Posted in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

2:22 am

The undertow of insight is so strong that it pulls me to the shore of waking, and in the alchemy of night, I see clearly, my son’s pain, like the barren planet upon which the Little Prince once landed.

18 years ago this very night, I woke too, with another kind of undertow. My mother’s leaving.

That night, instead of both my boys back home in their own beds for their father’s 53rd, it was each of my siblings sleeping under one roof, like we rarely had, with 22 years between the oldest, myself, and the last of my mother’s children, my youngest sister April.

As retrospect goes, despite being the oldest, I was young too. 36. A newborn at my breast. My mother just a few years older than I am now. My baby sister, 14. My brother 16. And a whole host of sisters in between, in various stages of “grown,” out living on their own.

It was a magical night of co-sleeping, literally beside one another, whole families on wall-to-wall air mattresses lined up in the diningroom (where had the table gone?)~the mattress closest to the kitchen held me, Casey, baby Aidan & Lloyd (missing his first week of kindergarten.)

Just two weeks ago, before returning home to an empty nest (a perch, I now realize, my mother never reached), I bought myself 3 different small packages of tiny tea cookies, one with Lavender, another with Earl Grey, and the last with a chewy raspberry center, which sits beside my rose tea as I type and the clock strikes 3.

We sat vigil with our mother this night, 18 years ago, beside her hospital bed which sat in her livingroom near the bay window where her exercise equipment stood only 3 months earlier.

We took turns beside her. One or two at a time. Until that time, when the turn-taker woke us to say:

It’s time.

But before that dawning, my mother’s namesake went to put on the coffee, and did I open a tootsie pop, the one with the raspberry wrapper, or were we eating pop tarts, the raspberry kind?

I’ve learned that if I set aside some time for grieving, for missing, for communing with this holiest of nights, my mother’s leaving, then there will be more space for celebrating the man born on this day with the boys we brought into this world together, though this was much less true on his 35th birthday after my mother was zipped inside a bag by her high school classmate, the undertaker, and taken out like the trash–a body that conceived, carried and delivered 9 of us.

She is my muse.

Until her death, I had only written for myself, in my journals, but after she was gone, the words poured out in an act of love and consciousness we had long cultivated together, at her diningroom table, though she preferred coffee.

The thing is, neither tootsie pops or poptarts have seeds, like this tiny cookie shaped into a flower that sticks to my teeth even as I sip and swallow.

Today is also the Feast Day of Mary. The Mother of God. A perfect day for my mother’s heavenly reunion as she arrived, like her Aunt Doll did, on Christmas Day.

We are a Marian household. I write across the pond from land belonging to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (of Mary), my own day of birth, and welcomed to the world our first child on Mary’s Assumption.

No doubt it is Mary who thought of the raspberry and the comfort of the Little Prince on the barren planet, knowing what it is to worry about the silent suffering of a grown child.

He was the one to see her blue effervescent light on this land before it was ours.

“You live in paradise,” he says now when he visits.

“Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu’on a perdus.”

If only that quote belonged to Le Petite Prince then this piece would neatly end and I back to bed beside the birthday boy, but alas, “The true paradises are the ones we lose,” belongs to Proust.

Posted in My Bonnie, Pure Love

Josie’s Gift

de la Tour,

It seems unfathomable that ten years have passed without telling about the gift that made such a difference in the year I lost my mother. I must have made mention of it in some piece, but I cannot place it, and certainly it deserves its own work of attention, especially at the tenth anniversary.

That December I lived in a big drafty house atop a hill with a view of distant mountains, open to winds and the long dark nights of a New England winter.  It was the following year that I would have pneumonia; but it was this year that I clearly recall the chill–inside.

Of my seven siblings, only one lived nearby, while the others were strewn across the country from California to Florida to New Jersey. In the vacuum of loss, the separation was excruciating. Despite the presence of my newborn son, the anguish of missing my mother overtook me as I approached her Christmas birthday.

Michelle sent us each a glass globes with painted angels, nestled in felt boxes; and I mailed out collections of music to soothe our souls; but it was the gift that came from Josie that made all the difference.

Josie didn’t know my mother, and she hardly knew me. In fact, she was the bosom buddy of my stepmother who now had little to do with the 6 difficult daughters she inherited from my parents divorce–let alone the extraneous brother and sister who sprung from my mother’s “affair” and her second marriage.

There was hardly a time when we were all under one roof–it wasn’t tolerated–until the morning of my mother’s funeral.  Then all allegiances were set aside and the 8 of us became one.  To hell with step-parents and divorce and half-status siblings, we were all Bonnie’s children.

That Christmas, Josie sent gifts to each of our children, especially the new baby. I received a clothes line fashioned out of garland, lit up by lights, and adorned with outfits, and onesies, and blankets, and socks, and tiny bears of different colors.

But it was the set of candles and the brass candle snuffer, adorned with dangling glass beads, tucked into a crimson bag of satin that deeply touched my soul.  For I discovered that Josie had sent these to each of Bonnie’s children… like my mother would have done.

