Right Heart, Right Eyes

by Becky on January 25, 2013 · 6 comments

in Parenting


Dear Mom,

Sometimes, when I’m wandering through my flickr account, a photo will stop me, and I’ll think of you. More specifically, I’ll think, What if you could have seen the moment captured by the camera–with your own eyes? What if?

You had lovely eyes, hazel, just like my Goose Boy. I think they served you especially well, and I say that mostly because you had that rare gift: seeing the redeeming qualities in people. You’ve been gone now these fourteen years, and in all that time, I don’t know that I’ve met more than a handful of people who possess that gift. The longer I’m around, the more convinced I am that having the right set of eyes is the work of a lifetime. It’s also a function of having the right kind of heart.   Heart.  Eyes.  If one is right, the other will be, too.

And your heart was just so unfailingly, inspiringly in the right place. Moreover, your grandchildren stole it early on. I look at my girls sometimes and wonder what they would look like to you. When you left us, Miss Lavender was three. And Miss Zinnia, not yet born. But you wanted to see her face. That’s what you said–that you were going to soak up as much chemo as they would allow, didn’t matter how much it poisoned you (I heard this from Nan; you would never have divulged this to me).  And you were going to do it so that you might be blessed–just once, even–to see the face of my baby before the cancer finally got you.

You didn’t get to see that face, did you? Miss Zinnia came smiling into the world on your birthday, just a month after you left it. But I get to see her face. Everyday. And Miss Lavender’s, too, another girl who shares your birthday. The three of you: the birthday club. August 28th.

Listen, I’ll make you a deal. You help me out from time to time: help me tune my heart up when I get cynical and it starts to sputter. And I’ll gaze at your granddaughters for you, all you want.

How delighted you’d be with your birthday girls, if you could see them.

Or maybe you do?

Missing you,


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In A Station Of The Metro

by Becky on January 15, 2013 · 2 comments

in Travel


I’ve always loved Ezra Pound’s imagist poem, “In a Station of the Metro.”  Short, pithy, just a single image, really, it goes like this:  “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.”

The other night, I lost one of my petals–briefly– when she got on a metro train and we didn’t make it.  The warning beep sounded, and as she turned to me, the doors closing, the train starting to move, I was too shocked even to speak.  I meant to tell her, Meet us at the next stop!  The problem:  her train was going the wrong direction.

My other petal and I waited, then got on a train going the direction her sister’s had gone, then got on a train going the opposite direction–the right direction–and stopped where we had started, thinking that perhaps she might have gone back to point A.

She wasn’t there.  I wasn’t worried about whether she could get home.  She’ll be eighteen in August, and she’s smart and resourceful.  I was worried because I didn’t know where she was.  Moms:  you get it, right?–you’re looking for a face in the crowd, a face that doesn’t appear.  Among all the fears mothers sometimes suffer from, this must be one of the worst.

Finally my younger daughter said, “I have a feeling she went to Diagonal.”

Diagonal was where we had meant to go all along.  I said, “Are you sure?  You think that’s where she might be waiting?”  To which she replied, “I am.  I know my sister.”

And so we got on the metro again and rode to Diagonal.  And got off.  And sat down on one of the benches at the stop.  And waited.  Finally I stood up, scanning the platform.  Far down at the end, she was there:  tall, hair to her waist, gray-green jacket, jeans, her back to us, obviously looking for her mother and her sister.

When I got to her, I wrapped my arms around her.  She was fine, would always have been fine.  She wouldn’t have stayed lost.  She had figured out that her train was going in the wrong direction.


I thought of the Ezra Pound poem later that night, and of how the apparition of Miss Lavender’s face in the metro station at Diagonal meant that my heart could start beating again.

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Why Girls Need Their Girls

by Becky on November 12, 2012 · 2 comments

in Design, Fashion, Fun, Parenting


I happened to give birth to two girls. One is now seventeen. The younger, born on the same day as her sister, is fourteen. At the moment, both happen to be on the community bed (my bed, in other words), where one is sifting through fashion blogs and the other is pinning.

