I adore kids. Especially babies, but really? I like any age. And I always have. Even when I told my mother I did NOT want to get married (who would?? 🙂 ), I told her I wanted kids.
“You can’t have children if you’re not married,” my mother insisted. A logical age 8, 9, 10, & older, I would reply: “Dogs do.” My mother would, yet again, try to explain to me that people were not dogs. We would become distracted over whether dogs go to heaven (at Sunday School they said no, so I wasn’t interested in going), but I never did give in. Marriage left me bored. Kids? Oh yeah!
It took me operations, miscarriages, and a lot of patience to have my two wonderful sons. But even before them, I had cousins to ‘mother.’ And after them, I’ve had nieces, nephews, students & young friends & colleagues. So today’s post is in honour of what it means to mother — not about the many women who have mothered me, but the wonderful men, women, & children whom I’ve been privileged to love & baby.
Obviously, my two sons. Both amazingly wonderful — smart, handsome, witty, and compassionate men. From the first moment I knew I was carrying each one, I was ecstatic. Each was a wanted baby. And I never for a moment regretted that they weren’t girls. Just like I never regret anything about them today.
And nieces. Wonderful young women who are brilliant, funny, beautiful, and confident. And also compassionate. Political in all the right ways: standing up for their friends as well as others. Each of them is a bit my daughter, at least to me. I am easily as proud of their accomplishments as their mothers are!
Nephews, too. Strong, sensitive, intelligent and witty. Each very different. Each a treasure. I am blessed with the nicest guys you can imagine.
And students… So many over the years. Ones who began their first (of several) classes with me crying in my office. Ones who insisted they hated writing. Ones who sat in my office for YEARS eating lunch, never speaking at ALL the first few months… (that made headlines even on the floor where I officed…) Ones whose parents disapproved of them, ones who disapproved of themselves. All I could do was love them. Sometimes hard enough to fail them in class. Sometimes crazy enough to make them smile. But always tapping into whatever it is that makes men & women nurture the young around us.
This Sunday we call that quality ‘mothering.’ Next month it will be a part of ‘fathering.’ And it doesn’t require the biological passage of an infant from inside to outside. It only requires love and gratitude. Which I am grateful to have in almost limitless supply.
So this is the post thanking ‘all my children.’ My biological sons. My daughter-nieces. My nephews. My students and colleagues and friends. Each of you has helped me grow. And all my flaws are gentler because of loving you. Happy Mother’s Day!
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.
Inside the box were 2 blankets — one my mother-in-law made so many years ago for my son. Carefully embroidered w/ slightly faded animals on white squares, surrounded by bright green gingham checks. Edged w/ handkerchief-fold edging. The other a nursing blanket given by one of the many wonderful aunts who have mothered me over my life.
The picture is of one — my Aunt Carol, who still lived at home when I was this toddler, and my mother & I moved back in w/ my grandmother (& Carol) while my father went to one of his many wars.
I am so very lucky in my mothers. My blue-haired old ladies — Grandma, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Ina. My elder teachers: Grandmother Britton & Aunt Velma & Aunt Alene & Aunt Mary. The women who watched over me as I wrote: Fran & Ivy & Jerry. Women older (I still miss Ione…) & younger & older (Shelley & Joye & Pat & Soha) and … and … and. Friends & my sisters & all the women who have saved me from despair, from grief, from losing sight of who I am and can become.
So moving up to Mother’s Day, I’m saying thank you. To the next round of mothers coming up (this is for you, Estrella). To the women who have mothered me throughout my life. And to the women who every day reach out to their friends, their children — born or chosen — and give them love.
Happy Mother’s Day weekend! I love you ~
This picture is an entire poem to me. It’s taken from a great website, featuring the photography of Dr. Gary Greenberg.
What do you see when you look at these tiny grains of Maui sand, photographed under a microscope? I see jewels. And having just spent a week on Maui, much of it on three quite different beaches, I can tell you: the sand is far more like velvet than jewels. Nary a piece of tri-cornered crystal to be found. Or any beautiful red pebbles, or crystalline flower pieces.
In fact, it all looked pretty much like the same ol’ same ol. Sand, that is. But this is what those velvety grains look like close up. And I am bedazzled by that metaphor.
You all know I’m nuts about metaphor. I would have done an entire dissertation on metaphor, had I thought of it (oh wait! I did! That’s what poetry is, isn’t it? :)). Because what metaphor teaches us is that everything connects. And for me? This single picture of approximately 30 ‘grains’ of sand is the perfect metaphor for almost anything.
Feeling like you’re one of the sheeple? That everyone follows the latest trend, and you can’t get out of the way? Examine the incredible differences here. Every one of those ‘sheep’ has beauty, individual beauty. Think you really have a clue what you’re seeing? It’s all an illusion, as Buddhism has been saying for centuries. That velvety sand actually has POINTS. And bright, vivid colours.
In other words, pay attention. Try to look verrry closely. Because what’s within the simplest things — a handful of sand — is beauty. And it’s all around us.