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Our kids are normal. Really.

13 Jul

So this weekend we descended on Hannah’s household.

I’m fairly sure of two things. 1, if they were unsure about stopping at 2 kids, they’re REAL sure now and 2, they have Nova Scotia on high alert for when we enter the province.

My children don’t socialize much. Like, at all. And they certainly don’t get to play with cute little boys who like Cars and trains. And they NEVER get to have sleepovers.

In a nutshell, my children were on their Rambo setting-loud, overpowering and smelly. And I could see the look in the eyes of two parents who already don’t sleep much.

“Dear lord, what have we let into our house.”

I know that my kids are fairly intense little creatures. They play hard, and push push push. As someone trying to raise women who won’t take any shit, I likely encourage that a fair bit. And they aren’t usually around other children or parents. I don’t usually have to worry about moderating things. Nor do I realize what little shits they can be until I step back and look through the eyes of other parents.

But after the 3rd time of someone having to yell after my monkey child to stop her from leaping 8 feet, you realize that your desire to raise a free spirited willful woman may be working a little better than planned. When the little boy comes out crying because Vivian has ordered him out of his own room and into the kitchen, you realize that you don’t really have much to worry about, aside from a vague worry about something like the Jonestown Massacre occurring under the hands of one of my children.

New situations tend to bring out the most frenetic and crazed behaviour in my children. Some kids get shy. Mine ask “Are we going to meet Hannah Montana?” They are genuinely loving, caring, curious little girls.

They are also, many times, irritating, yappy, ulcer inducing little monsters.

I love them either way, it’s just a lot to take suddenly, especially if the cute ball of a baby is coughing and unhappy and wanting take out constantly.

Hannah? Next time, you guys come here so Issac can seek and destroy in their room. 🙂

Photo taken by H.R.H of the Camera, SweetSalty Kate who dropped by in the morning…anyone who doesn’t think I’m in for it in about 10 years is blind or crazy.

We are searching for meaning in the meaningless.

13 Jun


Cuppa?

Originally uploaded by thordora

I’m not a big stuff person. Sure, I like things. But if they go missing, or break, I don’t miss them much. A small “huh” usually suffices, unless we’re talking about my Rainbow Brite doll that I lost years ago, or the hockey stick my brother broke when I was 7 or so.

Stuff just is. I’m not a collector, or a hoarder. My slob tendencies aside, I don’t have a lot of things. I have books. I have music. I have few clothes, little in the bathroom and I can count on one hand the things I’d be saving in case of fire.

Both my father and I believe that death imprints upon you a sense of urgency and need, an awareness of the bigger world looming around you. Things are meaningless to him as well. We like nice things, expensive well made pieces of furniture, sculpture, a perfect light fixture, emotion cast in bronze. We want to respond to that which we own. After losing my mother, little things trickled into the background. You might still want that Wii or those shoes, but you just don’t care enough to save up for it or fight some bitchy lady in an aisle for it.

Those concerns are swept away, replaced by more morbid thoughts, conversations about dying with a 5 year old.

Today, spurred on by this lovely bout of hypomania, I cleaned the counter where everything goes to die, and the shelving around it. On the top shelves live my mother’s tea cups.

All through my childhood I coveted these. I was only allowed to touch them every few months when she took them down for cleaning along with her copper pots. As a child they were delicious to look at, colors so vibrant, flowers so perfect. Each English Bone China, likely worth very little. But when I was allowed to hold one briefly, they may as well been eggs from the golden goose. They were treasure. They were special to my mother and I was allowed to hold them.

For years I didn’t have them, until I moved into this house and my father arrived one year with them.

“You always loved them, and it’s time for you to have them. Otherwise they’ll get broken”

I nearly burst into tears at the sight of them, at the feel of the cold china in my hands, the smoothness of the handles, the delicate folds and bends. My mother’s industrious hands were all over them, and briefly, she was with me.

Tonight this happened again, that bubble flashback in time to simpler things, standing next to the reassurance of my mother, her hands methodically yet cautiously cleaning her tea cups. I found my own hands caressing the china, her arms and thoughts moving through mine.

Vivian asked to hold them and I reminded her they were special and she wasn’t quite old enough. She asked me why they were special, why we had to be so careful.

I told her “Because sometimes a thing can bring a memory back so real that it’s like you’re there. And sometimes sweets, I just want to be with my mommy so bad I need something special to take me there. These are all I have left of my mother, and I need to be careful.”

She asked me if she’s be gone if the teacups broke. I told her no, she’d still be in my heart, but that then the specialness of holding something her hands had once held would be gone.

With that wisdom only the small seem to carry, she nodded and walked away.

They are only teacups. But they are also gateways to another place, another time entirely, where the sun shines heavy on a winter afternoon. Things are meaningless, without the stories built in.

