Greetings Dear Ones!
I have missed you! I apologize sincerely for the recent lapse in blogs. I know it was only two (and some of you may not even have noticed) but I have been adrift on rough and wild seas. I am writing to you now, battered yet resilient, amidst the rubble of the shipwreck of yet another “former” life. I have sold my cozy homestead in the Enchanted Forest and moved to the wilds of Southern Vermont, where the kindly and beloved hermits of Hermit Hollow have taken me in, along with the sheep and dogs and mountains of clutter I don’t know what to do with. I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into all the whys and wherefores at the moment—just that it seems to be part of a Grand Plan I’m trusting.
As with all Epic Battles, the intervening weeks have been an interesting blend of the hideous and ludicrous. Had Homer known such things in his day, he most certainly would have included in his sagas such tribulations as having the buyer’s bank lawyer research the wrong title, say it was not clear, and temporarily deny funding to the buyer; having the seller mend all the old screens in her attic (at great inconvenience and expense) only to discover that they were not even the screens to the windows of her house. There would be much screeching and gnashing of teeth directed at monsters posing as garage-door-repairmen who put “company policy” over customer satisfaction; most of the army would drop a KitchenAid mixer on its head at least once; and a very tired little witch would drive to Vermont with a fully loaded vehicle, arrive at midnight, sleep four hours and drive back to the cottage in the morning without ever unloading the vehicle! (And not even notice until she opens the door and wonders blearily why she cannot put in any more stuff…)
So! September, which always feels like the “real” New Year to me, packed a wallop! Many hijackings of time and energy propelled me willingly and unwillingly through a series of sheddings and Passages—all of which, oddly, feel like Births. A dear lady is gone whose life needs to be commemorated with fiddle tunes and tears. My daughter’s Birth was celebrated for a 22nd annum. (Last week, my own birthday was cancelled due to lack of interest but I seem to have aged a hundred years anyway, instead of the customary “one.”) New Life, Deep Changes, Exquisite Inconveniences of Epic Proportions…these have Mothering written all over them. The New tears itself away from the old, amidst much grieving and bleeding, so that it can go forth, rise in glory, learn a few new tunes, and then borrow your car keys forevermore. Behind every New Beginning is a Mother—someone who claims “YES. Let’s do this. Let’s dive into the Mystery of ‘what if?’ and find out if it kills us.”
I have been thinking about Mothering a lot.
It began two weeks ago. Inevitably, my slacking-until-the-last-minute collided with the one thing that could trump anything else I do—the needs of my children. So, at 5 a.m., instead of writing a blog about all the pregnant bridesmaids I have been seeing lately or packing up my yarn collection, I was in the Emergency Room of the local hospital, being A Mother myself, and watching my nineteen-year-old blow the most dainty smoke rings using the mix of albuterol and oxygen the staff had given him to open his cramping lungs. I was awash in all those usual “mothering” feelings—concern, fear, tenderness, pity, relief and VEXATION—colliding and cascading with their usual turbulence. He had come home the evening before to help pack and been up all night with a full-blown asthma attack. He had not had one for so many months he was no longer in the habit of carrying his inhaler—which was back in Boston. He lay on the gurney, blowing the smoke rings and giggling just to tease me, now that he could breathe again. He saw my face, then got quiet and said, “Sorry Mum… No…really. I’m really sorry for this inconvenience.”
THAT made me laugh! Inconvenience indeed…
What is Motherhood, or parenting in general, but the most Exquisite Inconvenience? Just ask all the pregnant bridesmaids! It seems like there has been at least one in each wedding party we have done all summer—some poor girl who had no idea her belly would be this size when she ordered her dress six months ago. “Can you do anything to disguise this bump?” they ask. As what? I wonder—a beach ball you happen to be carrying? A watermelon you can’t put down? “I don’t want to look this big in all the photos!” they whine. [Side bar: WHEN are we going to convince the women of this planet that there is nothing more gorgeous that a radiant young woman swollen with impending New Life?] “What if I don’t like this?” a pregnant bridesmaid asks, scowling at her mid-section in the mirror… I’m not sure if she is talking about the changes we are making to her dress or the ones Life is making to her Life. “Oh, Honey,” I assure her, “the dress is going to be fine. And so are you.” But I think privately, “and you are going to HATE some parts of motherhood like you had no idea Hate could hate! But parts of it you are going to love beyond describing. You aren’t going to lose yourself—you are going to find yourself.” “Yes,” says Prudence, “a Whole Lot of Yourself. You may never fit into a size six again.” I continue. “You might have to forfeit your waistline and a perky bust for the rest of your time on earth but you will have hand-colored macaroni strung on yarn necklaces that will be nicer than any jewelry you can imagine, and one day, when someone does a turd in the potty, you will clap as if they had just won an Oscar. Your Joy will be Boundless.” She wrinkles her nose in doubt. Perky tits for turds does not feel like a good trade to her. (YET.)
Talking about the ambivalence of motherhood makes some people uncomfortable. It’s as if those who have decided to play the role of “Mother” in Life’s docu-dramas are to stick to apple pies, serving milk, and kissing boo-boos—never lifting the curtain on the horrors of hemorrhoids, insomnia, bladder incontinence or other Exquisite Inconveniences. I say we need to claim it ALL. Survival is the ultimate in Feminine Power.
