Posted in My Bonnie

Ode to Blonde

When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, What will I be? Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me…

My mother and me

My mother loved that song and insisted I play it for her on the piano. She adored Doris Day too, mostly for her blonde hair, I suspect, ie. her leading role on the stage of American womanhood.

This was long before the internet at a time when one didn’t go looking for a beautiful blonde gal’s background which was awfully suspicious given her real name: Kappelhoff.

I bet my dark-haired, dark-eyed mother didn’t know that Day’s family wasn’t even Protestant, but Catholic like her own.

“It was the only ambition I ever had,” said Day. “To be a housewife in a good marriage.”

She was married 4 times.

But Day’s screen presence offered the illusion of ease and perfection, and perfection is what my mother was after.

Or maybe I misunderstood my mother. Maybe despite her prettiness and married-up wealth, she came to understand that all women, even blondes, suffer, that women’s dreams are lost, and that surrender was the only path forward.

Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.

And yet, after her own failed marriage to my father, my mother began lightening her dark hair, little by little, year after year, until it was yellow-blonde, a color my physician father whispered to me in the hallway of the hospital outside the room where she lay dying, “It looks cheap.”

Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?

I explained to him that his ex-wife’s alimony didn’t allow her to pay what his new wife paid to achieve the right shade of blonde.

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Posted in Ancestors, legacy, My Bonnie

Inheritance

My mother in her kitchen

All of a sudden, I wondered, Had I done it?

I turned to ask my husband but he was asleep. I considered waking him. It was an important question. Timely. Our youngest was about to graduate. But my husband had another early morning ahead of him–at the high school–which is where he will hand our youngest his diploma on the football field as he did our first born.

I had begun shaping my expectations during my own high school years, announced one with specificity, to my health teacher, and on this point, my best friend and I agreed, even while the adults in our lives shook their heads at our naivety, even as our classmates did.

But we’d done it, she and I. We had raised our children without it. Two boys each. Fine young men. The oldest, hers, in his thirties. The youngest, mine, 18.

The expectations grew over time.

What had begun as a girlhood pact–to withstrain from physically assaulting our children–had been extended by me as an antidote to my own childhood:

To No spanking, I added:
No addiction.
No affair.
No abandonment.
No punishment.
No silencing.
No squashing.

At first, I thought perfection possible. That illusion went on far too long. 4 and a half years as a mother–of one–without yelling once. Without losing my cool. Sustaining a loving connection through everything. If only failure would have freed me sooner from such constraint, I would have been a better mother; I would have been gentler on myself.

At first, I thought it possible to simultaneously rescue my other children–7 younger siblings–but on this account, I failed, not for lack of trying, but for trying too hard, so that instead of rescue, I may have pushed some heads deeper underwater, or worse yet, dragging them toward my shore instead of theirs.

But had I succeeded with the two that I brought into the world?

Had I delivered them from birth to adulthood without inflicting trauma?

Had I ended the legacies that I inherited so that my grandchildren might flourish in ways that I can only imagine?

And if so, how will I celebrate? How will I honor such commitment? Such courage. Such vulnerability. Such creativity. Such sacrifice. Such determination.

There are so many ways I failed. One can’t try so hard without leaking joy and ease and spaciousness.

But now the day-to-day is done.

And what have I done?

Have I, like I was instructed by my father when I was a girl, made the best contribution I could make to the world?

And isn’t this now theirs to decide?

“…What is it you plan to do
with your one wild & precious life?”

And isn’t it now mine again too?

Posted in God, Lanscape of Loss, letting go, Light

WTF God

Dear God,

WTF!

Why you keep giving me awesome things and then taking them away!

6012
Licorice
Colorado
Trisha
Lila
Innocence
Childhood
Magic
Conception

And the worse yet–motherhood! Sacrifice everything. End up with nothing.

And love! 
31years with only one possible ending.
Loss

WTF God! I hate you! I wish I never met you! You suck!

Knowing you. Loving you. Has been the biggest heartbreak of all.

Why such separation? Why do you mock me from the sky? Why aren’t I your only. Where is YOUR constancy? Why do you hide? 

I am terrified to find myself tip toeing toward you again. 

I have only just recovered from our breakup.
39.5 years ago.

There!

THE END.

On, and Fuck YOU!

(sorry about that.)

hope you’re well & all.
let’s have tea sometime.