“Age is opportunity no less,than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled by the stars invisible by the day.”

3 Jun

A perfect day Elise: PJ Harvey

I’ve always loved this song. The tension, the pacing of the story, the vividness of the setting despite so few words. It would play itself out so clearly in my head.

To imagine that it’s 10 years old-meaning I’m ten years older. That it still has the same kind of hold on me…

I think a lot about aging, on how I still feel 17 inside, where it counts, but my knee kills when I jog and I can’t eat raw broccoli anymore. I think of it as spaces, bubbles that intersect, co-mingle, but never truly merge. We float into each age, effortlessly in some cases, kicking and screaming in others. Are some of us old souls, unfazed by the passage of years, knowing that they are ultimately meaningless, while others are young, too young, and are angered by responsibility and necessity? Do our stories ever merge?

I spend a lot of my time in public staring at other people. I always have. There’s something fascinating in the little tidbits people let slip. How they adjust their underthings when they believe no one is watching. How they drink their coffee. How they smoke a cigarette. If the person with them is a lover. Who they are, who they’ve been. A story in each individual spark, waiting to be told. A life lived. A baby suckled. A child held, and released. A teenager who danced, or lied to join the war. A young adult, faced with marriage, a job, or the agony of choosing their life work. And old man, staring at his hands and wishing. The loves that danced between, the loves lost, the lives stolen, children snatched.

Artwork that has never seen light. Music never sung. Voices squandered. I imagine every single one of those people a book, covered in rough leather, bound tight to be opened. It’s a mighty cliche, but I see volumes stacked on a shelf in these lives, the moments left to memory that only become real when spoken.

Old age has never scared me. I never imagined that I’d turn into a wrinkled crone, handing apples out to fair maidens. Maybe the image I hold in my head of my mother forms my view on aging-that it means grace, and dignity and wisdom. That it represents coming through and out from the events that tear your life asunder, and arriving at a delicate moth wing of a place where the air is cool with petals and sweet wind and you can breathe and just be, convinced that you are who you should be and that all else matters little. In my mind, my mother is this person-secure and stable in herself, clinging to the mast inside, spine firm and rigid, yet just curved enough to weather the storm.

Of course, she never completed her voyage. She never became a crone in the strictest sense of the word. Her art, her songs, her music died inside her, and has left me searching ever since in the faces of the old for pieces of her, slivers in grey eyes, giggles on blue dresses, a smirk in a corner. My guide in age has left, but has also left me fearless, aware that I walk into the unknown, head high, playing out my own story.

I am roughly the age now that she was when I was adopted. When I was placed in her arms and told “You are her mother now.” When my life became hers, when old age meant my grandchildren surrounding her on a chair listening to her stories about how frightened I was of some silly old Venus Fly Trap and how I couldn’t be trusted to walk home alone, my head in the clouds searching for dreams and leprechauns.  Right now, she would have become a mother to a daughter, and her hopes, her own questions for mortality and aging, for then, and forever and someday would have crystallized into one moment, one song –

I love you.

Age is meaningless. I look into the eyes of my children, and see my mother looking back. Not through blood, but through will and spirit, through the eyes of the older gentleman that seem to say “You’re doing just fine” through the mouths of the old ladies who dote and squeeze and love so unconditionally that I want to run screaming into their arms asking HOW! How did they do this, losing sons, husbands, sisters, friends, until it’s just them, waiting, biding their time and asking where did it all go? In their eyes my mother is 16 and dancing to Elvis, waiting for her true love.

In their eyes, future and past tell their stories to each other, and bubbles burst into the air, showering us with quiet memory. And I wonder where 10 years have gone so quickly.

 

Somedays

1 Jun

I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work, perseverance, dedication, harmony. Somedays, I don’t believe that happiness is a simple thing-an equation of love and contentment, divided by the lives we live.

Somedays, I don’t care. I just look ahead, and see my life, and smile.

 

 

Days like these….everything just makes sense.

The agony and defeat of Barbie

9 May

Tonight, I did something I swore I would never do.

(And no, those of you with your minds in the gutter, it doesn’t involve that.)

I bought Rosalyn a Barbie.

Granted, it’s a fairy barbie, with wings, but it’s still very white, very slim and very un womanly.

She loves it.

Anyone who has known me for any period of time knows that I loathe Barbie dolls. I really do. Maybe it’s because my mother never let me have any. (Because I’d chew their feet off, some sort of oral stress relief thing, not because of any feminist leanings that I know of) Maybe it’s because they’re so girly I don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel they present even a vaguely adequate example of what a woman should look like. Maybe I just hate the plastic.

But I’m also not someone who is going to stand in the way of what my daughters gravitate to. Rosalyn reached for that Barbie in the store tonight as she’s reached for Spiderman, dinky cars or little people in the past. She desired it-not to please me, or her sister, but because she wanted it.

