Tag Archives: mother

Perseid Meteor Shower…

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One of my friends arranged a little late night stargazing last night. They picked me up at 9:45 and we drove our way the last twenty blocks between my house and Sutro Heights Park. We stood for a while there leaning on a chain link fence, the only thing plus three feet separating us from the edge of the cliff. The long strip of the Great Highway demarcated by yellowed traffic lights went out from under our feet. The long black strip of Ocean Beach butt up against it flaming here and there with bonfires of a truer yellow. Here and there the waves cut gashes of glowing white against the black beach. And the city laid out to our left looking so much like the lame attempt of humanity to duplicate the stars, it’s beautiful constellations less interesting in the too ordered lines of streets. There were four of us, bundled against the mist, passing flasks back and forth, talking about our summers, our babies, and the impending start of school. We couldn’t see the stars. The marine layer was thick over our heads.

Someone suggested we drive across the bridge in hopes for a better look. The fog above our heads glowed with the city’s light and leant an unnatural dusk to our steps. Here and there we heard animals scurry. There being coyotes in these parts I carried two sticks, because, you know, that would help. And we saw what looked like a goose coming up, its long curved neck looking back at us.

My friend ran at it and quacked. Then we saw it move.

“Oh, no it’s not a duck!”
“It’s a skunk, get back, get back!”
“It’s tail’s up!”
“It’s going away!!”
“They can spray up to forty feet!” (I stated this unhelpful fact and I’m not even sure it’s true.)

Well, we made it back to the car still smelling like ourselves and wound our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We felt young and old at the same time, running around with our friends at eleven o’clock at night, yet, tucked in the minivan next to car seats of various sizes with toys and tiny rain boots at our feet. As we climbed the bluffs on the other side of the bridge we realized that we weren’t going to get a better view from up here. We parked and walked out into a cloud. It wrapped around us giving the headlights coming around the bend the glow of wildfire.

We walked up the trail into the dark. The great bridge was below our feet, not far but completely lost in the fog. Its lamps alone delineated the bridge. And the cars driving through looked like sliding LED lights on a display board. The fog was so close it was claustrophobic, pressing it’s immense presence against us with a feather’s touch. The city light it captured and reflected back enhanced the effect of its solidity.

And it was good to be with these women, in our bundled jackets, sharing a dark chocolate bar, and trying not to acknowledge our yawns. We four being just mothers doing our best, working so hard to understand these hearts is our care, and trying to determine with laughter and earnestness where to offer ourselves grace and where to try harder. And the fog engulfing us made us feel small but it was tolerable because we were together.

The Letter…

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There’s a story in one of the later Anne books. Anne of Green Gables has become Anne of Ingleside, a mother, and Mrs. Doctor. She has met some reasonable literary success, published, but by no means famous except among her circle.

A newly widowed woman comes to Anne and asks her to write her husband’s obituary. Anne is dismayed and shocked. She barely knew Mr. What’s-his-name! All she knows of him is that their interactions were cordial and he was a patient sort of man.

Anne does all right, I guess. She manages to write something and though it doesn’t exactly suit the widow, “too high-falutin’” it is admitted that Dear Mr. What’s-his-name would’ve thought it “real keen”.

I was asked recently to work a similar errand. A woman in my circle had gotten very ill. It was a Parkinson-like disease and I was around in the beginning as she became trapped slowly inside her own body. She was good friends with my father and a member of my mother’s Bible study. This is what brought me to mind for the assignment. And what was it to be? A last Christmas present, a letter from a dying mother to her sons.

I have known this lady long, but not well. Her sons I have not met at all. Like Anne, all I know is that this lady loved me well and was admired by people I respect. I thought about what I could possibly say on behalf of a woman whose mind I couldn’t know who has lived far past my own life experience.

I had only words of a mother to her children. I wrote it out. It was brief. I hoped it would be true words for a woman limited to squeezing once for “yes” and twice for “no”.

It was not the first time I have committed my work in blind faith to a greater purpose I couldn’t know.

I’m afraid the caregiver who had asked me to write the letter gave up hoping that it would come. I almost gave up myself when my computer refused to start up and let me send it off. But my husband stuck my over-heating laptop in the freezer and it stayed on long enough for me to send this one e-mail.

A week later I would find out that my e-mail arrived just as the caregiver was leaving to give the present. She printed out my letter and took it over to our sick friend. The letter was approved with tears and read to the sons, who had a final gift from their mother. She passed away the next day on Christmas Eve.

I can’t help but think, with all my ambition and all the blue castles I build in the sky, that this is the writing I do that will make a difference.

It seemed arrogant to presume I could write that letter. But I’m so glad I wrote it.

The Daily Exercise…

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I saw a daughter walking with her mother. Their haircuts were the same, though one was white and one was black. The face under the white hair was confused, lost in trying to find the significance of their actions here on the street in the sunny afternoon. Her daughter pulled her on, the tension visible in her face and the tautness of their two arms meeting over the “v” of space between them.

I recognized the face of the daughter, it was the one I make when my options are out and toddlers must tag along and their short legs become, somehow, a personal insult. I recognized duty born of love, duty that beats desire every day of the week. I recognized the conflict in the daughter’s face between impatience and requirement. There was no space for selfishness in this walk.

I saw how easy it would be to be impatient with someone who doesn’t understand, can’t understand. I saw how much effort it must take to keep latch over her tongue to prevent herself from voicing an unreasonable frustration to an unreasonable mind.

It was a sad picture. And it was a beautiful picture.

I thought about the long space of time before the daughter’s memories had ever begun, when she had been the one pulled against resistance, not understanding why they had to leave her pretty game, not comprehending the patience with which her mother led her.

And now it was the daughter’s turn to spend love on a mind that wouldn’t remember. It was the daughter’s turn to be unable and sometimes unwilling to explain again why it is important to keep the old legs moving, the aged heart pumping. The same street where mother learned was now daughter’s space to trust in the importance of this relationship.

There’s a reason. And when she can’t immediately remember it she trusts. It’s there, she found it once and when she has the chance, later, in quiet, in silence, she knows she’ll remember the reason she does all this again.

I wondered if my daughter would ever have to do this for me. I thought I should write about it here and now in case the moment comes and my mind is too lost to discuss it with her.

It’s a sad picture. And it’s a beautiful picture.

The Rusty Nail…

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It’s official.  I’m becoming my mother.

My sisters will smile sweetly and exchange glances.  They know.  They’ve known for years.

For one, I am embarrassingly over helpful to strangers looking for items in the grocery store.  Then, last week I tucked my undershirt into my pants.  And the other day in a movie a heroine made a poor decision in her love life and I muttered the words, “Choose wisely.”  I just said it!  I didn’t even have to think about it!

Yes, folks, the evidence seems insurmountable.  Maybe the resemblance became stronger when I had kids.  Maybe I just began noticing when we lived together last year, it was right in front of my face, and things did seem more … comfortable.

Maybe ninety percent of it is my maturity.  That’s right, I said maturity.  Thirty-four is quite old enough to entertain this particular theory without outright rejection, don’t you think?  Old enough to embrace with grace the similarities and draw lessons from the faults as I hope my own daughter will.

And let’s be honest, a lot of my problems with my Mom are rooted in teenage angst.  Most of that has nothing to do with her.  I used to get so frustrated at my parents’ ability to sit on the couch and DO NOTHING.  I’m past that.  In fact, I am on board with that.  Put me on the couch and give me nothing!

Yes, I’ve gotten to the point where I can find the value in an evening of fine BBC programming and a rusty nail.  That’s what my Mom drinks, a rusty nail.  It’s scotch and more scotch.  Last night I stopped teasing her about her ridiculously outdated drink long enough to try one.

Last time I tried one I was annoyed with her and it tasted awful.

But yesterday she had just helped me fold ten loads of laundry and put my kids to bed.  It was delicious.

That’s one rusty nail down my gullet and through the heart of an adolescent attitude.

Becoming my Mom has perks.  There is liquor there.

Princess Power…

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So, I’m not a big fan of this whole princess thing. I swore my daughter would never wear a clothing item with that appalling appellation running across the chest or bottom in great glittering entitled pink letters.

And I’ve been really happy that, since she hasn’t watched a movie yet I’ve kind of avoided the whole thing. Well, I thought I would be avoiding it. You see, no one told my daughter we were avoiding it.

And my daughter is a princess. She loves princesses. Someone got a Disney storybook for her birthday a few years back and there are princesses in it, but they do more normal things like Sleeping Beauty and the fairies pick blueberries, and Belle fixes a ladder in Beast’s castle. My daughter’s favorite, of course, is the one where Tiana bakes the beignets and there are all these luscious pictures of beignets dusted with powdered sugar, and she manages to get a second job because of these amazing beignets. We both like that one. These are the princess stories I can get behind.

I just really don’t want to do my daughter the disservice of creating expectations for a lopsided partnership. Life is messy and relationships look more like Anna and Kristoff back to back fighting abominable snowmen than it looks like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White waiting in ageless perfection for true love’s kiss to begin her life.

So I was slightly appalled at Disneyland last week when my daughter kept coming back to the Sleeping Beauty figurine set, complete with Prince Philip, a wedding dress, and a small picture frame shaped like a heart with Prince Philip’s face in it. Blech! I distracted, I suggested, I showed her all the other beautiful things but I couldn’t ignore the fact that she kept coming back to this one. Ugh.

I don’t want my daughter to have storybook romance misconceptions, but I don’t want to create issues where there are none. Little girls like dresses and romance and boys who are willing to fight for them. I get that. That’s my story, too. But I want to allow her the freedom to create her own vision of what this great romance is going to look like for her.

So, since it was her choice and within the allotted price I allowed her to buy it.

Within minutes of it being opened in the car the back seat was full of giggles as Prince Philip and Aurora found themselves in the embarrassing situation of being caught in their underwear. I rubbed my forehead. What had I done?

And today I let her get out the whole set and all the little pieces are strewn all over and finally Aurora is dressed in her cottage dress with bare feet and Prince Philip’s photograph is looped over her hand. Ugh.

Then…

“Look,” she says to her brother, “She’s got a shield.”

She thought it was a shield. Bless my little girl’s heart, she used that picture frame like a shield for the rest of the afternoon and fought tirelessly against her brother’s new Darth Vader figurine.

I heard my son say, “I think it’s supposed to be a picture frame.”

“Hush,” I said, “she can use it like a shield if she wants to.”

Because that’s what I want love to be for my daughter, a powerful shield, an active defense against the dark side of the galaxy. Yes, not to passively pine, but to fearlessly wield. In that way she will not waste time sleeping, but be my Fighting Beauty.

Wield love, my girl, in its many forms! Fight for it like it fights for you!