Tag Archives: mother’s day

Part 2 – Another Side of Mother’s Day

Kathleen~Cathleen

Kathleen~Cathleen

They say that if you smile you’re brain thinks your happy. I love to quote that when I’m working with a group of nervous adults trying play ukulele and sing together for the first time. It sounds like a joke, and it is a playful comment, but there is something underneath those words that resonates for me. I smile often naturally and consider myself a happy person but I do think it also works the other way around. Laughter Yoga blazes neural trails to stimulate laughter on the premise that where there is laughter, there is joy. Alternately, where there is joy, smiles come easily.

When I was getting ready to write my last post in honor of Mother’s Day and the third anniversary of the parallel blogs of Kathleen (aka mothertone), Cathleen (reunioneyes) with my daughter, my original thought was going to write about the lighter side of being Cathy’s original mother.

That angle was deferred when Cathy asked if we could go into “the gritty side” of Mother’s Day instead. Her writing was taking her into that arena and she wanted to follow its thread from her side. I didn’t tell her that I had been thinking about the opposite approach, “the lighter side of” – to gently poke some fun at the irony of being human in reunion.

I like to follow her direction whenever she takes the lead. It’s part of our dance. I wait for a sign or a word that gives me the high sign as to where we might wander next. Sometimes I come up with an idea for a turn here or there, but most of the time, as far as I can, I wait and defer to her whim. It makes me happy to discover how she’s thinking and what she wants. If it’s something I can do for her, it makes me glad to do it. It was her idea to write the book, Kathleen~Cathleen, and I agreed to the idea to please her. It gave us something unique to do together. It was our personal project.

Ten years later, I find I’ve turned a floodlight onto the raw compost of my past and exposed subdural contents of my psyche and our relationship that even some of those closest to me haven’t seen or known about, and it’s out there in front of whomever comes across our blogs to read. That is outside behavior for me, and way outside of my normal container that has kept my privacy private, my secrets secret and my insecurities secure.

Nevertheless, it’s an exercise in trust between us. Hopefully, it will have the power to strengthen my daughter’s dubious faith in my commitment to her. Even though she hasn’t read what I’ve written yet, the act of writing it opens it up, and by stepping beyond the boundaries of the unknown, sets me on a mythic journey to become completely vulnerable on her behalf. It is the stuff of fairy tales.

The irony is that she knows my words are written and out there but hasn’t read them. My confessions will have weathered under the eyes of many before she reads it for the first time – and that’s the way she wanted it. This was the device we used to spit it all out untethered. So the truth is hanging on the clotheslines from her backyard in Portland and mine in Seattle. The neighbors can see our faded garments that remain hanging in our imagination. It won’t be long now before we are folding each other’s laundry – the way family members do – and that our worn pieces will be in each other’s hands to see for ourselves what they are made of and be real.

Meanwhile, the lighter side of the pair of us being who we are is what makes this all possible. The fact that we do connect – on the phone, in emails – and when we do, we feel quite at home. Even though every layer of our connection is out of synch with the social norms of our culture, there is a very nice place where we come together now, a place we have built on our own, and when we connect there we are engaged. We smile, we laugh, we quizzically explore the thoughts and impulses that herd our conversations. We are warm. We get each other. We are still careful but at home. Our connection holds promise.

Maybe someday our connection will be as deep as our disconnection has been. All or nothing, all and nothing – we are both. Closing the distance between the two, we continue to hike up and down every trail and cross the vast terrain between us as mother and daughter. Every step brings us closer. When we meet, we are together. When we smile, we are happy.

****************************************
To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
****************************************

Advertisements

The Many Sides of Mother’s Day

Kate1956Mother’s Day is confusing for me. When my mother-in-law was alive, I focused my good wishes on her and felt the warmth of her radiant smile over the phone right to the root through the layers of chilly damp dirt that covered my heart.