Isn’t that our ultimate goal, to help our daughters decide, for themselves, what they want? Look at many of us-raised to please, raised to ask what others want before us, raised to put the needs and wants of others before us every single time. I want to break this pattern, and I imagine many of you want to as well. It’s rare that we stop and say No, generally because we limit the choices to appropriate ones anyway, leaving it up to them to decide what they’re interested in. That’s how I know Vivian would like some anatomy toys, and maybe a Microscope when she’s a bit older. That’s how I know that Rosalyn loves bubbles and suddenly, Barbies.

Yes, what Barbie stands for bothers me. But she didn’t pick skanky Barbie or “Fashion Model” Barbie. She picked a doll with pink hair she can comb and a pink skirt just like hers. She picked childhood. She picked butterfly wings and dreams. And that matters to me too.

I’m uncomfortable with it in my house, I am. But sitting watching Ros have a conversation with “Bahbie” as she brushed her hair-I’m very comfortable with that.

Barbie pain-do you have it too?

third time the charm?

29 Apr

Kristin left the following comment on my “I cannot handle being a mother anymore” post

Hi Ladies I haven’t been here in a while now, I have been going through some prety hard times lately. In october i found out that i was pregnant with my third baby!!! It was NOT planned and needless to say i was not happy at all!! Abortion was not an option either. I hadve just turned 40 and the thought of starting all over with another baby realy freaks me out actually i hate the thought of it i found myself very angry all the time there were even times where i wished i would just miscarrie then it would be ok but that never happened and now i am almost 8 months and i am soo scared of what is going to happen once the baby is born.

I already have 2 girls 5 and 3 and this one is a boy which i have to admit i was upset about i never wanted to have boys so when i was told that it was a boy i became even more depressed. My husband is ecstatic about having a third but i am just miseable. Has anyone out there had a siimilar experience? If so i would to know how you dealt with it and did your opinion change once you saw your baby? I am so depressed all the time that i feel sick to my stomach and i am not sleeping well at all i really could use some advice. everybody keeps telling me that all this will cahnge once the baby is born that i will just be soo happy and wonder how i could of ever not wanted him.

But im afraid that once hes born i will be even more depressed and that i will just be miserable and hate my life and that it will eventually effect my pretty perfect marriage i just cant feel good about it not to mention thta i am not looking forward to the c section again so please anyone please help with some advice and encouragment i really could use some thanks for listening.

I’m sure she would appreciate any help or advice we could offer.

My two cents Kristin? You need some alone time, and a good therapist to hash this stuff out with. I felt the same way when pregnant with Rosalyn, and spent most of the first year having trouble connecting with her (I hardly remember her as a baby) Some of this is because of my illness, and some because I really didn’t want her, as much as it pains me to say.

You are not the only woman to feel this, so please do not feel ashamed.

Crank Pot

28 Apr

I am unbelievable foul today. I’m tired, I’m fighting with the scratch in my throat and I’d much rather be curled up in a coffee shop rereading Jane Eyre for the 100th time. And oh the people around me. This is NOT a people day. I’m tired of people, especially people talking nonsense about the TV and whining about gas prices.

Sorry people I have ZERO sympathy on the gas prices for cars. I know too many people who have set their lifestyle according to their vehicle instead of setting a reasonable one according to accessibility. We manage it, and manage it well, as can many people in a city setting. So the whining-NOT COOL. I’m not being all superior but really, stop living in places so bloody removed from everything. Stop gasping at me for walking 4kms to work. Stop being part of the problem, kwim?

I grow very tired of the office environment. Thankfully, I’m usually able to get myself somewhere with limited contact, but not always. It’s not so much the people as it is the insipid conversations. Last time I heard a conversation about reality TV? About 10 minutes ago. Last time I heard one about books? uh…..yeah. Too far back to remember.

See? FOUL. I don’t usually ever talk about work, but today I’m tired and cranky enough to do so.

I kept myself busy yesterday, until I realized it didn’t matter. Time has finally softened the blow to a soft kiss. I muttered my usual benediction to my mother as I fell off to sleep, I miss you, I still love you, but all and all, life moves on, as it should.

Anymore it just reminds me how fucking terrified I am of dying young, dying on my daughters, leaving them adrift and afloat. Learning to not anticipate the worst, it’s hard. It’s like relearning how to walk, trying to dispel that hovering cloud. Most days, I can. But other days-it’s a voice always in my head. Cherish what you have. Enjoy it, hold it. It could be gone.

Maybe it’s not so much morbid as it is just good preparation.

I’m cranky.

in our hand.

22 Mar

Winter: Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes

 

***********************************

I’m so desperately tired of winter right now-the dank, the tired snows next to the road, the icy streets that catch me unaware, the damp light that filters through the clouds on odd occasions. I’m done with it. If I could break up with winter, I would. I could do it via text message even-it’s not me-it’s you.

Only 3 months ago, snow was a wonderful blanket, a coaxing covering that looked like pudding-inviting and cozy,a simple cureall for the rotted undergrowth summer had left, sparse under the porches. It cleansed.

Now it’s dark and full of yellows and blacks and browns and the odd disturbing red, especially outside those dirty bars. And I’m tired, woefully tired of it this early easter, this first week of spring.

***********************

I’m tired of a lot lately. A general dis-ease with most of life. I think it’s the snow. I’m pretty sure it’s the snow, or the busy life I’ve had lately, the lack of just plain old sit down, read/knit/sing/do something other than work on work or the house. Dissatisfaction, time, little time, life spinning without my permission as my children grow older and new mothers grow younger. I cannot stop it and yet the snows continue. My life grows quicker and I grow older and the winter won’t budge, shaking it’s head slowly and smiling slightly at my anger and stomping feet.

I feel time now. Wrapping around me, hugging my arms dancing through my ears in whispers, enveloping my daughters in it’s embrace she giggles through my house, through the memories we create, stubborn as they are. Her breath is heavy on my neck as I cradle my youngest for what could be the last time, babylike she holds herself close to me, her eyes shuttered and chest heavy with sleep. Soon, time will move her away from my lap, then my hands and arms, then sight altogether.

Time is in the corner, her watch set for my death, maybe theirs, someone’s. The days of a life on a watch I’d give much to own, and destroy. How dare you path it all out, like a project, little arrows and stars for milestones, saved on a disk somewhere-this is my life, my little world inside these brick wall. She needs to go, to leave us as we are. A moment, blocked off, held firm inside these walls, safe.

They grow older, and away from me. Their thoughts, not mine, their days, unknown to me. I curse this life, these needs, my inability to just sit still and inhale it all, the smell of child, the smell of adventure and hope and possibility. I curse you time. I curse the moments that slip away from me even now as I cry, mourning the time I’ve lost already.

The snow stays. The snow never seems to leave. Or perhaps, that’s just my heart.

*************************

Tori Amos: Gold Dust: Scarlet’s Walk

Love, My daughter, Love

6 Mar


Originally uploaded by thordora

In the late afternoon Sunday of a winter you’ll never remember I took this. Your soft eyes glancing downwards, the pointed button of your nose giggling before you, lips caught.

The sun reaches out to catch you, to caress you, much as my hands do from time to time, lingering on the soft baby cheek, that softness which recedes a little more each day, into memory, into a blue bin kept in the basement, between fragile christmas ornaments and first sleepers.

You turn three in a few days. You cross the threshold from baby to child, that precarious world of “preschooler”-not the toddler you were, yet not the child you will be. Such rare magic this year will hold, and I will miss it. Your frustrations have nothing on your incredible fascination. How you see to world-the babbling brook of conversation with your tiny superheroes in that tent Poppi bought you, the lectures heaped on Teddy 2.0….all worlds condense to one for you-the four walls of our home, the harsh brick that warms you, lets the sun in.

You are incredible in your ordinariness. Where Vivian did nothing the books and charts told us, you follow them, a train on schedule. There’s a certain type of magic in this-pedestrian predictability. A comfort. You are exactly what should be.

And this-maybe this is what I love the most. You are so certain of YOU-no questions, no deviations just stubborn, gonna do it my way you. A you I am proud of and driven crazy by in equal amounts.

It’s Love Thursday, whatever that means, and I remembered how you were howling Ros, wanting juice as I had to run out the door, after I had already given you the exact juice you wanted in the exact cup you wanted.

And I laughed a little at this just now. At your insanity and how someday, you won’t need us, not like this. Someday the sighs will descend and the “fine…..” routine will come to town and I’ll remember a little girl who couldn’t tell us what it is she wanted so badly and I’ll remember a little girl who won’t let me out the front door with anything less than 5 kisses.

Your arms daughter, entwine my heart. It is yours.

Stop Toying with Mothers-SUPPORT the Mother’s Act

29 Feb

Now, I’m not even American, and this is making me hot. As in PISSED OFF.

Some of you might remember the Mother’s Act-back in October there was a blog about day for support. Many of us who have suffered under PPD or PPP supported it.

One day I visit a favorite site of mine. (Well it WAS a favorite. This got it removed from my feeds I was so bloody pissed off) There’s a rambling article about how the Mother’s Act is nothing more than a way to push drugs.

I blinked. I went back to read the bill again. The only reference I could find was under “Findings:

Postpartum depression is a treatable disorder if promptly diagnosed by a trained provider and attended to with a personalized regimen of care including social support, therapy, medication, and when necessary hospitalization.

That’s it. That’s the terrifying “big brother”-oh noes! Someone wants to help women!

Seeing someone equate talking to women about PPD before hand to convincing her she had it really REALLY pissed me off. Reading these stories of women on these crazy mixes of drugs for what seem to be other psychiatric conditions that were incorrectly treated-that’s the fucking POINT of this bill. To HELP.

What in the FUCK is wrong with mothers (and fathers) today. EVERYTHING has some sort of agenda-things aren’t “natural” enough for them. You know what’s natural? Mother’s killing their children because they can’t parent them effectively. Natural is leaving a baby out to die of exposure. Natural is mother’s beating their children from frustration, or working them all hours of the day.

NATURAL IS NOT BETTER. Belladonna is natural. Want some?

I am irate with these people. Talk to me about militant stances on breastfeeding, baby wearing, co sleeping-I will absolutely support you. Start screwing with the first REAL movement towards doing something about postpartum depression, and my claws come out. The absolute IGNORANCE of these people astounds me. The selective tunnel vision amuses me. The odds that any of them have ACTUALLY read the bill…well, that just makes me giggle.

But it makes me want to cry as well.

Even the fucking Wikipedia page has been contaminated by this stupidity.

The most important thing I can remind you of are the women who killed their children because of PPD/PPP. The women who didn’t make it. The lives destroyed, lost forever, the women abandoned. The women we currently can’t help, regardless of what’s wrong. The children who were innocent in all of this.

Andrea Yates

Mine Ener

Dr. Debora Green

Dena Schlosser

Dr. Suzanne Killinger Johnson (This was at my usual subway stop. My mind went wild wondering “Was it here? Here?”)

Leatrice Brewer

Gilberta Estrada

and many more. There are so many of us. So many chances to get it right, to help, to prevent such horror that we close our eyes and refuse to read. To hear people, to see people trying to fight against something meant to do good sickens me. Is only they’d spend the same energy fighting the men and women who torture their children, fighting the system that leaves the poor hungry and without mental or physical health care.

If only they cared enough to truly make a difference, instead of making sound bites.

If only.

“The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.”

28 Feb

I’m holding a bad cup of coffee, too much cream, not enough sweetener, talking to my neighbour about our kids, our street, her new house. Sitting sedately in a semi circle, making small talk with people you don’t really know, people whose kids will soon possibly become VERY known at your house. Vivian is in the gym, doing whatever it is that we came here to do. The letter just said “activities”-we could have been sorting counterfeit for all I knew.

Vivian told me to leave, so leave I did.

I hear a snuffling sad sound, and realize that Vivian has lost her shit.

“I wawaswas scared without you mommy.”

She’s red with crying, with holding it in, trying to be strong like I ask.

“I’m scared sometimes too Vivian.”

*****************************************

This school thing, this leaving my kid in the hands of strangers, especially the bitchy looking one-I’m not comfortable with this. Visions of homeschooling dance in my head instead I realize that we rely mainly on my income, and Mogo has made it quite clear that he wants no part in any nutso homeschooling ideas. But I feel so…turned inside out, reversed, record played backwards about the whole thing. I don’t know if I’m ok with it, with leaving her with people to learn by rote, to learn not to question answers.

I watched her doing her own thing tonight, drawing the ladybug big, not little, and be corrected. And that hurt.

It’s not like I’m raising Che Guevara or anything-I’m not looking for a counter culture overlord. But I want a child who questions everything, and questions it well. I want a child who explores her boundaries, who isn’t satisfied with stopping at the lines, or mimicking perfectly what someone else has already done.

Why all this interest in mimicry? Why is there never the same interest in newness?

I am concerned about the tomorrows. The 10 years from now. I am worried that like me, she’ll need to fight her way back to learning how to stop listening to that voice in her head that tells her she’s wrong, that there’s a “right” way to do things. The smartest people I’ve ever known knew that there was rarely a single “right” way to do anything-but many, many possibilities.

And perhaps this is what it’s really about. Potential. Possibility. People feel no compunction about arguing against abortion, claiming we’re limiting potential. But the same argument isn’t always used about schools, and their ability to suck the love for learning and curiosity out of all but the rarest of children. She has such sparkling potential, such a rare spark and gift for oration and relation. She wants to know-constantly-in that way that I truly believe most kids want to know yet have it smothered out of them.

The chubby, slow disinterested children scared me the most, their potential almost completely buried under 4 years of something that wasn’t even close to being ideal. Watching Vivian get less attention for knowing the answer-this I remember from my childhood, and still resent. The message I always got was “You aren’t worthy of anything more than you already are.”

Imagining anyone thinking that about my daughters, or your sons, makes me want to curl up and cry.

