mothers

Athens-05One. I drove away from Athens.

For me, July 21st is often a fraught day. Nineteen years ago on that day, my mother died.

So it was with a quiet heart that, on the 20th, Ms. D and I rented a car and headed north, bound for a more remote spot, the island of Evia. After a couple of hours, we found ourselves on a winding mountain road, zipping through hairpin turns which delivered us eventually into lush lowlands dotted with farms and vegetable stands tended by smiling local farmers. We bought jars of local honey and bags of fresh oregano. We loaded up on onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers–ingredients for a classic Greek salad. The sun had kissed the hillsides, turning them amber. And man, what a noisy riot the cicadas were making!Agkali-03Two. I pointed the car toward Agia Anna, on the northeast coast of Evia.

We arrived late in the afternoon, and the sight of the coast pretty much took my breath away. Nothing quite prepares you for that!Agkali-02Three. We joined friends at their villa–old friends for Ms. D, new friends for me. Being greeted like I was a long lost cousin did my heart good.

And I couldn’t help but notice the lavender beds. When our host Mario urged me to take home as much as I wanted, I had to be grateful that I’d slipped a pair of very good scissors into my suitcase at the last minute.Agkali-01

Four. I marked the next day, July 21st, without a word to anyone, even Ms. D, who knew my mother well. At precisely 4 p.m., the hour Lynn Simms Piatt stepped into what poetess Mary Oliver calls “the cottage of darkness,” I was standing with my feet in the Aegean, scouring the area around my feet for beach glass.

I like to think my mother pointed out the only light aqua piece currently in my collection.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Right Heart, Right Eyes

by Becky on January 25, 2013 · 6 comments

in Parenting

Palafrugell_4958

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,

Becky

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Grown Son, Growing Mother

by Becky on January 4, 2013 · 5 comments

in Parenting

Clave finishes dribble castle_8598

As often happens with me at the beginning of a new year, I find myself thinking about the passage of time and the way it changes my children. Watching a child transition from teenagehood to adulthood is one of the weirdest, coolest, saddest, and most brilliant things I’ve ever experienced.

The Weird.  I remember his younger self so vividly still!  A baby so pudgy his thighs used to get chapped when he learned to walk.  A boy who knew he was Legolas, coopting the sword his father brought home from Spain years ago and wielding it against the imaginary foes lurking throughout the house.  A young man on a surfboard, his cutbacks so pretty, you’d forget the athleticism required to make them look so effortless.  Every one of those boys still lives in my mind even though right now, in real time, they’re gone.

The Cool.  Around age seventeen, maybe eighteen, he acquired judgment.  Enough said.

The sad.  He’s an ocean away.

The brilliant.  He reaches out to others.  It’s a talent, and he’s using it.

Watching your kids grow–it grows you, too.  Had I known how much work raising children would be, I would have been more afraid.  But I would have been more grateful, too, for the opportunity awaiting me to be acquainted with a boy like this one.  He is indeed grand.

Clave by ocean_8512

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Why Girls Need Their Girls

by Becky on November 12, 2012 · 2 comments

in Design, Fashion, Fun, Parenting

IMG_6631

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.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Christma2011099

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?

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }