Posts Tagged With: Mother

 
 

Forgotten Trains

It’s curious how life circles around.

The chemotherapy treatment my mother has been receiving since her midsummer surgery has ravaged this once vibrant woman. Physically she’s as frail as a cricket’s wing. Mentally she’s as scrambled and unpredictable as a toddler. Whether that’s the effects of the chemo, her stroke from years ago, the cancer, dementia, or a combination of them all, no one knows. It little matters.

img_20191007_104111As a young girl my mother used to let me sit beside her on the piano bench as she played music from My Picture book of Songs  with its charming drawings and seasonal themes. We sang of big black choo choo trains, puppies next door, aeroplanes flying, whirly, twirly leaves and dozens of other sweet topics. That song book still exists sans the yellow cover, having miraculously survived a housefire and six other children loving its pages with pencil and crayon. The cellophane tape mom had carefully applied now scars the ragged-edged pages.

I wrote of my love for and experience with this book and its effect on my life, my children’s lives and my grandchildren’s lives several years ago. What I’d never conceived of happening with this book occurred a couple weeks ago as I sat on the front porch with my mother.

The thermometer barely tapped the seventy degree mark, and a light breeze wandered across the porch. That slight wind carried the sound of a train whistle. That was unusual. Sure, there are tracks that run alongside the state highway half a mile away, but I’d never seen a train in all the times I’d visited, let alone heard one. I remarked on that. Then I said, “That reminds me of the train song we used to sing all the time when I was little.”

Mom didn’t remember the train song.

And so, I sang it to her.

“Choo choo choo, what’s coming down the track?

Choo choo choo, it’s something big and black.

See it steaming as it chugs along.

Hear it ringing as it says ding dong.

Choo choo choo there it goes again.

Choo choo choo choo choo choo choo,

It’s a big black train.

Wooooohooo, wooooohooo,

It’s a big black train.”

She hummed along and sang a word or maybe two.

Within those brief words and notes, mother and daughter switched roles.

We enjoyed a few more minutes on the porch swing in silence, taking in the view of the mountains, and an occasional hawk circling. Lulu the Wonder Cat wandered among our legs, thought about jumping onto Mom’s lap, thought better of it.

Inside, Mom surprisingly knew right where to find that old songbook. She sat at her puzzle table while I sat at the piano to play those old songs for her. She hummed along to some of them. I couldn’t sing, as all my effort went toward holding back tears so I could read the notes.

Full circle sure isn’t what I thought it would be.

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Categories: Cancer, Family, Memory Lane, mother, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Haunted by Dinosaurs and Other Big Scary Things

Illustration by Charles R Knight - http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras.

Illustration by Charles R Knight – http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras. (No, this isn’t from the movie, sorry.)

Friday Letter to My Kids –

Dear J, J, L and L,

You’re gonna think I lost my mind.

I’m haunted today by the movie “Land Before Time.”

I tried to drive it out by singing my super-shortened version of “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, but it wouldn’t leave. I tried eating chocolate, but that didn’t help. Homemade french fries might drown out the image. Maybe I can exorcise it by watching all three extended versions of “Lord of the Rings.” (That’d probably do it, but it would take all night and half of tomorrow.)

I think I just have to face the music and the script and see where it leads us.

I’m fairly certain that L and L have the dialogue and the songs committed to memory. In fact, a mini-soundtrack probably resides in every cell in your bodies. Or at least in your bones. You watched that movie so much I think we very nearly wore the tape out.

The main melody, the very first time, sounds nice and sweet. The four-hundredth time grates a little. I kept  getting bits of that song sneaking into my head today.

Then I could hear Little Foot yelling, “Mother, mother!!” like he does, in that happy I’ve-found-my-mother-after-thinking-I’d-lost-her-forever way he has. And then I’d hear her answering him by simply saying his name, “Little Foot,” with a lilt to her voice that any child would cherish. But that was all I got all day. No other dialogue. No words beyond them calling each other.

So I had to look up some quotes and figure out what I’m supposed to get from this little haunting from your young past.

And there, as one of the first few lines of dialogue,  my answer presented itself. I’ll share.