I had come to her late but when I married her son our two hearts snapped together like Legos. As artists, me with my music and she with her theater, we played our parts for each other in perfect counterpoint. As mother and daughter we filled an unexpected place in each other’s puzzle and there was no question that we adored one another. We shared our secrets and were confidantes. I was her Irish daughter and she was my Jewish mother and we were a perfect pair of hearts. “You are not my daughter-in-law, you are my daughter”, she declared as she sat for the last time on her bed before she died.

There were no tentacles of regret, sadness, or grief to dement our relationship. We had a pure and a happy run and I am grateful to have had the gift of her love in my life. She was intuitive always knew how I really was before I ever admitted it, the way a mother does. She never missed the mark and I felt like she knew me better than anyone. I miss her.

Now she’s gone and I’m back to my confusion. I have loved my natural mother all my life but a limiter seemed to set her heart on low, maybe from losing her first son before I was born. It felt like I wasn’t the child she wanted. Out of the nine of us, I’m not sure if any of us were what she wanted but she made the best of it and fed and kept us until we could feed and keep ourselves. She is alive in a quiet life with my father on the other side of the country in Floridian assisted living, nearly ninety now. She is pleasant on the phone with me the way an old acquaintance is pleasant.

“How’s life in Seattle? Oh, that’s good” she says. It’s not clear if she can hear me, she hates her hearing aid and refuses to wear it, so I yell about the weather and say “I love you, Mom” and without exception she says, “Let me give you back to your father.” As I wait for her to hand him the phone, a dead tone in my ear tells me we’re back to the sound of nothing and the call has been dropped. This has been going on for years now. It’s not her fault. She does her best and I love her no matter what. I just can’t seem to reach her.

I’ve sent her flowers that should have arrived by now and hope they make her feel happy and loved. I wrote her a card this week full of my news, as though we were sitting at the kitchen table over the Lipton’s tea I remember her drinking fifty years ago. I send cards because she loves to get mail, not because Mother’s Day was looming. I just missed her and wanted her to know that I think of her. She doesn’t write me back but that’s okay. She doesn’t have to. I’m okay. I accept the way she is.

My Mother’s Day heart changes direction to see my children. I wet my heart to feel the weather like a finger in the wind. The waves in my heart loosen to rise and fall in the magnetic hold between push and pull and moonlight shines on the surface of my soul. When I close my eyes I can feel the love for my children rise up and fill a thick shell of regret and the brittle sadness softens in the lining under my skin. I stop to relish them in my mind’s eye, the small details they can’t feel me watch and take in. I see their beauty and fears and whisper a silent prayer to protect and nourish them.

I have an insatiable appetite to connect with my daughters. Most of the time, it’s invisible because they look past me to the ones they’ve come to rely on. But my hunger to love them as their mother is there and it has always been there – since the beginning. I learned to contain it when I gave up my first child as a teenager. By the time I gave up my second child ten years later to divorce, I was pretty sure that anyone was better than me to be a mother.

I met my first daughter when I was thirty-seven years old. I had been in reunion with my second daughter for a short time when Cathy came back into my life. A tsunami of conflicting forces stirs between both of my daughters. I can feel the storm brewing to break over the storm wall that holds them back from telling me the truth, like banshees in the wind, and wish me into their lives as the mother they needed and wanted then, not the mother who left them to forage on their own. The mother they have now can’t be the mother they lost. They are two different mothers and I am both of them.

The cruelty of regret is that we are not allowed to return and replay our parts and catch up from there. No matter how good it gets, the damage is done and nothing I can do now will kiss and make it better. The mother I am yearns to tend and heal the cuts of broken trust while the mother I was hides ashamed and sad in a deep well where she will never, ever be found to bother anyone again. She is still in exile underneath my rewoven life. I repeat my vow to be here now and come back to the surface, take a deep breath and rededicate my heart to each of my children, no matter what, to be here for them as long as life is in me.

Even my boys, my two handsome stepsons, know me as a complicated mother. It’s not as hard for them because their mother is in the middle of their lives and I’m more simply an extra, an understudy, an afterthought, who came to love them in her borrowed mother guise when their dad fell for me twenty years ago. I feel gratitude for the love they show me. I don’t nag them with expectations and our attachment is different from what they have with their mother. I adore them and give them plenty of room. If they need me, they know I’m here and I’ve got their backs 24/7. We’re close in a way that works for each of them. I’m lucky to have them in my life. They allow me to love them as sons to a second mother and for me, that is a great and precious gift.