I’d like to think it would be different if they weren’t attending public school. (And yes, that IS catholic school kid snobbery-I confronted it earlier tonight) But I don’t think it would be. There’s something terribly wrong with a system that creates so few true scholars and learners, a system that makes the mechanically inclined feel stupid (when we all know that the plumbers and the mechanics will make more than I would even WITH my english degree). There is something so wrong about a system that makes me question whether or not I even want my children in it so much.

Receiving letters reminding me to read to my children really depress me. The fact that people need to be told these things-doesn’t that maybe tell you that something has been broken for a very long time?

*****************************

“I want to put my sparkly shoes on.” I had carried a pair of “inside shoes” with me just in case we needed them.

“Sure baby. Sparkles always make me less afraid.”

We put them on, her little body still trembling in that sheer terror you only fear as a little girl. The younger teacher, the one I want her to have who is pregnant and likely to pop over the summer leads her to the water fountain, holds her hair gently as Vivian figures it out for the first time, the first of many drinks.

My heart flops. I remember the kindness of many soft blonde teachers. I remember many trips to the fountain, the joy of something finally your size.

We walk back to the gym.

“You need to stay with me Mommy.”

I hover behind her the rest of the night, comforted by another mother doing the same. The only downfall of never using daycare.

Vivian regains her confidence, starts blurting the answers before remembering herself and her manners. She tries to follow the instructions, she really does. Mostly she succeeds. She turns now and then, looking for me. If she doesn’t immediately see me, her hair flips from side to side to side, her eyes fill, her lip quivers. Then she sees me.

“I’m right here honey. I’m not going anywhere.”

                      dsc04489.jpg

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”

16 Feb

I miss my mother today.

It’s subtle. Days, weeks, months-time will fly by with nary a thought or a word of her. Then a day will come where I’ll be enveloped in that long lost grief, held down and forced to bear it. And I’ll be that 11 year old girl again-weak at the knees, confused, upset and hollow.

Rosalyn spent the day climbing over me, up me, around me, her thin arms stretching behind my neck as if she was trying to become one with me once more. She spent the day reminding me what I’m missing, what I had once. Arms that no longer hold me. Lips that will never again say my name.

I crave for my loved ones to call my name, so that I’ll remember the word on their lips if ever they pass. To hear the syllables float softly into the air before me to linger, so I can hold them close.

I miss the smaller intimacies that motherhood brings. Someone who brushes your hair without hurting. Someone who knows how brown you like your toast. The socks you like. The exact color of your eyes and why you hate mousse. My daughters remind me of this some days, days like today when the sun, finally the sun! poured in like maple through the windows and glowed on their honey wheat heads, luminescent.

I remember weekend days like this with my mother, the slow pouring of hours, like honey. We’d watch old movies, cuddled on the couch. I’d have a sandwich for lunch, we walk downtown, stopping to talk, the waltz of a small town main drag. We’d sit at the bar, tucked in a corner of our house, and she’d play music on glasses filled with water as I’d sit, entranced. The sun would blaze through the windows, and it was like life would never end.

Things end however. Too soon, they end.

Today I could feel her hands in mine, dangling around me. And I missed her. I ached for her, for this mother I barely know, this mother mine who I’ll never see again, a woman whose memory forms much of what I believe women should be, much of what I think I should be.

Her spirit, her will was in those arms of Rosalyn today. And it took all I had to not weep quietly in a corner at their magic.

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

12 Feb

10 feet from where I sit, face lit by this computer in a dark room, my daughter burns with fever, barters with the fever headache and lingers in fever dream.

A short while ago, she called out to me, and I saw her sitting confused in her bed, hands covered in vomit. She looked up at me to make it all better.

I did.

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On my way back from getting children’s advil and ginger ale and some coke for me, my eyes lingered upon the missing poster for Karissa Boudreau, a 12 year old girl who went missing in Bridgewater a few weeks back. I had my usual, knee jerk sad response until I saw her birthdate.

1995.

I was 18 in 1995. I was squandering brain cells in 1995. While I was wondering what university I might go to, while I was trying to piece together what sort of life I might like to have, Karissa’s mother was entering a new world. I think the same when I think of Hannah Walker, an 11 year old girl from my home town who died hours away from the heart transplant she so desperately needed. While I was confused and foolish, their mother’s were becoming.

They tell you that you’ll change when you have a child. That life will become different. But you don’t change. You evolve. You become an absolute different person-a new you. A you with true fears, true love. When you become a mother, when you take that child home, be it home to where you live or home in your heart, you molt. You shed the skin of your maidenhood, you leave behind the trinkets of before. You grow a new organ, next to your heart, that allows you to feel pain and joy all at once, over and over again.

When I was 18, people were birthing their children, and themselves. And now those children are lost to them.