Long before I had my first child, I was deeply suspicious of what motherhood would entail. I had gone to a cafeteria style restaurant with some friends—the kind where you pick up your napkins and cutlery at the end of the line. Without thinking, I brought enough napkins and forks for everyone. Sure enough, they had overlooked this and were gushing with gratitude at my practicality and thoughtfulness. “You’re going to be such a great Mom!” they said. When I cleared the table, I heard “Thanks Mom!” I started noticing when people talked about “great” mothers, they were not talking about women who slept until noon, hiked the Hindu Kush or brokered power deals in Real Estate. They were usually talking about the lady voted most likely to clean up the mess.
My personal concept of Motherhood crystallized the day of my grandmother’s funeral. I was 32 years old, 32 weeks pregnant with my son, and had just been released from two months of bed-rest due to pre-term labor. The only reason I was leaving the house was to attend the Life celebration of a beloved woman I adored and for whom I had been named. My feet were too swollen to fit into any of my nicer shoes so my mother loaned me her black clogs, which were a size larger than mine and easy to get on my feet. I wore a huge black raincoat over the maternity romper that would not have looked appropriate at a funeral. (Why do maternity clothes make gestating women look like overgrown toddlers? We are having the babies, damn it, not dressing like them!)
My daughter, who at two and a half was going through “a difficult phase,” was dressed in a white gown with an ankle-length blonde wig over her sweaty curls, topped with a tiara and a magic wand. Rounding out her ensemble were fairy wings and red glittery shoes on the wrong feet. She had missed her nap and was in a nasty mood. She was vastly displeased at having to sit with me on the hard pews and be quiet. She alternated between doing an annoying, boneless sort of wiggling in my arms and swatting me with the magic wand. Three quarters of the way through the ceremony, I had had enough. She needed to go outside and stop distracting everyone. I grabbed her with more savagery than I am proud of, slammed her on what could be found of my hip after the belly had consumed it, and march-waddled quickly out the side door of the cathedral while she shrieked and hit me over the head with her wand. As soon as I pushed hard on the heavy outer door, I froze. I could barely breathe. A contraction gripped me and I knew I was about to wet my pants. Somehow it passed and I made it outside, where it was pouring rain. Another contraction hit. I would not make it too many steps before my bladder burst. I scanned furtively for some bushes where I could relieve myself. Up ahead, in the mist, I spied some large rhododendrons that would serve nicely. Still balancing the raging fairy/troll on my hip, with no way to see my feet over the belly, I squatted in the bushes and tried not to fall over as I filled my mother’s shoes with warm urine. “Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do!” gasped Prudence Thimbleton in horror moments later when we crawled out from under the bushes and discovered I had taken my much-needed piss at the feet of the shrine to the Virgin Mary! There she was, towering above us in the pelting rain, a gentle, sorrowful smile on her face—looking as many mothers often do, as if she knew she should admonish me but couldn’t keep a straight face. I closed my eyes, slipped off my shoes, and just stood there in the pouring rain, holding a bedraggled but now-quiet fairy princess. “So…” I thought, “It’s come to THIS…”
Whenever I think about Motherhood, I cannot help but think of that moment—the panic, the pain, the irony, the humor, the weakness, the strength, the need for good shoes—it’s all there, in the truly Human intertwining of the Sacred and Profane—where we do our best and yet make a Mess—a mess no one else will clean but Us mothers—by that, I mean ANYONE who participates with the Divine Feminine in saying “Yes. Ok, now what?”
As I parent myself through this next chapter and rejoin my Fellow Travelers on this journey, it’s good to remember one other, gooey truth of every Birth: We keep the BABY—not the Placenta. We thank all that which has nourished us and fed us to this point. It was necessary and non-negotiable. But to carry some things beyond the need for them, be they possessions, relationships, or ideas, would be um, either problematic or downright disgusting. Burn them or bury them, thank them and bless them and move on. Some things are absolutely Vital (i.e. Life-giving) until the moment they need to be shed—then to hang on to them means possible infection or death. The Past belongs to the Past. (And so do all our clothes that no longer fit! Don’t drag them to a bewildered seamstress and expect miracles!) As Wayne Dyer says “The Wake of the Boat does not steer the ship.” We each must ask ourselves, “Do I really need the whatever-made-me-Who-I-Was in order to evolve gracefully into Who I Really Could Be? Do I still require food or beverages or relationships which are potentially toxic? Do I really need FIVE spinning wheels, an equal number of sewing machines, and All these Shoes??? (Yes, yes, I really do!) (These astonished hermits have no idea what just hit them!) As someone who has just culled half of her possessions and needs to cull more, I understand how bitter these sacrifices can be—and how Liberating!
I’m grateful to be back in the shop today—looking forward to a new season of Mending and Stitching and lovingly (or grittily) embracing All That Comes! I wish you, Dear Ones, Good Transitions, happy New Beginnings, Fond and Grateful Farewells, and plenty of Autumn Pumpkin Spice wherever you may be. Thank you for your Patience and your Good Work. I love you so much.