But here comes the cool part. The older one says to me, “Mom, I love this blog! This woman works for J. Crew. Half her outfits are J. Crew . . .” And she scrolls and oohs. “Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh,” she exclaims, having collided once again with a great new style blog.  And the younger one says to me, “Mom, you have to see this! Look at these steps!” And she proceeds to show me a DIY she’s found on Pinterest, a cement-mixing effort that involves creating small steps for a garden walkway, each one stamped with leaves, their delicate outlines and intricate vascular systems permanently imprinted on the newly dried stone.

The point isn’t that one girl dies over J. Crew and the other swoons over hardscapes. It’s that my bed has become a staging area for Big Dreams, with a viewership of one–i.e., me.  One thing our move has given me is more time to be a tribe of three.

Sometimes I used to stretch out on my mother’s bed.  She’d be neatly tucked in the way I am tonight, the difference being that while she always wore a white cotton nightie, I’m in a Hanes men’s v-neck and my men’s pajama bottoms (a wardrobe article so comfy and so essential I often consider never taking them off).  And I’d tell her things everyone else would have found meaningless but that she would listen to with quiet delight.  And now here I am, the mother, my girls pointing out all the things that get their hearts racing while I listen.  I used to think I prattled on and on and that my mother was simply indulging me.  Now I know better.  Now that I’m the one in pajamas, I get it.  The important thing is that, whatever my girls are saying, they’re saying it to me.

Girls need their girls, which, translated, means that if you’ve got two “x” chomosomes and a nearby mother or daughter, you should immediately go to the nearest bed, hop onto it, burrow in with your books and gadgetry, and get ready to exclaim to your heart’s content.  Mothers, prepare to be in your element.  Girls, do likewise.  Chocolate, optional.

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Yikes! I’m Being Blog Stalked!

by Becky on November 12, 2012

in Parenting


So I found out recently that a few of my older daughter’s friends read my blog.  Often.  The news came as a huge surprise.  Why would teenage girls get on my blog?  Well, one reason was obvious.  They’re hoping for pictures and news of their friend, something I often provide, though not necessarily with the goal of scrapbooking our life.  But the other reason, I think, is because they may feel a little bit like, when they see her, they’re with her.


I want to speak to that “with” theme for a moment.  (Are you listening, girls?)  Moms ache for their kids to have good friends.  I mean, it’s a physical ache sometimes.  We want them to connect with other young people who will inspire them to want to be their best selves, with all that implies.  In the friend department, this daughter of mine scored.  No, really.  She won the lottery.  Her friends (scooch a little closer so you can hear this, everyone) are highly intelligent, unfailingly kind, gut-bustingly funny, and totally loyal.  Laurel, Courtney, Emily, Brigitte, Caitlin, Bri, and the rest of the Edison crew:  you’re ah-mazing, all of you.  I love you like you’re mine!


And don’t give up on your girl. She may be here with us, but believe me, her little heart is so often with you.


Abrazos and besitos,

Eleven O’Clock Mom

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Eleven O’Clock Mom Talks About Middle Grade Novels

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
by Shannon Hale

 Book Review of Middle Grade Novels - Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

My middle daughter, known to her mother as Zinnia Girl owing to the fact that she looks as much like a fairy in a Cecily Mary Barker illustration as any girl on the planet, absolutely adores Shannon Hale, author of several wonderful middle grade novels.  In fact, a couple of months ago, Miss Zinnia attended a special event at a bookstore in Salt Lake City, The King’s English, where Shannon Hale was signing her new book, Palace of Stone, the unexpected sequel to the Newberry Honor winning Princess Academy.  Now you have to understand:  in my daughter’s world, Shannon Hale is a rock star.  So, when the author not only signed my daughter’s copy of the book with a special dedication but also spent (not a little!) time chatting with her about her taste in books and her particular fondness for The Goose Girl (also a Hale book), my daughter was over . . . the . . . moon!  She talked about it for days.  You would have thought she had met Queen Elizabeth.  Or, better yet, Princess Kate.

