Saturday, May 11, 2013

Paean, From a Distance

It’s not hard to recall good times I’ve had with my mother, ways she’s given me the world, so to speak. She used to iron our sheets right on our beds on cold winter nights, and send us hot baked potatoes in our pockets when we went ice skating down at the pond. She taught me how to bake bread when I was only eight years old, she took us camping, she played games, she unfailingly took us to the library (and paid the inevitable fines). She sewed all my prom dresses and my wedding dress, she threw me a surprise 16th birthday party and I came home to a house full of friends and flower bouquets, somehow she knew what I had wanted most. She takes in dogs and people, and I remember once having a whole litter of newborn puppies in our basement (the latest dog had delivered them) at the same time as a family of Bulgarian refugees. She found homes for all of them. She’s resourceful, intelligent, and compassionate.

But I miss her. I had to spend a solid year bringing these good memories back to the surface, writing them in a journal because they were getting buried by the darkness that has become our recent history. No one can get close to her now; she lives alone with the dogs, communication is nearly non-existent, and what there is of it seems mocking and contemptuous, or the flipside, sickly-sweet and manipulative. The mom that drove nearly 50 hours straight, with a few hours’ stop in the middle to attend my junior flute recital, is now the mom that has no idea I recently had my first essay published, though I tried to tell her. My messages of love are not getting through, and my life is somehow unacceptable to her on its own merits.

Meantime, I watch my own kids, with their individual moments of sweetness and enthusiasm and imperfection, and I want to honor who they are; I’m not sure exactly how much of a previous existence we each bring with us, but I know there is a spark in them (and in me) that began long, long before this moment. We’re in this together, they and I, and you and I, and all of us. And so, I work on kindness. I practice meeting resentment and anger with love. I let my children see my mistakes and how I try to fix them. I offer them my time, my heart, my hands, starting here and now but hopefully forever and anywhere. Who I am for them is who I want to be for you, too, in the end. And for her.

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