This morning, I spent some time in Africa. I had to. My family’s pace of life has accelerated to infinity these last few weeks and I needed to catch my breath. So while it was still dark out, I crept out of bed and hopped onto the stairmaster, book and water bottle both in place. The water was Dasani, and the book: Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. It’s about an English girl who grew up with her family amid the civil unrest of Africa. Oh my three faithfuls, this one’s gonna be a beauty. The plot will be a little melancholy, I think, but the writing is gorgeous–descriptive, brutal and gorgeous. The sultry heat and vastness of the outback were exactly what I needed to feel and where I needed to be on this chilly Tuesday morning. I even needed to hear the drunk mother rant about the necessity of a white-ruled state on the continent. Somehow, it made missing family prayer last night feel like less of a maternal blunder.
I’m not far into the book, but my mind has already planted itself there until I can get back to it. Though today I’ll be wading through violin lessons, swim practice and the orthodontist, I’ll really be on the dusty border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, bribing the greasy customs agent with cigarettes and Coca-Cola in order to get through. If only we had a Banana Republic at our mall. Then I could really lock myself inside my own head.
Where do you like to go when there’s no place to go? When the relentless demands of your life consume all of your time, but not all of your mind? That is the hardest thing about motherhood, I think. We are so busy most of the time, and yet slightly bored much of the time. I don’t mean to complain. Most mothers would rather be nowhere else than with their children, whether that is in the diapers or driving-them-everywhere stage. We want to mother our children, and no one will dispute the intellectual investment that doing so requires. But on an immediate, daily basis, that mothering also involves a lot of stop-and-go, hurry-up-and-wait, long slow explanations, and long slow minutes spent listening to long slow explanations. All of that physical care keeps our hands importantly busy but our heads, sometimes, a little less so. And sometimes, our brain needs to hang out with someone its own age, somewhere other than the minivan. That’s why, this week, I’m going to see Mother Africa.
Where do you go when you need to escape the minivan? Who do you go see?
I’d really love to know.