I'm not saying I have it. Story-power, that is. I'm thanking the powers that do because story saves my sanity, and my life some days. The story I've been telling myself is that my daughter doesn't love me anymore, that a boy, a job, a device to text friends gobbled her up, but I remember doing this to my mom.
I remember the darkest days of my senior year, sitting on our six foot table in the semi-light coming through from the living room. My mother, asleep on the divan, arms crossed. Her chocolate permed curls off to the side, a bit of drool starting to glisten off the down slope of her face. My father would be home soon from second shift, and his hour long commute. I had what, maybe thirty minutes? I always got myself to bed before he came home. We hadn't talked in so long. Teenage daughters are aliens to their parents, sometimes.
Mom would start when he came in. She usually woke up when I got in from a date, but I was very careful tonight. I don't know why it was so important to sneak in, not letting the spring-loaded screen door slam, or the inner steel door oomph into its jam. I sad on the table, frozen, with the kitchen knife. I was not too serious about hurting myself, or I would have one of the sharp Chicago cutlery blades that she kept in the back. This was an older knife, with a wooden handle, and I was gripping its blade tight in my fist, hoping it would cut in just a bit.
I slipped off my shoes, slipped up the stairs and sat in the bathroom, in the dark. I would see my father's headlights, bobbing up and down the stone drive. I would have a few minutes to open the door and hide in the tub, ever receeding into the cave. I was spelunking for courage to make the slice deep enough to scar, deeper than the mere scratches I was playing with. And, I had no idea why I wouldn't take this further, or why I had the urge to hurt myself in the first place.
I sat on the edge of that table again another Friday night, this time, with the lights flung on. Bread was cooling on the countertop. My mom was on the stool, chatting with me as I erped the yeast dough I'd pinched and nibbled while I kneaded the raisins and cardamom into the dough. We talked and talked. I told her my secrets on nights like those, when she wasn't the incapacitated mother of seven, drooling in her sleep, dreaming of her husband. In this scene, I brought light to her eyes. In the others, she was shrouded in the mystery of motherhood, in the commands, and exhaustion she brought upon herself. She fought battles she didn't need to fight.
"Honestly, who cares if the beans stay back there one more night?" I begged, swirling dirty dishrags around the countertop, desparate to be free of the QC check for dinner clean-up.
"I do." Doing a job right was worth it on it's own account.
"Maria, come back here. You left crumbs on the counter, you didn't move the canisters to clean up the spilled flour and there is still crusty overboil on the back right of the stove."
"Damnit," I cursed very low, because my mother did not allow even geez in our house. Euphemisms! "Say what you mean." but "That is cursing, young lady."
On the nights we tiffed, I ran to woods, to the phone, out on dates, to be anywhere but there. On nights when my friends came over, my mother turned amiable. Hypocrite I thought, until my frigid spirits forgave. Those nights we talked. That night, I said I wanted to see a counselor. But we didn't see counselors. We prayed. We spoke with our pastors. On that night, I said, I have a fracture in my soul. And the injury unseen healed up, maybe badly. Maybe that is why my run as mom has been so full of its own trips, sprains, falls. That is the story I keep telling myself. Or not. Because tonight, I am thankful that it's not the end of the reel. The thing about stories is that they are snapshots and the story's always unfolding on and on, in the most surprising ways.
- Not only am I thankful for good counsel, but also,
- that I grew up and my mom is one of my best friends, closest confidants, and still someone I want to make proud
- that my dad and mom's story changed and they know the healing power of good counsel
- that my dad is still one of the wisest folks around and it would break my heart to fail him.
- for my spiritual genealogy, the litany of lives, of imperfect humans in the grip of the Loving God
- For mercy, in its many forms
- that my dad told me a while back, when I was being a dour mother, that I had forgotten to laugh,
- for those healthy Tommy-Boy-Style 2x4's to face that knock something lose.
- For laughter, in worthy way of experiencing and for CS Lewis reminding me there are hurtful ways to laugh.
- for Ted talks
- for praying alongside members of my church.
- for folks who show up at prayers, even when I can't.
- for not making a scar, for not having the courage, for being a wimp
- that God has a hand on me and my family.
- that the young people who, when I think of them I want to cry, have the rest of their lives yet and the story isn't finished. Lord, Have mercy.