I watch the smoke spiral out of the brass cap in the hand of my baby who is now ten, begging for the pleasure of extinguishing each candle–in an act that rekindles  the exquisite blessing of Josie’s Gift.

Kelly Salasin, December 2010

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

A Christmas Date with Mom


I promised myself that I’d have a date with my mother today.  I even wrote it on my calender so that I’d stick to it.  But I’m dragging my feet.

“Hi Mom,” I say, with a voice of hopeful expectation. She smiles back, and I feel warm. I restrain myself from saying, “I’ve missed you,” because I’m not sure that’s entirely true; and, I don’t want to scare her away with too much sentiment.

But then I’m at a loss.
What do we do now?

If she were in her diningroom, as she most often was,  I’d pull up a seat across the table and watch her drink her coffee–and know that she’s missing her cigarettes. ( I expect she still sneaks them.)

But today, she probably wouldn’t be home anyway.  She’d be out last minute shopping—maybe replacing the Christmas candy that she bought for the stockings early–and then couldn’t restrain from eating.

I think about skipping our date, but I know it will be forced upon me either way.  I tried to avoid her last Christmas, but she caught up with me–and it was ugly. Afterward, I went into my studio, closed the door, fell to my knees, and buried my sobs into the seat of the  arm chair. (All because I couldn’t remember how old she would have been on Christmas Day.)

This year, I’m ready. She’ll be 67. That’s way too old for her, and right away I apologize for mentioning it. To soften the blow, I tell her that I’ve grown fond of her blond hair. (For years I begged her to let it return to its natural dark brown.  “It wouldn’t be brown anymore anyway, Kelly,” she reminds me.)

She’s glad to see that I’ve highlighted my own hair though she doesn’t know why I don’t let the hairdresser cover ALL of the grays.  (My aging upsets her more than her own.)

“Why do you want to look old, Kel?” she says.  “You’re still so young.”

But I don’t feel young, especially when I worry about my younger siblings.

“I don’t think I’ve done a good job with the youngers,” I confess, filling up with tears.

We’re saved from this tender moment by an email from my father. I glance at it, expecting a holiday greeting or a response to news about his grandchildren; but it’s only a “forward”– a little girl on a greeting card giving me the finger, saying: “Thanks Obama…”

“Dad’s still a jerk,” I tell mom, and we both laugh, shaking our heads. I’m not exactly sure how my mom feels about the new President.  I can only imagine she is as thrilled as I am about what this means; but just in case, I don’t bring it up.

“Any tips?” I ask, returning to the topic of my siblings. I don’t tell her that I’m pissed off that she left me alone with all 7 of them. Particularly the baby. “They seem a bit lost,” I tell her.

She reminds me that they each have their own Higher Power; and we both nod our heads in alignment with the language and spirit of the Program.

I tell her I hope she’s found some nice (slightly) older man to take care of her–bring her flowers, take her to plays, tell her she’s beautiful, light a fire around her idea of a New Age book store/cafe.

Then, I ask her to read my Tarot for the next year like she planned to do in her shop. She’s surprised to find that I have my own cards now.

“It’s because of you,” I tell her.

She admires my spread cloth.  It was a gift from a friend she’s never met.  I suggest we draw a single card to guide our relationship into the New Year.  She suggests I focus on myself. (She was always good at that, reminding me when I was overdoing.)

I choose two cards. One for us. One for me.

I look into her eyes– into those deep brown eyes– and say with tears in mine, “Thank you for loving me so unconditionally.”

“Oh, I made lots of mistakes, Kel,” she says through her own tears.

“I know,” I say, finally allowing her to make amends.

Nicu Buculei / zeimusu

Then she turns to the card I pulled for us: The Six of Swords.  I don’t like the look of the swords; they seem to represent strife; and Mom and I haven’t struggled together like that since I was 12.

Instead she explains that the Six of Swords symbolizes what we’ve always shared–the very focused, intentional thought; the fair witness;  the creative mind that considers the whole, the integrative mind that recognizes sources of inspiration that are sometimes inexplicable.

“Like how the youngers are using their own guidance even if it’s hard for me to see?” I ask.

She smiles before turning to the card I chose for me.  It’s exactly what I like–orangey and pretty–with tulips and flames, and my favorite number 3. It reminds me of my mother.

I look up to see what she can tell me about it.
But she’s gone…

I’m alone again.

I want to cry out, but instead I consider that she’s probably off to a date with another of my siblings. Maybe Oregon or Pennsylvania. And after that, New Jersey, where there will be Eggs Benedict and bottomless cups of coffee with her namesake. The day will probably end with a walk around the lake.

Instead of wishing she was there, I deepen into my own card–the 3 of Wands–the symbol of Virtue and Integrity.  I see that the tulips are actually lotuses–representing mind, heart and action that is unified–exactly what I want in my life.

“This is a card of radiant, dynamic energy,” I hear my mom whisper from afar, “a state from which natural clarity emerges.”

I see that there is a crystalline structure behind the flowers and know that she would like that.

I wish her a big Happy Christmas Birthday.

(To read about another “date” I had with my mother on the first anniversary of her death, click here.)