Saturday, June 5, 2010

mama's a rock and a riddle.

i was scanning through my blog posts this morning, thinking on why i can sometimes be so maudlin and other times so raw, when i realized that i have never written anything about my mother. we're close. closer than many mother-daughter pairs i've known. not in an "oh, i need my mama to hug me" kinda way. i don't think my mom and i hug very often. she doesn't really like a lot of close body contact. to her, its invasive and generally indicates someone wants something from you. there was a time when i didn't get this, but at 37 years old, i realize that most hugs are completely unnecessary. why you gotta get all up on me? just say, "hello," or whatever makes sense in the moment. and please don't perform undying love when ya know you'll cut me up sideways soon as i'm gone. this might seem a bit tangential, but it's crucial to how i understand my mother's love. it is not syruppy sweet or romantically nostalgic of first baby steps, and "my how you've grown; i remember how you used to sleep, looking so cute." more like, "i remember when you used to throw tantrums every time someone looked at you." and, "you were hell as a teenager." yeah. my mom keeps it very real. she can laugh about it, but she's certainly not going to sugar-coat the difficulties of motherhood or the stone cold ways you have to love folks sometimes. she's over the "blondie" phase some mother's think they want and deserve. and she would totally consider "baby mama drama" extremely tacky.

despite her seeming detachment and less than "hey, sweetie. i miss you." stance, my mother never hit me. there's not a single spanking or open-palmed slap in my memory. sure. she could give me the most incredulous stares and chew me up with a few select words if the occasion warranted, but she really practiced a non violent and free kinda love during the years we lived together. she gave me space. she expected space in return. she accepted me for who i was becoming, and it often seemed as if she was happiest when i diverged far from her own path.

when i became a mother for the first time, she told me that i'd better prepare myself to do it alone. and she was serious. she didn't descend upon my home with bags of groceries or prepared meals during my first daughter's infancy; she told me the ingredients to the spaghetti sauce and let it ride.

see ... my mother gave birth to me while she was in dental school after deciding against a career as a classical pianist (a choice i don't think i would have made). she finished school and went to work while i was less than a month old. she was present for my dance recitals and special school assemblies, but she never stopped living her life. she became an example for me ... she lived the walk of a woman who understands that her self image is not bound to her children while accepting the responsibilities motherhood brings with consistent energy and force. she has always been there for me with real questions, "what do you need?" and she has always tried to provide that within her means... be it some financial help, an ear for the sorrow songs, or the most insane laughter over the absurdities of life. and in the most painful moments, she has only inspired me to keep walking, come hell or high water. and she never lied about what that hell or high water might include. she would only remind me that i chose it.

folks who know my parents often think that my father is the most radical of the two. he talks more. he's louder. he loves to be the life of the party, smiling and joking and "holding court" during any discussion. but if my mother chooses to grace you with some conversation, you will find that it is she who holds the most progressive view points and rebellious stances on politics and being. my sister has said that if dad would give mom the room to talk more, they'd likely be on the government's most wanted list. i'm not sure about that. i don't think he takes words from her, or refuses space for her to share them. i think that she chooses to speak less and say more. and i am lucky to be one of the few people she talks with at length ... about everything. this continuing dialogue has taught me that she is one of the most intelligent, free-thinking women i have ever met. this should really come as no surprise. she comes from a lineage of powerful women - educators, business owners, and community pillars stretching back into the early 19th century.

she doesn't need a chorus of people backing her up to know that her truth makes sense. she only looks on society (and family) with an amused eye when the trouble comes, as it often must, wondering, "what the hell is so-and-so doing now? you know, some people are really certifiably crazy. and it won't do you any justice to understand that crazy, 'less you want to become that yourself." and she doesn't keep a large group of close friends. i have recently taken a page out of her book in that respect. she says that things are simpler that way. and really, how many people are truly capable of loving you intimately in the ways that you need and want it, and why should you expect that? people are messy.

that doesn't mean you become bitter; that means you love loose and free. you love with the understanding that such a path sometimes means distance. and that's okay. that's healthy. the ones who get the up-close view are the ones who get to see (and sometimes minister) YOUR mess, YOUR brilliance, and the stumbling, fumbling, crazed step-step-pause we do on a regular. those folk ... those are the ones who'll be there when it matters. and that's cool, 'cause who wants a whole chattering army of people feigning some version of proper concern when you just down and out? can we all have some privacy please?! and beyond that, you sure gonna have a hard time keeping up with your happy, if you are parceling it out to everybody and they cousin's sister's brother. measure the emotional shared space. in that sense, she has taught me that moderation is crucial to a life beyond obsessive extremes and luke warm survival, and that learning to be comfortable and appreciative of one's solitude is urgently necessary for the living.

yeah. i love her. and i am thankful to have her in my corner. rock. riddle. beautiful woman, and ride or die friend.

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