“But you are your mother’s child
And she’ll keep you for a while
One day you’ll be grown, then you’ll be on your own”
“You Are Your Mother’s Child”
I know. Morbid. Titling a post “Dia de los Muertos” (Spanish for “Day of the Dead”) as “Dia de las Madres” (“Mother’s Day”) is on approach (ETA: tomorrow).
Reflecting does that to me. Makes me morbid. Especially when reflecting upon the past, specifically, in this case, the past several Mother’s Days. Which have been of less than a celebratory nature.
I don’t look back as a general practice these days.
It’s just a useless endeavor given The Hateful Eight. That’s the tag, as mentioned previously, I’ve given to the bite out of my life it took for me to arrive at where I am now, recovering from a nasty, nasty case of Empty Nest Syndrome, after nearly 31 years on the job as a full-time wife and mother. 365, 24/7, weekends, holidays, no vacations, no sick days, no pension, and no gee-dee retirement luncheon or gold watch either. (not that I was expecting any of this. As Mad Men’s Don Draper once said to a fellow colleague pandering for a bit of appreciation: “That’s what the money is for!”. Oh. Wait. I didn’t get paid either. Don. ). Recovering to a happy, sanity-restored life, useful, meaningful, purposeful. Or one that’s, in the very least, getting underway.
Looking back brings me down, it makes me sad and, frankly, sometimes it gives me the urge to punch someone in the face. In other words, I’ve found that no good really comes from looking in my rear-view mirror. And since I don’t drive, there’s really no reason to.(More on The “Over Fifty Eyes Incident”/ My Geo-Political Statement/ The Absurd Letter I Got From The California Department of Motor Vehicles not driving later. More on everything later.) (Promise.).
Did you know that sharks have to swim in a forward direction to keep water moving through their gills in order to stay alive? True story. I learned this aquatic fact of survival recently while watching “Nothing Left Unsaid”, a documentary about Anderson Cooper (my News Crush) and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.
Think about it. Have you ever seen a shark swim backwards?
No. You have not. And you never will.
Ever since I aquired this Shark Week fact from the dreamy AC, it has become a solid cornerstone in my recovery foundation.
Just one more reason, amongst many, to love me my Anderson Cooper. 360. (Great dry sense of humor, great spectacles, great job keeping a straight face reporting the 2016 Presidential Campaign…).
I want to survive like a shark too, like a forward swimmer, filling my lungs with fresh, cold bracing water. It makes me feel better. Happier, calmer, more peaceful. I do better. And so does everyone within a 25 mile radius of wherever I happen to be sitting. Given my sometimes urge to punch and all.
This Mother’s Day seems to be shaping up into something a lot different.
A year ago at this time, I wasn’t sure of one single thing in the world. Except that I was sitting at the very bottom of a very dark hole and, hand to God, the only thought I seemed to be able to put together was this: I just want better.
I had heard a saying somewhere, a very long time ago, and that saying was like a faint light that occasionally broke through the banked darkness of that hole I was in and that saying was this: Things get better or things get over.
Last year, I wanted better. I wanted the hell I’d been living for eight years to be over.
This year, on Mother’s Day, things are better with my own mother. After a lifetime of some very rough seas, my mom and I have enjoyed some smooth sailing on the ocean of an adult mother-daughter relationships in a lovely little sea worthy craft for over some time now. Age has mellowed us both and our life experiences have led us to a peaceful island of mutual appreciation, respect and admiration for the mothers we are (and have been) as well as a love for which we are both very thankful. My mother’s mental and physical health has always been, since my childhood, very fragile. Her later years have found her wheelchair-bound, severely disabled by arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. She also had a stroke in her early 60’s, almost 10 years ago, which left her blind and with progressive senile dementia. My mom lives 1,500 miles away from me, in a nursing home, where she attends a book group, arts and crafts classes, plays bingo and always minds her Midwestern manners. Even on Fish Fry Fridays. Which she hates. (“No thank you”, she will politely say to the nursing home attendant who delivers her supper tray,”I’m just not a lover of the fish”). For Mother’s Day this year, I made her a card with fabric daisy ribbons and daisy stickers that I embellished with little rhinestones so that she could run her hands over it and touch my love. Schwink and The Dude, on the piano and the guitar respectively, will play her beloved Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” over the speaker phone during our weekly phone call on Mother’s Day. I will sing. In a voice, as the writer Anne Lamott would say, that would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish. My mom and I have promised one another not to count the days but to make the days count and, so far, we’re both keeping our word. Old moms, new tricks.
The girls will both visit from their respective latitudes and lives-La Belle up from down South and The Badass Bunny down from up North. To my delight, Belle will stretch out on The Dude’s and my couch and proclaim it her “favorite place in the world”. The Bunny, meanwhile, petite and fit, will eat twice her weight in all her favorite foods we’ve stocked the pantry and fridge with; pasta with peas, garlic and olive oil and The Dude’s homemade Strawberry Cake. This is one of those “All I Ever Wanteds”. A home for my kids to come home to. So, check mark on an old childhood mom dream come true. (I love it when that happens. Check marks. And also dreams come true.). There will be talking and laughing on the terrace, reminiscing as well (which is not the same as rear-view mirroring, I can assure you.). I will make up the guest bedroom, do the dishes, make matzoh ball soup and straighten up. They will call me mom, maman, mommy and merm. I will hear my favorite music which is the sound of their laughter. I will have a lot of Happy Mommy Bubbles.
I will be back on the job again.
There will be a surprising, new and magical part too, when, over and again, I will marvel at the fine, independent and accomplished young women the girls have become; La Belle at 25, The Badass Bunny a month away from 20.
And the thing is, I’m learning, they will come and they will go and I will be very happy with the former and still getting used to the latter.
This Mother’s Day, I’m begining to understand and get a glimpse of peace in this particularly unexpected and shimmering part of this life I have to make.