Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother-of-All-Days to You

"There exists a silken red thread of destiny.  It is said that this magical cord
may tangle or stretch but never break.  When a child is born, that invisible
red thread connects it to all the people--past, present and future--who will
play a part in that child's life."  --Ann Hood

Mother. The word is expansive because it encompasses the world entire.  Every moment, every reality, every beat is possible because there was a beginning, and a mother of it:  It is a mother of a problem. It’s a mother of a moment.  It’s the mother-lode.  It is the mothership.  It is the mother tongue. It is the beginning of all things, the locus of possibility.  And because she is the beginning, it is where we find the most help and the most heart.  All of these ideas, definitions, uses of mother—all of them mean “big” “important” and “origin.” 

Then why is it that so often we feel small, insignificant, and finished?

Hey woman.  Oh mama.  You are doing just fine.

And this is my love song to you, in case, in the possibility that there is no one to sing it. Or to keep in time with you.

When you have reached the limit and the end, and your life and your world has come to four walls closing in, with goldfish crumbs and significant sighs, cheerios in places they shouldn’t be, and your sense of smell gone with sour milk, sweet breath, and stains that cannot be lifted. 

You are heard; you are not alone.  It is all right.  It will stop.

When you have gone in to pray over him, this small boned, but standing tall child, and find hours later, awakened to cramped hands, aching head and arms encircling your whole world.

You did pray.  Your whole life and body is one.  You breathed for him once.  In that breath is prayer.

When you forgot the program, the recital, the uniform, the violin, the snack, the time to pick up.

There will be another.  You have not failed her.  You have shown her that you are amazingly human.

When you fell asleep when she was saying
something, “important.”

You are a superpower.  That requires rest.  In your marrow, you know what the important was.  And chances are, you’ll hear it again…and again.

When you realized that there was no amount of time, attention or cleaner that would ever, ever make a significant cease to the piles in the sink.

God’s grace brought you the bounty, and piece-by-piece it will be done.

When the children who you keep feeding and feeding and feeding say together and loudly that you are NOT doing enough, not nearly and not well.

Everyone loves better on a full stomach.  You are doing it right.

When your husband asks innocently yet you hear supposed malevolence in, “what happened here?”

Roles are different and understanding comes from lived experience.  Close your ears to what you think you heard, and take it as an opportunity to tell him about it.

When you look at the face in front of you that has
expanded to include braces and a smile that tore you two is something she will no longer offer and the silence as you bring home your work is so significant and the door between you so solid.

The walls are going to come down, mostly because you will not let them stand.  Persistence will bring change.  You’re in this for the long haul, and she’s counting on it.

When you’ve forgotten the friend, the sister, the mother who nursed you through your own missteps. 

She understands because she’s in the weeds too.

When you hear the word “hate” in any context from the one you have loved from the beginning of all time.

In order to say the word, he has to know its opposite.  Breathe it in; blow it away. 


No one said it would be easy.  The mother of a job of being a mother.  Because in order to be good--in order to be extraordinary, you feel consistently out of step in the cadence of your own life.  The extraordinary highs, I need not tell you but with the up is the down, and those are crushingly low.

Maybe you ache for the heart that beat briefly under your own, or for the absence of it.

Maybe there is pain for the heart that beat over yours, but has been silenced.

Maybe there is longing for the life you gave and gave away.

Maybe that life longing is for your own. 

"Every time I look at the grey streaks in
your hair Mommy, I think of you
carrying Atlas' burden of holding
up the sky.  Because you hold
up ours."
The barter for mother, the shouldering of all the world, the price for the constant vigilance of standing at its edge and holding guard against closet monsters and those in real life, of misunderstanding and hurts, of hunger and the maligning of passion, is nothing more or less than your entire life.  All of it.  There is no part of you that can escape it.  And the fact that you accomplish all that you do while bent like Atlas is living, breathing testimony of how you are meant to be mother.  No one else can do this.  Only you.  Extraordinary you. 

There is loss and laughter and fear and joy and pain and healing.  There is love enough for that, for all of it.  Mothering is a country that you can claim as your own.  It is your own nascent possibility of recovery, of understanding, of being and of hope. 

Seeing you do this.  Every day waking up with optimism and determination to make it better than the day before.  The courage you have to forgive yourself the mistakes you have made, ones you feel will leave grooved marks on the bodies of your children, the courage you show in saying, “I am sorry.  I will do better.  I will be better.” That courage, that faith, that grace makes me want to fight harder myself.

For my children who made me a mother, for the woman who was my own, for the aunts and cousins who shouldered me when I couldn’t bear weight, and for the women not of blood but of heart who carry me still…thank you.  My thread, though sometimes frayed, remains strong because of you.  Happy Mother-of-All-Days to You.

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