Becoming Wallpaper


When I asked her if I could read her journal I was prepared for her to say no. She’s allowed to say no. She’s allowed her privacy. 


Privacy wasn’t such a thing just two or three years ago. A year ago. I’m not sure—the days and months and yes, even years, blur together after a while. Astonishing really, given how I still seem to live in this cloud of “not that long ago.” Not that long ago my kids were little kids in early elementary, and not long before that they were pre-k cherubs off to discover there was a world beyond our four walls. Not long before that they were toddling around our two bedroom apartment in a life I can hardly imagine living now, and not long before that we were city dwellers living for the odd trip to the grocery store or the park to punctuate the days upon days at home. Back then, privacy didn’t exist for any of us, and we hadn’t a care in the world about it. Not that long ago.


In any case, I was ready for privacy to be a thing now, just in case it is, and when I asked her I prepared for the rejection, for the slightly embarrassed “I’d rather you didn’t.” But instead, I got a slightly embarrassed, “If we don’t have to talk about it.”


Now that I could agree to.


And so I read. I opened the pages and I read. I learned daytime handwriting for school is different than nighttime handwriting scribbled by flashlight under bed covers. I learned, as expected, my girl is growing up. I learned of things she wants to share but not voice, things she feels but can’t say out loud, things she notices but isn’t sure just yet what they mean. And I learned I have become wallpaper.


I appeared only once, maybe twice, in the many pages. I was a footnote at best, a “Mommy said…, and I…” Once upon a time, really not long ago, I know I was a major player in my girl’s life. The day started with me, ended with me, and was filled with me in between. There was no one she wanted more than me, no one who turned her thoughts or filled her imagination more than me. 


A week or so ago my husband and I came across old videos we took when the kids were little and growing—you know, not that long ago. Videos we haven’t seen in a while because they are hidden away on a hard drive we don’t much access or visit, but that day we visited. We saw a video of a toddler swinging a golf club every which way and with remarkable inability and we laughed and laughed and looked at each other and thought it’s really not so different now. We watched more, listened to squeaky baby voices that at the time seemed to last forever, but I guess not that long ago they left us because somehow they are not here anymore and I’m so glad we captured them when they still lived in our ears. We saw videos of tricycle riders and crafters and wise young sages and dancers. 


She was a dancer, that one. She had moves she would never use now—moves she may never use again. They were perfect. She moved purely, openly, without guile or intent, just moving where the music took her. She was not embarrassed. She was not lost. She was in the moment so perfectly and preciously that it may even have brought a tear to my husband’s eye, though I’m probably wrong about that. I know it brought tears to mine. It took me back to a place I once lived. Really, I swear, it was not that long ago. But it was a place where I was the main event almost every day. 


“What will we do today, Mommy?”


“Mommy, will you read us a story?”


“Mommy, can we snuggle?”


“Mommy, what’s for dinner? Can I help you? Can I, Mommy?”


I was needed, prodded, pulled on, climbed, pounced on, performed in front of, and put upon every day. Many times at night too. I was what was going on. 


And now I’m not. I’m maybe the observer, but so often not even that anymore. For special occasions, yes, but for the every day, the mundane, the going to school and playing with friends and getting work done and figuring out friendships—oh! figuring out friendships! I am wallpaper. Maybe to be told and shared with; maybe, sometimes, not to be told a thing. Just there, off to the side, ears to hear and eyes to see, but nothing meaningful to add except a backdop. 


I am becoming the backdrop in my kids lives, and at first thought that made me a little sad. But as I’ve thought it over for some days I am not so sad because really, isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? I am a beginning for my kids, but I was never meant to be the end. I am a jumping off point, a place to come back to, and an observer of all within my view. I will have my moments yet to come, to be sure. This process is long, I am convinced of that. But I am not the main event anymore. That was never my role anyway. I start big and fade smaller and dimmer. I never disappear, but I don’t share the spotlight.


What more could I possibly ask for? That my girl would share this growing and changing with me? That she would let me take a look at the precious pages of her journal and so see inside her thoughts, even when I wasn’t there to watch them take shape? What an honor it is to be so trusted, to be so invited in. The wallpaper gets to see so very much, even if it is never the main character. How very blessed I am.