Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Christmas-Cards-05I remember my mother writing out her Christmas cards each year; she was so organized. Her address list was neatly handwritten on a legal pad, updated each year to ensure the addressees received her holiday greeting. Everyone on her list received a short personal note jotted out on Five and Dime Store bought stationery which was then smartly folded and inserted in a tasteful card that was hand addressed and posted with an official Christmas stamp. Also included in was the latest school picture of me in wallet size – my name, age, grade and the current year printed on the back.

My mother also received many such pictures in Christmas cards, some of children I recognized, but many I did not. For instance, my mother had a cousin Stanley who lived in Texas and as far as I could tell Stanley and his wife had about 15 kids. I think I met part of clan once when Stanley put the younger ones and the missus in a RV and drove to Pennsylvania, but if I recall correctly (and I’m not sure I do) by then even the younger ones were much older than me.

Because the Christmas card was such a solid, time-honored institution to my mother, never to be questioned or taken lightly, she continued to sign my name to her cards for a couple of years after I had moved out of the house. She would not have such an impertinent daughter who cared not one whit for a tradition that, in my mind, seemed to only favor the post office and card companies. When I married she began passing along addresses of people to whom I was obliged to send Christmas cards. I bristled at the rigorous act of sending so card to so many – aunts, great aunts, cousins, second cousins and lifelong friends of my mother. Also I was horribly lazy and disorganized and after a few moves, the final one being to San Francisco, I lost many of the addresses. I also patently refused to address the cards properly. It seemed too patriarchal to include only the husband’s first name, so instead I included everyone’s first name and left off the titles that denoted matrimony.

Once in San Francisco I realized that I did not have to send out traditional Christmas cards at all. The card itself could be a hint at my feelings towards this ridiculous tradition. Haight Street, my neighborhood, was full of kitschy shops that stocked cards that ranged from traditional to downright raunchy. I never had the gall to offend my relatives, who without reservation celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday, but I did seek out and cards that were completely non-committal to the spirit in which the card was sent. Also I had acquired some Jewish and Pagan friends so it just made sense to be as inclusive as possible with my season’s greetings.

When my first son was born it became clear that a portion of my Christmas card list wanted photos. I confess to being pretty inconsistent with sending out photos through the years. Usually I would grossly misjudge the number of people who should be receiving photos and order what I thought was a reasonable amount. Plus I’m pretty cheap when it comes to buying anything other than musical equipment, and photos cost money.

My mother died on December 17, 2007, just four months after my second son was born. She never had a chance to reprimand me for not sending a photo of my new son to Mrs. So-and-So. She never had a chance to tell me Aunt So-and-So thought her second grandson was the most adorable baby ever. She spent her last holiday season in hospice in a nursing home and I don’t recall many Christmas cards my mother would have loved to see, reaching her. I don’t doubt that the idea of getting her cards out was on her mind when she had a lucid moment.

This year. This year I got it together. I thought about who would get school photos in their Christmas cards and I ordered generously. Then I sat down with my Christmas list spreadsheet, not updated since 2012 and began to edit. I have but one aunt left. One of my favorite aunt’s passed away just a month ago. I hadn’t been in touch with her in the past few years other than our yearly Christmas card exchange, although I had been meaning to call or write. . . My mother’s lifelong friend, who I had continued to correspond with out of a sense of a shared connection with my mother, has been moved to a nursing home. The great aunts all long gone, the addresses of the second cousins long lost, but I do wonder where they are and what has become of them. I have enough pictures of my kids,  but there are fewer people to receive the photos. And when it comes to addressing the cards I find myself reverting back to the traditional Mr. & Mrs. Still Married Couple, because when I get to the friends on my list who are separated or divorced or never took their husband’s name in the first place, I’m a little stymied. Did she go back to her maiden name? Did the children keep their father’s last name? Frankly I’m back to writing just the first names on the envelope. If I have the extended zip code I know it will get there.

When I moved my mother out of her house for good I came across a nightstand that appeared to have every greeting card she had ever received crammed in its drawers. Clearly those cards meant something to her. They were proof of a connection, somewhere someone cared. It was a brief, brightly colored nod and wave across distance and time that said “We share history. I know you and remember you even if we don’t see each other very often. I want you to know I still think of you and I want you to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (Because who knows how many years any of us have left.)”

Finally I get it, mom.

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Mother

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Dark Phase, Dreams, motherhood
Tags: , , , ,

mom-and-meMother

Mad woman rattling pots and pans in the kitchen at midnight

Hanging wash in the basement at 3 AM

Conversing loudly with the dead

An anxious litany

“You know what they’ll do? Do you know what they’ll do? They’ll come take the house.”

With Daddy gone

The only thing left to lose

“Don’t run the water like that”

“Close the door”

“Don’t you touch the thermostat”

“Do you know what they’ll do if I can’t pay the bills? Do you know what they’ll do?”

“They’ll come take the house.”

That fear

That fear seeped out of the foundation like rain water

Bubbled up from the basement drain with the raw sewage

Forced you to put a lock on the cellar door

But the lock never contained it

That fear sat with me at the kitchen table

Eating boiled meats, mashed potatoes and canned peas

While you stood with your back to us

Eating over the sink

That fear hid in the corner of the living room

Behind Daddy’s empty chair

When we stayed up late watching horror movies

“Spooky,” you said. “Time for bed”

And that fear trailed me all the way down the hall

Lurked, creaking the floor boards just beyond the night light’s glow

While you muttered obscenities in the bathroom.

I left as soon as I could.

You remained vigilant.

I came home years later

To find you asleep in your chair

Amidst bags of dirty dishes

And stacks of magazine

“She needs better care,” the doctor said.

And we shuffled you on

Your belongings falling away

Your life made smaller and smaller

To accommodate each new convalescing room.

 

I sold the house.

 

To pay your way

To keep you with me

Just a little while longer.

 

In my dreams

We are together in the house.

You, me and that fear

“I can’t stay” you tell me

“It’s not safe.”

The locks gone from the doors

The furniture sits in the yard

They have come

To take the house

Even then I cannot contain

The guilt, the shame and

The small victory

That “they”

Would be me

After all.

My mother died 4 months after my second son was born.  The last time I had  a coherent conversation with her was on the phone in my hospital room, letting her know she had a second grandson.  The woman I spoke with after that was no longer in touch with reality. When the time came,  my nearly newborn son and I flew across the country to sit with my dying mother for ten days in a nursing home. There I watched her fade  from this world while  my son become more aware.  It was the powerful balance of life and death unfolding before me, and I tried to attend to the needs of each.    This song is about that time.

I performed it at my CD release party and it was hard singing something so personal in front of a large crowd of friends who were having a good time.  Still, I would like to share it here.

 

Oh the tender time has come

The moment soft and open

Now the ebb and now the flow

Once the weight, but now the fulcrum

Oh the tender time is done

It is the mystery that we’ve been given

Soft then harsh, soft then gone

Our bodies pull to the rhythm

Oh the tender time has come

Cocoon and butterfly

Here for the first time and the last time

Take my hand before you fly

And we are birthing the soul from the body

And we are birthing the child from the mother

And we are birthing the soul from the body

And we are birthing the mother from the child

And we are birthing the soul from the body

And we are birthing the child from the mother

And we are birthing the soul from the body

And we are birthing the mother from the child

The mother from the child