I am crying in the car. It happens a lot lately, since it is one of the only places I can avoid my childrens’ eyes. Keep my eyes on the road, turn up the music and let all the shit I’ve been pushing down rise to the surface. We are at a red light, and I take the opportunity to blow my nose into a fast food napkin that has been crammed into the glove box. Ella is singing along to Ani Difranco, and I laugh at myself, because I have raised a little girl who sings Ani Difranco. I smile at her in the rearview mirror and she smiles back. I realize she can see me, even when I am looking straight ahead.
My birthday is this week, and after giving birth three times I know that my birthday is not mine alone, and that for 18 years my mom celebrated my birthday, simultaneously wishing she could keep me small, and joyfully watching me run towards my future. She never got to see what the future she had tried to prepare me for looked like. I had been in college a month when she got sick, but without blinking I packed my things, went home and took care of her for that last month in the hospital. After she died and I was cleaning out her office, I found a box crammed full of T-ball uniforms, pageant trophies, newspaper clippings, footprint reindeer and 3rd grade report cards. Her belief in me was tangible, a concrete reminder that she wasn’t fooled by my insecurities or doubt.
I could use a little of that faith lately. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and the Listen to Your Mother show. We had a group read through a few weeks ago, and after each essay I felt both a calm sense of community and a rising sense of panic. I am not a writer; I am barely a mother but by chance and biology; who am I to stand next to these women and claim to know something, anything, about this journey?
In this little scrapbook of newspaper clippings and awards, my mom slipped in this essay, which I honestly do not think i had ever taken the time to read until the other day when I pulled out the book to find the essay I wrote for Mother’s Day in 5th grade. This essay by Joyce Hifler is out of place that it had to have been a deliberate choice, a small window into my mother’s own fears that she would not be here to tell me these things herself.
The smallest whiff of wind that blows across the surface of the lake ripples the surface, distorting the reflection of trees and clouds and sky – the merest troubled thought ruffles the surface of the mind, giving a distorted reflection of one’s own self image.
There are not many ways to avoid the disturbances around us – and sometimes even those within us. But as long as we can recognize them as something we can correct, even when we are told how impossible, it is possible.
We were never meant to give up, but to put things in their true perspective – to see solutions where there seen to be none. When something happens to make us ask why life has such sharp turns and rough edges, we must know it is not to beat us down, but to make us fight harder, stand taller, and believe even more in wholeness and peace.
Okay mom. I hear you. Eyes on the road, music up loud, singing at the top of my lungs this time.
If you are local, please come to the Listen To Your Mother show this weekend. It would mean the world to me to have friends in the crowd. Bring your mom, your sister, your daughter, your best friend. You can buy tickets online, or bring cash to the door.
If you are not able to make it to the show, I have a favor to ask. Mindi is also reading, and is part of the 46 Mamas Shave for the Brave team this year. A donation to their St. Baldrick’s team would help fund the search for a cure to childhood cancer, and if there is something all mother’s can agree on, it is that none of our children should have to fight for their lives.