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Amy Brenneman: Spring Chick

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This time of year stabs me in the heart.

woman in spring

Amy Brenneman: Here in Southern Calif. our seasons are subtle. In New England (where I was raised), the seasons announce themselves with garish glee. THE WINTER is undeniable -- fresh in December and gruesome in March. But then THE SPRING cracks open its egg with crocuses and pussy willows. THE SUMMER luxuriates with heat, humidity and mosquitoes. Then, THE AUTUMN. Autumn is a mixed bag. Leaves and crisp apples, yes, and new clothes for a school that I generally liked. But autumn held the promise of death. The plants turned grey and crumbly. The animals and insects went away. We held our breath 'til Christmas.

Los Angeles seems like Endless Summer, but it's not, not really. The eye and the skin have to be trained to recognize the seasons, which are more like cycles because there is no frost. Magnolias do bloom in February, but then they sleep again for a few more months. The days do get shorter; the temperature does drop. We build fires and crowd around them -- the temperature outside may be 50 and not 20, but it's our winter nonetheless.

But the beginning of March stabs me in the heart. It took me by surprise this year, but then I remembered: Yes. When the light shifts, when the puffy wind warms up, when the daffodils come poking through -- this is the season when my heart cracked open. Nine years ago this March my daughter was born, and life has never been the same.

It's hard to describe, to those who haven't experienced it, how life gets broken open with the birth of a first child. My friend Paul's wife is due at the end of April. I saw him yesterday, excited and amped. "I know the change is coming," he said. "People say life will never be the same, and I know they're right. But what will it look like?" I shook my head with understanding and compassion. That's the big question, brother.

My daughter roared into life and claimed her space. My sexist brain thought a girl-child would be docile and pink (don't know why I thought that; I'm certainly not docile and pink). My first image of Charlotte was her coming out of my body, arms stretched wide like a pterodactyl, bellowing and piercing me with her gaze. Game on. And amidst the excitement and the noise and the aching, pushed-out body, I had the following thought: "Oh! It's you! I didn't know it would be you! Okay, this time around, I'll be the mom."

I don't generally go looking for past-life relationships. But three times in my life, they have come. The thought arose so spontaneously, I knew that it must be true. Charlotte and I did have unfinished business to attend to, and during the past nine years, we have done so. This child loves me, challenges me and pushes me to examine all my unexamined crap. She is not the ideal child, nor am I the ideal mother. We have been on a long and winding road, and I imagine we always will be. No disrespect to my son, but Charlotte is my greatest teacher. And I'm a rebellious student.

So all hail Spring 2001, when my body, life and soul got cracked open to a bigger way to live. Hail to the miracle of Charlotte, who pried my fingers away from narcissism and fear and is teaching me how to really, really, REALLY love. Forgive me for getting it wrong, my girl, as I do many times a day. Remember: Your old mother is a work in progress.

Happy birthday.

next: Out-of-Control Hugging Leads to Ban at Portland's West Sylvan Middle School
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jennifer March 21, 2010, 8:32 AM

Happy 9th Birthday Charlotte! Your such an amazing woman. & Such an amazing mother. I enjoy reading your blogs & enjoy your writing style. I hope one day I’ll be just as amazing & successful as you. I dream all the time about meeting you & being more apart feminist majority. I know i sound lame, & people will begin to ridicule me. Eh oh well. After living in LA for so long, do you ever miss the winter & the fall?

AT March 21, 2010, 9:00 AM

What a beautiful, beautiful, LOVEly piece! Charlotte will so treasure this in the years to come.

Wendi March 21, 2010, 1:16 PM

That was great, I can totally relate. My first born, a son, was born April 3rd and will be turning 13 this year. It has hit me so hard this year, how much I have grown since having him. He came into my life and totally changed it and has been the best things ever for me. I plan on sitting with him on his birthday and telling him just how much he has changed me and ment to me.

Jillian March 21, 2010, 7:41 PM

Beautiful post. I love the way you look at your life and examine the people in it. It’s very eye opening and thought provoking. Thank you for writing a blog. And a happy birthday to your daughter.

Rebecca Jones June 6, 2010, 1:52 AM

What a lovely post

smz November 3, 2010, 2:53 PM

Amy, I love your 2 closing paragraphs. I’m here because the issues addressed in Judging Amy have continued to call. Big stuff. Help still needed. You were a pioneer. THANK YOU. Trying to do something that remains permanent and relieves unnecessary suffering.

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