With my daughters it’s different. So far it doesn’t seem to matter how much I try to connect with them and to be present, day by day, year by year – the visits, the voice mails, the texts, the cards, the gifts – or how much I express my love in the words I say (or contain) to prove it. The hunger, sadness and anxiety is there and it’s never satisfied. Our attempts to be close are distracted by pain. Is this the same disconnect between me and my mother? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’ll never know and it’s just the way it is. Even in my prayers and dreams, I am left to trust and hope in silence that my true mother love will find her way to slip in and sink deeply into the tender hearts of my beautiful girls, and soak them in warm comfort that no longer feels the chilly void of my absence but instead keeps them swaddled close to my bosom and nourished in lasting mother love; this mother, here mother, first mother, me mother, real, true and connected-by-heart-body-and-soul mother, as the mother they missed most becomes the mother who croons to her babes in their sleep as they slumber softly and safely in her arms at last.

****************************************
To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
****************************************

Mercy

MotherChild by steve einhorn©2008

Mercy High, Mercy Low (Cathy’s Song):

It’s been a wordy year for mothertone. Looking over past posts, I see where words fail me. No matter how exquisite the words I find to describe, they still nip at the heels of what I’m trying to say. Much of what’s in my heart gets lost in the translation to prose.

All the way back – as far as earliest memories of childhood go, I remember times when my heart was ready to bust with feelings bigger than me and rather than talking to my mother, father, sisters or brothers, I would sing.

I discovered an ancestral gift early on. Singers in my family went back generations. My father says I sang before I could talk. Whatever becomes of me, my songs leave a map of my journey.

As a youngster, I would quiet myself and sing when I needed to let my feelings come out from under my skin. I’d sit at the piano and my fingers would look around and in my young voice, melodies would unwind tangled emotions tied up inside my small world and I would sing them until a sense of peace filled me. Sometimes I was left with a little ditty, sometimes it left me with a song.  It was instinctive and became my practice to seek a kind of peace this way.

It never started with words; a hum opened up with an idea for a melody that would poke around for the story while my fussy mind took a break. I never knew what would come but I trusted it like fishing and learned to wait patiently for my catch. Songs manifested by heart tell what can’t be said any other way.

I look at all the words in my mothertone blog for Kathleen~Cathleen and realize that songwriting is easier for me. So, in honor of the occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share one that found its way out of the thicket as our story unfolded. I wrote it for Cathy and it speaks my heart better than anything else I can say here.

This is a happy mother’s day. I am grateful for all of my children – and to my firstborn child for having the courage to be mine.

(Click “Mercy High, Mercy Low” under the photo on top of this post to hear. Drawing by Steve Einhorn)

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

mother’s day 2010

Life has its quirks. Just when you think you’ve got some things figured out, the mystery reinforces itself. Staying open to the surprise of not knowing as much as you think you do is one of the consistent charms of being awake and curious. If I ever get it all figured out, it’ll probably be over.

One of these topics for me is motherhood. Now there’s a word that evokes response that is completely subjective and strongly felt, no matter what side of the word you live on. None of us would be here without one and everybody has an opinion they feel deeply about.

I grew up in a large family. I watched my mother selflessly hand herself over to the day-to-day and wondered if that was what was waiting for me. It didn’t occur to me to get married and have kids. I didn’t think any more about doing that than going to the moon. It looked like a lot of work and there were other things I wanted to do. From the eleven year-old perspective, life in the world was worth exploring and the freedom to discover what lay ahead, under rocks and over bridges as a free agent seemed a lot more appealing than wiping snotty faces of small people who need naps and feeding a husband you hadn’t seen all day.