How do we look up at a clear night sky, stare at the stars and not scream why? How do we not spend our days huddled in bed, crying for those we can’t save, crying for the fucking unfairness of it all? How do we spend our days arguing stupid needs and wants while somewhere, a mother has lost her daughter?

How do we excuse this? When I was 18, I didn’t know any better. I couldn’t conceive of this. My heart had not yet opened. Could I have imagined then, how I would feel walking home in the brisk winter night, playing over and over in my mind the time Vivian had a seizure from her fever, and worrying it might happen again? Could I have imagined then how utterly my heart had stopped that day, and how I feared she was dead?

Could I tell 18 year old me these things?

These losses, these gains, these changes-they bind us to each other. Karissa is my daughter. Hannah my sister. All of you-my mother. In a sisterhood we stay attached, in a sisterhood we find ourselves safe-across this province, across these countries and oceans, we’ve felt the same fears and longings for our daughters, our sisters and mothers. For ourselves. The fear of one mother is the longing of a daughter.

I couldn’t understand this 10, 12 years ago, when these children, these people drew their first breath-that they are connected to me, that they are as important to me as the people who sit beside me. Your daughter is also my daughter. I feel her pain as well as you do. This is how we survive the losses. This is how we survive the fear of loss. We look to our mothers, and sisters to know how to bear it, how to move past it.

We look to our daughters to know how to fear.

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I can still make it better. I can rub tummies and soothe the pain. But I worry about her paleness, her slight frame. I worry, as mothers as wont to do. I fear. I fear because I understand love, and I understand the bond that ties us together, the bond that tells me in seconds when something is wrong. I fear that someday, as it seems for both Hannah and Karissa, it just won’t be enough.

“The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory.”

20 Jan

As I sat, folding laundry this morning, I stared over at my kids, at Rosalyn transfixed by Wonder Pets, Vivian attempting to help me fold. It occurred to me that despite my having no real memories of that period of my life, my mother still did all the work.

She listened to the screaming. The whining. Did the potty training, tried to get me excited for new foods. She helped me learn to dress myself, learn to talk, learn to read. She wiped away the tears when I fell down, she praised me when I did something new.

And I remember none of it. My girls, will remember little if none of it.

Vivian is finally entering an age where memory will start to be retained. She also has a memory like a steel trap. She still remembers, vividly, dislocating her elbow when she was 2 or so, not even 2 if I remember correctly. It was that scary and painful that she can still speak to in in detail. But now, the mundane will be collected and stored for later, and I find myself wondering just what she’ll remember. Will she remember all 4 of us on the couch, watching a movie? Will she remember my threats to throw her father’s (clean) underwear on her head fondly? Will she remember the perogies she had for lunch?

I can’t control what she remembers, what she keeps for later. But I know how much I mourn not having those memories, and not having someone around to help reinforce what little I have. I don’t know what’s real, and what’s fantasy in many cases, because it only involved my mother and I, and I can’t validate it. So I try hard to make moments that will impress themselves upon her, shared giggles, the warmth of a shared need for contact, a look in the eye together. A bond that maybe even death could never shake free.

Because I worry about death. Not obsessively, not like I once did, but I still worry “What if?” What if I die before they’re old enough. What if I leave them without me, without my words and arms to remind them of how much I loved them, here and now. What if they never hear my voice as adults. What if…

I can’t build a life on what if, but I can prepare for all contingencies. So I do. So we sit and tell stories, we tickle, we love, we appreciate, awake and aware, what we have right now, so that maybe, we won’t forget when we’re older.

When will the boys come home.

17 Jan

In the midst of the grief, the tears, the outpouring of affection, love and empathy, I cannot erase the image seared into my brain-7 caskets, in a row, each holding the shattered remains of seven boys, almost men, seven families, seven tomorrows and yesterdays and maybes. In a row, like ants marching, covered in explosions of mums and carnations and baby’s breath.

Mothers hunched sobbing, recalling the first breath’s their babies ever took, the first scream, bookended by screams perhaps, or more likely quiet grunting, sighs, heaving fear and death rattles. Fathers staring blankly, being brave, composed, shock coursing through their systems as they try to comprehend the home they will return to, the university applications in the mail, the uneaten Captain Crunch, the messages from girlfriends or boyfriends on the answering machine. Sisters and brothers barren and lost, ashamed of last conversations, arguments, battles over seating or toiletries.

Animals they will never pet again. Music they will never dance to again. Hands they will never squeeze again. Children they will not create. Worlds they will not touch.

The funeral plays Ave Maria, the news clips repeat this over and over, and my eyes spill out their tears for the sheer pain of it all, for the mothers whose wombs now feel that much more empty.

