometimes I wonder if I am crazy to be doing this. But I have you, and I know your spirit will carry me along. Each day is an adventure for you, and this is going to be a big one. I know you have handled others, and you will handle this one too. I don't know if everything will work out as we planned it, but I know that I'm ready to carry you with me on this wave. I know you, too, are ready for a change. I know that you can be happy anywhere, but that you thrived these last few days. You blossomed. I saw a new side of you wake up, one that has been forgotten since we moved out of East Boston. We are city people, you and I. We thrive on these gritty, secret urban havens ripe with playgrounds, struggles, street art and magic. We are only half alive here in our prefabricated subdivision full of SUV's, where weekends are composed of lawn maintenance and the nights are as quiet as a shut-off TV. I don't want to have a lawn. I would rather play in a park. I don't want an SUV. I would rather ride the bus and get a chance to meet other members of the human race. As a single parent of an only child, I am always happy to find ways to expand my universe. 

It is only at the very end of the day after walking nearly 40 blocks, that you ask to be carried. A few drops of water spew from the overcast sky like the curved rays of spittle emerging from a fountain of birds on the waterfront. You shiver at the sudden chill. Still, you want to look at the birds, to run your hand through the stream. "Noodles of water," you laugh, and for a moment, you are no longer tired. 

And when I put you into bed at last, after an Annie's burrito and a quick rerun of Clifford (just to ground yourself back into the ordinary), your eyes are still working. You notice the colors of the sky as you lay in bed: pink, orange, yellow. Gold. "And don't forget blue," you remind me, in the most serious voice. You are a little human kaleidescope, taking the pieces of your day and twisting them into a mosaic. I hope I am doing the right thing for you. I hope that I have helped you add to your colors today, and the next day, and the next. I hope that this adventure will nourish our spirits. 

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