Sunday, February 3, 2013

But It's Too Cold To Be Mother's Day

When I was pitching my syllabus of readings and writings for my spring mentorship for my mentors, Abby Mendelson, I said I wanted to write the Mary, the Mother of God. So you want to write about motherhood? He asked. 

"Heck, no!" I wanted to yell. I have no expertise on mothering. I got myself into this whole mothering because my mom did a dang good job. I thought if she could handle eight of us-- God called one back before she or he could see this side of the birth canal-- then I could tackle a couple.  

I'm done with any romantic notions about parenting. And, I went in with very few. I helped with my fair share of diapers - Mom used clothe diapers, the ones with the pins and those rubber covers that left red elastic burns around fat thighs and required us to dunk the poo off into perfectly swabbed toilet bowls.-- I cooked my share of meals, starting with granola making at age six.-- She homeschooled us all, so I did my share of singing phonetic sound songs, reading aloud to siblings, and sharing close quarters with everyone. -- We lived in a little RV for nine months while my parents and grandparents built our first non-mobile house with their own hands.-- We moved into it half-finished when I was thirteen,
just in time for me to pen screeds and weepy journals about the sins of 
the mother upon the teenage daughter.
It's a godsend I cannot find the journal where I wrote my mother's manifesto. I was sixteen. I'm pretty sure its full of... horse puckey. Seriously. I didn't appreciate or know the half about being a good mother back then. 

I still don't. I don't want to be compared to the Mother of God. If I read Luke correctly, Mary had a few moments of motherly frustration, justified or not. However, I would like to come out with my mom's record at the end of this. I only have two, so I haven't had seven kids worth of the pangs of motherhood- bearing down, being cut and sewn up for these lives, waking to nurse and change, losing sleep with infants all night, toddlers in the morning and weepy hormonal adolescent girls who don't wake up until 10:30 at night. It turns out, being a morning person during a child's adolescence is a sure way to be an absentee parent, at least the biology of my family, and my husband's.

I want to take stock of the pay-it-forwards I have accumulated being my mother's daughter.

Good moms do many things. They should be paid the big bucks! If my mother had a salary for all she did. She'd be rich. Here's to you, Mom!

I'm going to give a quick honorable mention for being "base" in many games of tags with my friends and siblings. For countless disasters you cleaned up and fixed that I don't know about, because you did it quietly. For playing feeding machine to me and the siblings. For the millions of meals and sandwiches. For loads of laundry, cloth diapers that you carefully ph balanced to reduce red bottoms. For teaching me to speak without euphemism, with correct grammar, for taking us to the library faithfully every other week. For letting the neighbor kids bomb our dinners by yelling through the windows. For keeping our home sacred.
For teaching me how to sew, take apart the stove and fridge for regular, thorough cleanings. For expecting the highest of us in chores, academics, spiritual life, honesty, matters of entertainment, habits of thought and cleanliness, but always balancing that with thrift. 
Here are a few things that you did you may have forgotten but I have always treasured. And, by the way, these are just what I can think of right now. This list could on and on...
Coloring that picture in my coloring book during my nap. I looked at how you outlined the elements and stayed in the lines and I had never appreciated that care made quality. 
I value that memory more now, because I realize you could have done a half-a-dozen chores. Instead you took a moment to rest. A moment to  be, to play. It is so hard for me to remember to do that. I saw a lovely colored page then, and a vision of calmness now.

Leaving your baby doll on my bed after I got over chicken pox. She was beautifully dressed in her trouseau. Oh, that you trusted her to me. You made me feel so important and grown up.

For mastering that garden in Grandma's yard, turning tomatoes into sauce, paste, juice using pillow cases. And for canning peaches with your sisters. For applesauce with one red hot in the bottom of the jar and for bread and butter pickles that are ghosts of the best pickles I ever ate. You taught me many ways to make food. Most of all you provided an example that I too can find the energy and time to provide real food to my family. You, with dad, taught me that good things are cultivated, and to sew what you need.
For sewing so many of my clothes, even though I think I made some pretty disparaging remarks about how my clothes, my homemade peanut butter and bread were not as cool or good as my friends. In our toughest moments, I have leaned on your courage, your thrift, and the absolute lack of resentment you demonstrated while you made Dad's hard earned wages go twice as far. 

For watching Total Recall and countless assisine Jean Claude Vandamn movies with Aaron, Christine, Andy, John, Mark, Lisa, Brandi, Todd, and any of my friends. I'm sorry. But, you cared enough not to just be up, but to know what I was injesting. When that crap harmed my spirit and spun my dreams into nightmare, I remembered your presence and knew you didn't want me to suffer like that. Also, you just liked being around me.

You gave me late night talks when you must have wanted only to sleep, especially since my problems were mostly the angst in my head.

There was teaching me that make up looks best in the smallest doses.
Giving me your curling iron and your alarm clock.
Giving me that handkerchief dress, which I wore out.

Teaching me that nail polish and hair dye are silly. So are Barbies, but you let me 'have' your vintage ones for that time when I couldn't let go of the itch.
For the wooden 'heels' that made the clacking down the halls at church. I felt so grown up. So beautiful.

Lady in Red, I want to be like you when I grow up.
For not putting yourself first. You didn't spend money on beauty products and fancy clothes, and maybe sometimes, I think it would have been a good thing for you to do that.

For driving three plus hours the morning Liam was born, rubbing my leg, being present, not talking much, and then going to be with your friend because her husband was having his cancer cut out. You handled that with grace and self-sacrifice. I want to cry with such gratitude when I think of all the crosses you bore quietly, and you still do.
You bore my spiteful rejections. You took so much suffering on yourself and covered over a multitude of sins. I know it didn't always pass quietly, as you might have liked, but you took on more than most people could ever bear. 

For wanting to be a close friend of mine when I grew up.
For growing beautiful as you grow older. For taking a few tips from me, which makes me think I'm measuring up, but I'm still learning more from you than ever.

Love you, Mom. 

"A wife of noble character, who shall find? ... Her children will rise up and call her blessed." I think "rise up" means grow up. 

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