That was eleven. At this side of sixty; three husbands, two daughters and two stepsons later, I ask myself if the reason I didn’t hear from any of my children on Mother’s Day is rooted in that eleven year-old resistance to motherhood and a life outside the box as a traveling musician. Or maybe we were just too far out of cell range…

I didn’t know what made it all work in the family I grew up in, but “love” was the reason I was given when asked. “God’s will” was another answer to some of the scarier, deeper youngster questions, like “Why was I born?” “Why do I have so many brothers and sisters?” “Why do we have to go to church?” “Why are we moving?” and “Why do we die?” “God’s will” covered a lot of territory. It wasn’t the answer to why I had to eat my peas at the dinner table but it was a holding place for many of the deeper questions. In retrospect, “God’s will” may have stimulated my sense of urgency to work for civil rights and social justice. Bucking the system for a better world seemed like my best defense to a blanket holding tank I felt a strong need to avoid. “God’s will” changed lives, justified wars, broke people and made them sad and powerless. Working for civil rights, against The Vietnam War, pro-Women’s Equality, gay rights, all became platforms for change that made more elbow room on the playing field for the disadvantaged. I was naive and irrepressibly optimistic. Motherhood looked submissive and didn’t appeal to me. I decided to become a folksinging songwriter instead.

Then I got pregnant. I was eighteen years old and it was two weeks after Rowe & Wade went through. I got the word that new life had started its motor inside my body and I had two weeks to decide what I was going to do about it. The doctor handed me a script with the phone number of a certified abortionist. If I did nothing, my condition was going to turn into a person with all the quirks and needs built into its DNA. If I had an abortion, I could put off motherhood until another time.

I was young and had dropped out of college after an unsuccessful freshman start. Since I didn’t know what I was doing next and “God will” wasn’t clear, I opted to take the next six-plus months and have the baby, give it up for adoption to a nice family who wanted a child to take care of, and then get on with whatever life had in store for me. These were dues and I was paying.

That’s what I did. It was in the olden days of homes-for-unwed-mothers, alias pseudonyms for birth certificates and a months-long disappearance act from the local scene to pull it all off. Eight years later I had another baby. She filled the void and began to heal a hollow sadness created by my relinquishment. Everything about her made me happy. Then her father wanted more children and I left.

Years later, in reunion with my first daughter and reunited with my second daughter, my life steered toward a man I loved and married with two stepsons, 11 and 5 years old. The boys were young, beautiful and traumatized by divorce fallout. I was an outsider but had a sense of humor and could cook. They liked my youngest daughter and wanted her around to scamp with. The kids chose each other. They invited us over. Perhaps they sensed my mother-apprehensive nature and unconsciously thought I might be safe. They could ignore me without offense and I would be part of the background of home with legs that walked around and talked to their father. I could be motherly at times and put good meals on the table. They had their own mother for the rest and she ruled the mother ground in their lives with a regal hand.

Sixteen years later, the four children are grown and gone happily into their adult lives. The girls are beautiful and mothers themselves. The eldest has two gorgeous sons we love without bounds. The youngest has the first grandchild, a young girl who won us all over at birth and will always be the first. There was no question from the start that she possessed my heart in no small way.

The boys are men now, handsome with beautiful hearts and single. The two brothers are close and they treat their youngest sister like blood. The oldest boy was present at both births of my oldest daughter’s sons. They are proud of their roles as uncles to our grandchildren.

We are a family. Hallmark holidays do not define our family. The children in our family have other parents in their pool to consider. Ex-spouses and primary caregivers. We have blossomed into a small tribe of diverse, compassionate, bright and loving people. Life is complex. Proximity is sometimes out of range and we forge ahead to what is in front of us. We give what we can to help them, whatever we have. We hope they feel the love we feel for them. A great deal of the time, I wonder if they even know how much love is here inside for them, how much each of them spends on my mind every day.

I want the eleven year-old in me to go away and get busy making a better world so I can concentrate on making a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and find the place for my family to gather around the table. I want to cook all day and lay their dinner down in front of each one. A prayer slips off my tongue and whispers a hope that God’s will brings my children home and fills them with questions that I can only answer with love.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To read Cathleen’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~