“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some, they come in with the tide. For others, they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember all those things they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” -Zora Neal Hurston
When I was a little girl, I spent many an hour dreaming of who I would be one day when I was a “lady.” Among the sprawling corn and tobacco fields where my childhood played out, there was ample opportunity to dream, to plot, to imagine just what life could be. I had plenty of female role models to look up to: my school teachers, the woman who taught me to play piano, and our elderly neighbor who taught me how to grow African Violets, just to name a few. Of course, out of all of them, my beautiful young mother was the woman I admired the most.
My mother and I are superbly different. In elementary school, she spent a considerable amount of time at the beginning of every year convincing my teachers she really was the red-headed, blue-eyed mother of this dark-headed, brown-eyed little girl. I didn’t watch her put on big fancy high heels and lipstick every morning, nor did I sit on the bathroom counter everyday and watch her fix her hair to perfection. In truth, it was MY hair she tugged and pulled at in the bathroom mirror, strategically placing gargantuan bows that always matched the outfit she’d selected for me that day.
Through the years, as I watched her, I knew, someday, I wanted be a mommy just like her. I would listen patiently as my five-year-old followed me around the kitchen talking incessantly about Peter Pan while I prepared breakfast or dinner. I’d smile and nod when they asked to help me crack open eggs and half the shell landed in the cookie batter. I would sit at a table with the little munchkins and teach them how to write and draw and read just the way she did. At night, we’d sit in bed and read stories like the Prince and the Pauper and Huckleberry Finn. We’d invent fantastic games and build living room tents on rainy days and our lives would be happy and blissful and perfect.
Twenty years later, the version of me who lives on a side of life closer to 30 knows a reality so far removed from that life, I sometimes wonder if it merely existed in a dream. Far from married, and even further away from the prospect of children, I work endless hours in front of a computer everyday. On Saturday mornings, I’m lucky if I find the energy to make an omelet in my little kitchenette. At night, when I collapse on my couch—exhausted—with a dinner served up in a plastic, microwaveable dish, I begin to wonder whatever happened to that starry-eyed little girl who used to prance about the yard on her tippy toes, twirling the material of a white summer dress around her knees.
What I have come to realize is that the dreams that were formed as a result of my childhood do not necessarily have anything to do with being a mother. These dreams revolve more or less around the prospect of giving—and in return being surrounded by—love.
I’ve come to accept that life is full of the dreams realized, the dreams lost, and the dreams that are yet to happen. I don’t have to wait for love to find me. It’s here. I AM surrounded by it. And while, perhaps, in my current state I cannot always reach out and claim it in the form of a hug, I know it is there. The rest—the hard days, the sleepless nights, the wistful thinking, the watching, the waiting—they’re just part of the experience. “The dream is the truth.” So I “act and do things accordingly.”