My seven-year-old asked me to see pictures of “Grandma Christine,” my mom. “I can’t remember what she looks like.”
It’s not surprising he doesn’t remember. He was only five months old when she died.
I told him I didn’t have many pictures of her. I explained that this was because she destroyed all our pictures while suffering from a kind of mental illness. I added that the loss of all those photos makes every picture I have of her all the more precious.
I promised to show him those pictures I still have, but a day passed. Another day passed. Yet anther day was apt to pass when he exclaimed an hour or so ago, “Your mom! I still want to see pictures!”
I sat down on the stool in front of my computer. Li’l D joined me there, snuggling up next to me as I loaded my tiny folder of photos labeled “Mom.”
The warmth of Mom flowed from those photos until I got to one longtime readers will recognize: the moment my mom met her first grandchild, and smiled a genuine smile for the first time I’d seen in years.
Li’l D scampered off to play with his new toys as I stared at the photo.
In my blog’s most popular post, “Dear Mom,” I expressed some of the abundant joys and sorrows of being my mom’s daughter. In the two years since I wrote that post, I understand the joys so much more clearly.
I also understand what a privilege it was to be raised by her. I know this might sound strange to someone who’s read about pieces of the poverty, abuse, predation, mental illness, and cancer that entailed, but those were mere fractions of an overall experience bound together by her love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.
Had I experienced all that hardship without her insistence–and demonstration–there could be better, I would not be where I am today.
I like where I am today. I like how I am facing enormously complicated, harrowing truths while finding ways to effect change and retaining my optimism.
How do I know to do these things?
I learned them from my mom.
So today, as I remember the warmth of my son pressed against my side, asking questions about Grandma Christine, I also remember the warmth of being nestled against my mother.
The warmth itself fades, but the memory of that warmth is unquenchable.
Note: If you’d like to read more on the joys and hardships of being my mom’s daughter, please read the series I compiled–largely for my husband–last year:
I ran for the first time
a girl’s just gotta
feel the wind against
her face as her feet
Near the end
of my run, I saw
the woman who called
me a whore.
on the sidewalk,
and shouted after
me about the fat
a bird for them,
which shut them up.
when I reached
the opposite corner, I turned
around and ran back.
The boys jumped
back as I plowed
side of the
run is with
that no words
can hurt more
a half marathon.
sit idle and sling
harsh words, I’ll keep
running … running
A couple days ago, I wrote about a doctor who prescribed me joy.
I explained how this prescription changed how I feel about “just hanging on”:
Beyond that, please don’t just hang on.
Reach toward joyful things.
Seek out and savor that which brings you closer to joy.
Prescribe yourself joy, and enjoy its sweet taste on your tongue at least daily.
I asked you to stay tuned for a guest post request. This post is that request.
I’d like you to sing out what brings you joy. You can do this by actual song, or by prose, poem, collage, interpretive dance, vlog, or whatever other mean feels right and joyous to you. Read more…
decided to give up
his teddy bears and TV
(While not Catholic,
most his friends are.
Also, truck videos
and Sara Bareilles
I, too, am
for now, though
I am not Catholic.
I am giving up
eating the junk
that’s left me feeling
run-down and tired
after eight months
of failing to refrain
over and over again.
But the taste!
Maybe I could have
just one beer?
Almost as soon
as the thought
crept into my brain,
thoughts of Lent
and said “No, thanks.
Not today, or tomorrow,”
I had to give up something important to me to fully experience something even more important.
My teeth, my name.
My mom, my love.
I am not Catholic,
but I am giving up
things I enjoy for
I don’t need to be Catholic
to be glad to have
by its members’ acts,
that I am losing nothing;
I am simply choosing
to trade one sweet thing
in pursuit of another,
ever so much
A man named Mark formally taught my three younger siblings.
He was never formally my teacher, but I learned from him all the same.
He told my mom he’d never taught kids so compassionate as hers. It’s no fluke, he told her. It’s all of them! You are doing great, he said.
You are doing great.
Few people told my mom things like this, though they freely told her what they thought she was doing wrong.
But Mark? He went a step beyond seeing the good to saying it.
With his words, he was able to lift my mom.
I, witnessing her rising, understood better words’ power. Read more…
Each Thursday, Nerd in the Brain writes about three things for which she’s thankful. Today I’m following suit.
1. My son didn’t earn TV time yesterday. He began writing a story instead. Though inspired by something he’d watched, he created instead of consuming.
Each has its place, but as a parent, I love witnessing each (messy, endearing) act of creation.
2. Yesterday I met someone who was so inspiring, I left our discussion feeling like I could build a rocket and fly to the moon if I set my mind on it. I couldn’t pinpoint any one thing–or number of things–she said or did to inspire that sensation, but I decided I don’t need to understand it to enjoy it.
I think maybe I’ll try creating more of that in the world instead of flying to the moon. There’s more day-to-day good in that here on earth! (Also, practically speaking, it’s more in line with skill sets I’ve already developed, so the time investment isn’t nearly so great.)
3. My younger sister is visiting this weekend! YES!!!!!!!!!!
I was born of two abusers.
From my father I learned what I didn’t want to be.
From my mother I learned parts of who I wanted to be–not the shrieking, paranoid ones, but the hopeful, loving ones that reflected her belief tomorrow could be something altogether brighter than today.
My car has no hubcaps.
One of my then coworkers was concerned when the fell off. “That’s terrible!” he opined.
“Terrible? Really?” I asked. “I’d save that word for a cancer diagnosis or car wreck.”
I called my mechanic. “Do hubcaps provide any structural support?” I asked. Read more…