When I first read Princess Academy at the insistence of my girls several years ago, I expected something merely sweet, but I was delighted to find the story fresh and compelling, the characters skillfully developed, and the writing lovely.  It was that rare combination, a book that is both quiet and tense.  Palace of Stone is similar.  Miri, the main character, has left her remote mountain home and lives in the lowlands, in the palace, where her closest friend, Britta, is preparing to marry the prince.  But an insurgency has begun, and, when Britta becomes the target of it, Miri must decide two things:  how to deflect the people’s anger, and how to convince the king and queen that they are painfully out of touch with the poor and the suffering who live just beyond the palace gates.  Unless they begin to take a different view of their subjects, they will face an insurrection and possibly the total overthrow of their kingdom.

Although Hale’s books draw from a familiar genre, Miri is no Cinderella!  It’s her resourcefulness and intelligence, not her looks, that make her persuasive.  And her strong connection to her mountain home and the magical properties of the quarry stone found only there are what give her the answers she needs in moments of both conflict and love.

As a mom of teenage girls who love to read, I always feel triumphant when we find not just a book but an author whose work both delights and resonates.  I would so much rather my teen readers identify with Miri–a Renaissance girl if there ever was one–than Disney’s Cinderella, who, as one critic put it, accepts debasement as a prelude to success in life.  So.  Moms out there.  Feel great about the Hale canon!

What are your daughters reading?  Let’s share ideas around!  And, in the meantime, thank you Shannon Hale for bringing us characters of substance and compassion.


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My middle daughter is a bit shy of the camera, so we often have to broker deals when we photograph her.  Additionally, half the time, she’s buried in a book.  Do you know any girls whose mothers have to pry books from their hands, feeling guilty about it the entire time because they themselves would like to be buried in a book as well?  If you do, read on.  If you are that mother, then Hello!–we’re meant to be friends!

But back to the girl I used to call my Consolation Baby.  The story goes like this.  First, my older daughter was born on my mother’s birthday, a gift my mother affirmed was better than any she had ever received.  She (my mother, that is) arrived at the hospital just after I’d given birth, and when I spoke up and insisted she come into the delivery room, my daughter heard my voice, fell completely silent, and looked right at me, a moment my mother witnessed.  “Ohh!” said my mother, tearing up.  “She knows your voice!”

That was a happy day.

Then.  (Prepare yourselves.)  When I was pregnant with Miss Zinnia, who was due the same day as her sister, my mother–who had been battling lung cancer for nearly two years–discovered that her cancer had spread and that it was on its way to her bones.  And her brain.  You can’t imagine the terror.  Or the grief.  Or maybe you can.  Maybe you’ve lost a mother?

My mother passed away on July 21st, 1998, and Miss Zinnia was born just over a month later, on August 28th . . . her sister’s birthday, and her grandmother’s, too. A mother, gone, just like that. And a daughter, here, her little head completely bald and her eyes so blue you couldn’t help but feel quiet, and consoled, when you looked into them. I like to think Grandmother and Granddaughter embraced as they passed each other, which I believe they might have done, though I couldn’t say how. Miss Zinnia, aka Millay. Those who have always known her will tell you there never was a baby so easily made happy.

Once, years ago, a Bolivian woman who was describing the death of her own mother told me, “No hay nadie como la Mama”–“There is no one like your Mother.”  So unalterably true, isn’t it?  When my mom died, I didn’t even know who to be.  But when my Consolation Baby arrived, I figured that out again.

If you’ve lost someone you loved, may there have been a Consolation Child in your life. They are unusual, these children. At times, they seem to channel the loved one who had to go. Sometimes it feels like my mother is right there, and when I turn, I realize it’s not her but Miss Zinnia, no longer a baby, her blue eyes trained on what else?–a book.

I tell this girl that “Consolation Baby” is merely an endearment, not a job description.  I’ve never wanted her to feel like it’s her duty to make her mother smile.  But she did indeed bring something with her when she arrived, all seven-something pounds of her.  Do you have a child who brought something along with her?  Or him?  I’d love to hear the story.  Indeed, stories really power my family.  Maybe they do the same thing for yours?


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