Once upon a time, a brand-new mother moved half-way across the globe. She knew no one, and hadn’t a clue — although she had a lot of books — how to raise her baby boy. Her husband was very busy w/ his new job, and the wind blew constantly. Did I mention the wind carried razor-sharp sand?
The young mother was as lonely as she could remember being. And scared to death of this highly breakable tiny animal that never seemed to sleep. What the heck did she know about babies? She was a writer, for cryin’ out loud!
But as many stories of clueless young women feature, there was a fairy godmother. Her name was Ione, and a less likely fairy godmother you can’t imagine. A laconic, no-nonsense Vermonter, Ione had no daughter. Hers — born the same year as our hapless heroine — had died at the age of 5 from a never-solved hit&run accident.
So this is the story of how one woman’s grief became a way in to saving another woman’s sanity.
I hadn’t realised some babies don’t sleep. Years later, I told Ione that my elder son didn’t sleep until he was in high school, and I’m not sure about that. Laundry, sleepless nights, and the ubiquitous sand…
It was Ione who got me through it all. Got me through the move, got me through a subsequent miscarriage, helped me juggle the 2nd infant and the active pre-schooler. And it wasn’t simply that she loved me, although certainly love is a big fixer.
No, it was that she had gone through the worst of possible losses, to me: she had lost a child. Had it fall through the fabric of her life. And she had lived through it. Came out the other side able to love again. Laugh. Be a mother figure and mentor for me, so many years later.
It was years before I realised that I was probably good for Ione, too. It was a visit long after we first became friends — possibly a decade later. She & her husband Robert drove from Vermont’s ‘mud season’ to visit the boys & me in Oklahoma. She brought me a small roadrunner to hang from a chain. Because, she said, I was always so damn busy w/ those boys. And she laughed, happy to be in Oklahoma. Happy — I realised — to be with me.
Maybe a year later, I flew to Boston to study at Radcliffe on my master’s. Ione asked if I’d like to drive up to Vermont to see her & Robert, in the log house they had built after retiring. So of course I did.
What tropics-reared Okie girl knows jack about blizzards?? How was I to know that I was driving through FEET of snow, into a blinding snow storm? It took me HOURS to get to Ione’s, three times longer than it would take me to drive back to Boston after the snowstorm cleared, days later.
Many of my friends have no biological (or adopted) children. Their ‘children’ are the women (and sometimes men) they nurture w/ their infinitely large hearts. Just so Ione mothered me, seeing me through one of the most difficult times in my life. There were days when all I could eat and keep down was her pumpkin bread. Because I knew I was really eating love…
This Mother’s Day, I’m so grateful for the many women in my life who have mothered me. And I’m particularly grateful for a woman long-passed, but often thought of. Whatever happens to our hearts when we die, a piece of Ione’s remains with me.
Happy Mother’s Day, dear heart. I miss you.