Littlefoot’s mother: Dear, sweet, Littlefoot, do you remember the way to the Great Valley?

Littlefoot: I guess so. But why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?

Littlefoot’s mother: I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.

Littlefoot: What do you mean I can’t see you? I can always see you.

And then, I understood why this little animated film from 1988 dragged itself out of the dusty recesses of my gray matter and danced around on the surface of my brain all day.

My mom, your grandma, just finished a weeklong visit here and, as you know, on the drive home had another stroke or something very much like it. When I got the call my heart stopped. Oh, she’s okay now, but once again I had to face that void, that inevitable nothingness. I don’t like that.

The Great Valley, for me anyway, serves as a metaphor for everything my Mom taught me and hoped for me. The directions for getting there, a symbol of her caring, all that she’s given me and her enduring love in spite of it all.

Poor Little Foot, so young and naïve. Oh, to be like that, completely oblivious to the possibility of loss, of death, of sorrow so deep you’re sure you can’t ever climb out.

“Why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?”

Mom has always been with me. She’s in my bones, in my skin, in the way I hesitate before I answer. Even though I moved away from home a zillion years ago, she’s still a vital part of my life. Yes, she really is, even if we don’t talk on the phone very often or see each other more than once or twice a year. Just knowing she’s a phone call or a day’s drive away makes life okay. Some day things won’t be okay. Ouch.

I guess what I want to say is this:

“I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.”

That’s what I want to feel and believe about my own Mom. That’s what I hope you feel and believe about me. Although, I plan on sticking around and haunting you, in real life, for a long, long time.

Also, be careful what movies you let your kids watch a gazillion times over, it’ll probably come back to haunt you in some very strange ways.

Love always,

Mom

~~~~~

p.s. Here’s the song “If We Hold On Together” if you want to listen to it.

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

“Let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen closely.” ~Land Before Time

Categories: Death, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

That Monstrous Mama Of Yours

Friday Letter to my Kids:

Dear J, J, L and L,

Parents want to leave a legacy for their children, something of themselves that lives on in future generations. I’m afraid I unintentionally passed on a not so stellar legacy to you four kids.

My temper.

As you know I’m just about the calmest person in the world.

Until I’m not.

Like me, more Looney than tunes.

Like me, more Looney than tunes.

Then I’m like some Tasmanian devil/nuclear bomb of emotional messy destruction.

Witness the dented pan, or two, in the kitchen cupboard, a defunct Scrabble game and the memory of a few holes in the wall from various projectiles. Not to mention a phone call or two I made to evil bullying spawn of Satan children or their parents. The rock/lawn chair/anything within reach launching into to the swimming pool incident needs to permanently self-destruct from all our memories. And, a few others I simply won’t elaborate on due to the statute of limitations time frame thingy. (kidding, kidding…)

No one will believe me if they read this. No one. I barely believe it myself sometimes.

The Incredibly Green Hulk, temper tantrum personified.

The Incredibly Green Hulk, temper tantrum personified.

That’s how calm I usually feel. That’s how cool and collected I come across. The idea of your mother, mild-mannered Clarkette Kent with glasses, turning into a raging, maniacal foaming at the mouth, bad words unleashed kind of person just won’t register as realistic in anyone’s brain matter. Unless they’ve experienced said transformation. Maybe Superman is pushing the metaphor, I should have compared myself with The Hulk, I suppose.

I’m going somewhere with this. Stay with me here.

Loving the illustrations!

Loving the illustrations!

Big L gifted me this children’s book a few years back, Monster Mama, written by Liz Rosenberg and delightfully illustrated by Stephen Gammell. It’s been a favorite of mine. (Second only to “Are You My Mother?”)

Why is it a favorite? Well, aside from the near perfect rendering of my likeness in astounding living color, it seems more realistic than most children’s books about how mothers really are. I love how accepting the son is of his mother’s differences. Also, the two sides of this particular “fictional” mother get equal billing.

Side One

She’s a tender-hearted, sensitive mother who teaches her sweet son profound lessons.

“Always use your powers for good, never for evil.” ~ Monster Mama 

Side Two

She has mother bear killer instincts to protect and defend. When Patrick Edward found himself dealing with some hoodlums

“Monster Mama heard the echoes of his roar. She zoomed out of her cave like a fast-moving freight train and sailed over the creek in one graceful leap.”

Howling, thundering, snapping and red-flamed eyes ensued and justice meted out.

The difference between Monster Mama and myself lies in the appropriateness of her response to stress, versus the often massive inappropriateness of my response to stress. Her lashing out seemed measured and appropriate in defense of her son.

tasmanian devil real

An actual Tasmanian Devil.

I, however, simply explode based on an uncontrolled amount of emotion and frustration not specifically aimed, usually, at anyone in particular. (Hence the wall damage instead of personal injury.) And, I wasn’t always defending or protecting, usually just venting in a rather loud, obnoxious and embarrassing way.

This isn’t the kind of legacy I wanted passed on to you. And yet, several, if not all of you, have this tendency to explosive projectile anger vomiting.

It’s not pretty. Remember?

A more productive, or at the least, a safer way to deal with stress and anger might be to let off a little pressure every day, or every hour, or when the need arises. Instead of doing what I do, which is holding it all in, keeping all emotions stuffed into some tiny box in the back of my brain somewhere, where the pressure builds and builds until nothing can hold it back. And BAM! Whoever unluckily resides in the vicinity when the last straw falls, last bean weighs in, last nerve gets stepped on, catches the wrath of Khan or Kami.

A cliche', I know. But still true.

A cliche’, I know. But still true.

I’m still, even all these years later, prone to monstrous explosions of stupidity and yelling. You’d think I’d have outgrown the temper tantrum thing by now.

Truly. If you can get a handle on the whole out-of-control temper thing, you’ll be waaaay better off.

I know. I know. It’s like having an alternate personality lurking in the dark spaces. It doesn’t feel like there’s anything you can do about it. Like trying to keep a teapot from screeching once the water starts boiling full steam ahead.

I hope you’re more successful at taming your anger demons than your mother.

The last page of this lovely book says what I have always felt for each of you.

“No matter where you go, or what you do,” she told him, “I will be there. Because I am your mother, even if I am a monster – and I love you.” ~ Monster Mama

I feel monstrous amounts of love for you. Beyond anything you can yet comprehend. Please know that.

All my love,

Your Monster Mama

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Say It’s Your Birthday”

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Birthstone bracelet with all four of you.

Not Just Another Friday Letter To My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

It’s my birthday today, which I’m not much thrilled about. I don’t mind adding another year to my rap sheet; it’s just that I don’t like all the hullaballoo and attention.

Sounds contradictory coming from a writer, who’d really like to have her work read and noticed and published. But that’s different.

Big J

Big J

I used to make a big deal about your birthdays when you were younger, remember? Nearly always the streamers would go up after you’d dropped off to sleep. Balloons festooned the room and maybe a little confetti. Sometimes I’d even decorate your bedroom door so the first thing you’d see in the morning was evidence that you were loved and cared about on your birthday. Always, always, a homemade birthday cake with some sprinkles and candles at the very least, or Lego men rappelling at my most creative and silly.

I know since you’ve gotten older I’ve really slacked off on the birthday recognition department. It’s important that you know that no correlation whatsoever exists between how important you are to me and if and when you get a gift or card or even a call on your birthday.

Little J

Little J

You see, here’s the thing. Those four days in my life, the days each of you came into my life, top the Best Days Ever Chart.

Absolute truth.

I can think of little else that tops the days each one of you were born. Felt like Heaven landed in my arms each time!

Makes my heart race just thinking about it, even this many years later.

No one else quite understands the priceless and precious quality of the day of your birth quite like I do. Even your Dad doesn’t get it like I get it.

Big L

Big L

You each made me a mother. You’ve each made me into the slightly crazy, laughing maniacally, tender-hearted, sarcastic, praying, sleep-deprived person that I’ve become. For that, I thank you.

Can’t imagine life without each one of you. Can’t imagine a life without you having graced my days and laced my nights. “Blessed am I among women” to have the privilege of mothering you.

Little L

Little L

So, sure, today is the day I was born a zillion years ago, but your birthdays, oh my. Your birthdays are the days I really began to become who I am. Your lives have brought me joy unmatched. I celebrate you!

Today I want you to know you are loved and cherished. You are each the best gifts I ever got, hands down!

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

P.S. Today’s title was borrowed from a Beatle’s song which I, sadly, never introduced to you as children. Here, to make up for my indiscretion and for your listening pleasure is a classic birthday song everyone should be familiar with. Enjoy!

Categories: Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

That Tiny Button Makes All the Difference

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for the lowly belly button. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that little dimpled spot smack dab in the middle of my tummy.

Just like most buttons, the belly button serves as a connection. Or at least it did at one time. A most important point of contact, that little juncture provided all the nourishment necessary to grow a baby. And amazingly, once that connection disconnects, the baby continues to grow, although nourished and fed through varied and different means than the womb provided.

I’m astounded time and again by newborns. They arrive equipped with all the necessary components to become a full-grown adult. Everything just starts out in miniature form. I look at my six-foot something son and wonder at that miraculous transformation. He started out at a mere eight pounds and now he’s this dude, man, guy, adult who continues to amaze me with all he can do. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t believe it now that I once had a part in his creation. He’s simply the tallest of my children and so elicits the most wonder at the transformation. Each of my kids sports a belly button, witness to our once most intimate and cherished relationship.

Have you ever seen a cuter belly button?

Have you ever seen a cuter belly button?

That first week or so of a baby’s life falls under the surreal category. Watching that bit of umbilical cord shrivel and shrink and eventually disconnect feels almost sacred and bittersweet. Does that seem like a strange thing to say? I find it amazing that instead of some ugly, odd scar left behind, there is instead a dimpled little pocket or a small mound, an Innie or an Outie. A reminder of one’s origins, once a literal link to the metaphorical mother ship.

I like to think the belly button is an homage to those who birthed us. Mother or birth-mother, there existed once, a primal connection. And there remains a reminder of that most precious of bonds, a token of the ultimate life force.

Does yours collect lint? Or do you keep it pristine and polished? Have you added a sparkle of jewelry to it? Do you ever consider the lowly little navel at all? I don’t very often. Since a newborn joined our flock recently I’ve thought of the reason and meaning of the belly button more often.

I laugh at that sweet, funny mark of humanity.

I marvel at the circular wonder of it all.

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Laughing at the Lemons

I’m a proponent of the lemons => lemonade way of thinking. I must have learned it from my Mother. Since her stroke she’s been incredibly optimistic and downright hilarious at times. Now that I’m not hanging out with her on a daily basis, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I know I’m missing out on some great laughs and I-can-do-this kind of thinking. As role models go she’s been the best, but now she’s added new dimensions to what I admire and strive for.

mother quoteOne of the best lemons turned sweet is her sense of humor. Here’s a few humorous things Mom’s said since her stroke:

While still in the hospital, two of my sisters who shall remain nameless, and my Mom in her wheelchair, got into the elevator. The door closed. They waited. And they waited. Finally, Mom, the one who had suffered the stroke a few weeks earlier, and at the time was still struggling with basics like walking and talking and eating, piped up and said, “Shouldn’t we push the button?”

Mom lauded that one for all it was worth. My sisters swore each other to secrecy about the incident. I think Mom was the one who told me about it. For the record, my sister who teaches second grade was NOT involved in that incident.

Always looking out for and concerned about the other person, Mom was talking about how many hours Dad had spent at the hospital, which is an hour and half drive from their home.

“Your poor Dad! While I’ve been in the hospital he’s had to sleep at your Aunt and Uncle’s house, and your brother’s house and at your sister’s house. He’s just been sleeping around.”

Then, a pause, followed by her giggling at how funny her last sentence was.

Sunset

Sunset (Photo credit: armisteadbooker)

Shortly after she got back home we liked to sit out on the front porch at sunset. One evening while sitting on the porch swing, Dad joined us. Not long after sitting down on the swing he started getting a bit irritated at Mom for making the swing rock back and forth. He likes to sit still. Finally he gave up when she couldn’t keep herself from moving the swing. As he got up to walk away Mom thought a minute and then hollered after him, “I guess I’m just a swinger!”

Her giggle turned into a laugh this time. Dad just shook his head and grinned as he stepped inside the house.

Lest you think my Mom has all the wit and wisdom in that duo, here’s an interesting bit about my Dad.

I had plugged my iPhone into Mom’s charger since her iPhone and mine are nearly identical and my charger was upstairs. When I went to unplug it I couldn’t get the plug out. I pulled and tugged and tweaked and got aggravated. Then I gave up for a while. When Dad came in the room I told him my dilemma. He said, “Here, let me see it.” He’s not much into technology, so I thought, fine, he’ll get out some tool and pry it out of there and then we’ll have to buy something to replace what’s broken. He took the phone from me and said, “Have you tried this?” He squeezed the outside edges of the plug and gently pulled the charger out of my phone.

Apparently, Mom’s charger has a couple of release buttons on the side, which mine does not. Outsmarted by the older not-so-tech-savvy-guy again! Dang it. He always had the answers when I was growing up, too.

You can see I’m a lucky girl, raised by such smart, witty, optimistic and persevering parents.

I hope they know how wonderful they are!

Categories: Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Six Things about My Mom You Should Know

 

Mother & Child

Dear Mom,

It’s no surprise to you I’m a word person. You’d think I’d easily write out thousands of words expressing love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. Instead I find the emotions so powerful, particularly this weekend with my son’s wedding, that I struggle with every word I write.

Maybe a list would help me pull my words together. So here’s a few things that I’ve learned from you, about life, about living, about mothering, about the world.

  • Mother is the center of it all. And with mom comes family. Nothing is more important than that bond we have as family. Think about it. When something happens, everyone’s thoughts go to family. Where are they? Are they okay? I want to find them and be with them. If it’s a happy event, we want to share it with everyone in the family. If someone is missing, we feel their absence more than ever. I was lucky to always have you there at home when I came home after school, after a date, out late. There you were. And there you still are, at the center of our family’s lives.
  • Mom has everything you need. All you need as a little kid is everything; food, shelter, love. And mom is there for all that, twenty-four hours a day. Bad dream? Mom comes in to scare away the demons and brings a feeling of safety into the room. Mean kids? Mom reassures you that you’re still loved and cared for. Everything I needed you gave me; compassion, manners, bravery, perseverance, a good work ethic, an ability to laugh. Everything that adds beauty and dimension to my life you gave me also; a love of music, a passion for books, a reverence for nature, a desire for creating.
  • A mother’s influence lasts a lifetime. I am who I am because of my mom’s belief in me, her loving me no matter what nonsense I threw her way, her willingness to sacrifice and her example of sharing.
  • Being a mother is the greatest gift I know. Motherhood defies definition, how it feels, what it looks lile, how it works. Each mother creates her own mothering style.  It’s the hardest, most aggravating, most fulfilling, most heartbreaking, best, worst, wonder-filled insanity a person can involve herself  in. Thanks for not giving up on such a difficult journey that continues to this day. What a ride it is, huh?
  • The world would stop spinning the right direction without moms. Or at least it would feel that way. Can’t imagine the world without my mother in it. Don’t want to. It probably doesn’t even exist if she isn’t there. I’m sure there’s a law of physics that explains that.
  • Unconditional love is what a mother is all about. And I have felt that from you and have hopefully passed that on to my own children. Thank you for that. I know I wasn’t always very lovable, or tolerable, or pleasant, or kind or appreciative. I think I’ve come a very long way since those teen years, thanks in great measure to your never giving up on me. And I know, thanks to your prayers on my behalf.

I know there’s much, much more that you taught me, but I think those six things sum it up fairly well. Thank you for being the mother I needed. Thank you for your continued love, support, sacrifice and caring. I plan on many more Mother’s Days with you, so stay well, enjoy life, and know you are loved beyond words.

All my love,

Kami

unconditional.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Categories: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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