~

(Written February 2017 in Writing Down the Light program with Joan Borysenko at Kripalu)

Posted in Ancestors, Artifacts/My Bonnie, Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie, Spring

Our Mother’s Grief

Though I was 19 before I knew that I wasn’t, in fact, her firstborn–something she confided in the small kitchen of her new home (after she left our father’s), a confession which was meant to be a cautionary tale of fertility (her own at the same age, but alas 3 years too late for me)–it was too late. I had already assumed her burdens, spoken and mostly unspoken, embodied, and here was yet another—a heartache she carried alone for so long—her firstborn daughter, delivered at a Home for Unwed Mothers, less than a year before she married my father, pregnant with me.

“He wouldn’t let me talk about her,” she said. “I just wanted to know that she was as okay.”

Do all firstborn daughters & onlies and even sons carry the weight of their mother’s grief?

Which is not to say, there weren’t other inheritances.

The light of my mother’s consciousness.
Her dedication to study.
Her devotion to home.
Her innate gentleness and good nature.
Her capacity to see a whole person even in those who had harmed her/us–at times to a fault.
Her loneliness. Her isolation. Her martyrdom.

60486281_10157449155313746_6431391089680187392_n.jpg

Posted in Ancestors, Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie, Spring

What women share

All over the interwebs, I’m struck by the honesty, the rawness, the sobriety of this Mothers Day. Is it the weather? (It can’t be snowing everywhere.) Is it the nation’s weather?

Women are waking up to REAL. Speaking truth. Feeling pain. Sharing it. Tending it. Using voice. Claiming space. Including space for joy and rest and reclamation. May it be so.

My compassion tonight extends to all those who have mothers who hurt them. (And all those who have children who hurt them.) And all those who feel less than (or have been told they’re so) because they aren’t mothers. (And all those who wanted to be mothers, and had to find another way to mother.) And all those who have lost a child. (Or a mother.)

The profound depth of what it is to be a woman–what we embody, experience, feel, surrender, claim–is shared among us no matter our race, our faith, our nationality, our politics, our procreative status.

Mothers Day 2019

~

An old friend from college sent me this song today, set to a poem by Maya Angelou.

Phenomenal Women

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Light, Markers, Return, Spring

Let It Be

It was a quarter of a century ago that I spent SpRiNg Vacation bleeding, assured by technicians & physicians that everything “looked good.” (My progesterone was just low and so they gave me some to take.)

It was this night that I would wake before dawn with a kind of rhythmic cramp that I’d never felt before, on & off, on & off. I thought I had a stomach virus.

By morning, I knew something was wrong and so I woke my husband and we drove an hour to the hospital. The midwife extracted the intact sac from my cervix. At least that’s how I remember it. That’s what I can still feel between my legs all these years later.

April 19th.

I’ve never forgotten the date even though the agony of loss was later overwhelmed by the joy of two sons, but not until I miscarried that fall. We had conceived immediately that time, living in the little ski rental beside the brook above the mill across from the cow pasture, our first place in Vermont.

It was the grief of the first loss, at the end of the first trimester, after a year of trying, that drove us from home–from the sea to the Green Mountains.

I was teaching 3rd & 4th grade in a little school nestled against a mountain just across from the ski place when they called me with the results of the ultrasound. I took the call in the nurse’s office and then went into the bathroom and sobbed before returning to my classroom.

I left that school after a single year. I loved my students, but I had fallen into despair, working 12 hours days, which was never enough, thinking my life would always be like that.

My sister sent me a cassette tape in the mail. “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I’d always loved bridges even though I’d planned to name both babies after the Beloved who I lost to one. I still have that plastic Easter Egg that I painted this month all those years ago–a small-petaled flower and the name: Lila.

“When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them off.

I’m on your side…”

I never went back to teaching after that, not full time, but next week I’m returning to that school to consider a classroom support position, twenty-five years after I left.

Perhaps there’s a bit of soul retrieval going on behind the scenes with both boys graduating, one from college, the other from high school, and the book about my grandmother rounding its last corner.

Let it be.

That was the other song from the tape that ministered to me,

“Mother Mary comes to me…

Let it be.”

I’m still learning what that means.

Posted in Ancestors, Spring

April Rocking

When I was a girl, the women in my life would check out with the bottle. One would drink for an entire weekend at a time. Another would start each afternoon with cocktail hour. Others drank here and there until incrementally, here and there became always.

It’s in my DNA, I suppose, this meeting of grief and anxiety and hopelessness and overwhelm, by turning away.

This may be why assisting a meditation program always gives rise to some measure of terror inside. And why, after pushing a few other envelopes of late, I’ve retracted. With sugar. And caffeine. With Netflix. And late nights.

The rocking of the seasons. Inside and out.

So let it be.
So, let it be.
So, let it, BE.

May I be rocked. May I be soothed. May I be courageous. May I be transformative.

May you BE too.