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It’s even more scary and sad because it could have been me, in younger days, it could have been my friends, it could have been your friends. When I lived in Northern Ontario, we’d drive for hours to other towns for games, on twisty, dirty highways, rock looming on one side, Lake Superior on the other, crusty with winter. For drama we’d drive across the province for competitions, in the dead of winter. We’d sleep on the buses, trusting implicitly that we would be safe-that we would wake up at home, and groggily, drag our things into the waiting cars of our parents who would be bright eyed and questioning our movements. We knew this to be true.

Except sometimes, like in Bathurst, it’s not. Sometimes you don’t make it home. Sometimes that one last curve, that one last burst of speed, or second of inattention or just plain horrible, terrifying bad luck ruins it all, and you find yourself dazed, wounded, and a survivor. This could have been me, long ago. A simple action,  without simple consequences.

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Is there anything more horrific than being cut down just before all the wonderful things life holds begin? A world, a lifetime ahead of you, dreams, fortunes to be won, people to woo, places to see, things to taste and grow fond of, houses to grow old in, all of it, gone.

Perhaps they are a symbol, a memory for all of us, to use our time well. To afford our children the chances to love, live and grow. To hold fast to the time we might not have for much longer.

To Rosalyn on a Thursday

10 Jan

You wrap your tiny, perfect little arms around my neck, like pincher’s, clinging softly, not desperate, but like a craving, scrambling higher and higher up my body, until your warm head fits snugly in the crook of my neck.

You hair is soft, freshly washed, your body retaining a little, just a little, of that baby softness. It’s outgrowing this weakness, but still, around the back, I can find it, and I draw lazy circles as we sit, you recent from the bath, still dripping in some places, and I perched in that spot you dropped the water, nose to your brow, drinking you in.

I want to freeze you intact in this place; your limbs, stretching from baby to child, your curious, 70% cocoa eyes, that mouth which bubbles and brims with thoughts, ideas, loud words, wants, quests. I want to trap your giggles in a margarine bucket, opening slightly at the edges when I’m 40, and you’re being, well, difficult, so I can remember today, so I can remember you smooth arm and chubby fingers stretching around my neck, so I can remember the joy which shoots like beams from your eyeballs as we tickle you.

“I want it! I want it!” you scream in any direction, any room in which your sister has the discourtesy to touch something. She capitulates in most cases, the path of least resistance, or at worst, the path that leaves ones eardrums intact.

You are the baby. I stare at you, straining to remember this age with Vivian, this almost 3 time, and I can’t. She was not you-she was so completely and utterly different. Mature somehow, older. You’ve been left to ripen longer, left to explore the outer reaches of toddlerhood without our impatience for what’s next to disturb you.

I watch you cling to your father as you do me, the same, but different. As girls are wont to cling to their daddies, you dangle yourself across his chest, nuzzling his neck, your eyes closed. Sweet, peaceful contentment, in the warmth of a father’s arms.

Stop growing my honey bear. I cannot stand the thought of losing the you who is here with us now.

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Coming on up.

9 Jan

 Julie wrote a post about disclosure when it comes to if your kids have something wrong with them, be it autism or developmental delays or what have you.Her take is that you should, that in all fairness to all involved, it’s usually best to come out and say it.

While in theory I agree with this, something is sticking in my craw.

After my mother died, kids were told to play with me, invite me to parties, all that jazz, because I was different and something bad happened. (Not an exact parallel, but it will suffice) I could smell that pity a mile away. I KNEW I was the odd one out. I knew I was only there on sufferance. They didn’t want me around. I was odd, strange, and likely threatening to them. What if I caused their Mom to die too?

It wore off in about a week.

Anyone giving me a “pass” for what had happened only served to make me feel more and more isolated than I already did. I wanted things to be normal. I wanted to be expected to fit in, to behave, to not unleash my rages and my tears on everyone, even if I was depressed as all get out. I didn’t want the soft voice of reason reaching out to other children. It was the same for children with learning disabilities-everyone knew about it, everyone had it explained to them, and no one wanted to go anywhere near them. If our parents or teachers weren’t hovering around, we had absolutely no desire to be around, even if we rationally knew that Mikey was mean because something was wrong with his head. He was still mean!

And Mikey knew the score too. Anytime I’d try and befriend someone who was cast aside, it would end rather predictably in them lashing out and me saying “the hell with this shit”. My empathy couldn’t defeat the usual human urge to back away from things that are perceived to be dangerous.

Which isn’t to say that all kids with mental or physical issues are dangerous. Quite the contrary. But sitting outside the norm of what you’re “trained” to experience and interact with, they may seem to be a threat. Kids are generally a little smarter about following their gut on stuff like this.

Is it fair? Hells no. Will it stop if everyone has the disorders explained to them? Doubtful. Even as an adult, I’ve explained my bipolar to people, and I STILL feel the stares and the concern of those around me when I have a bad day, and I’m perhaps cussing more than usual. They are scared. Not of what I told them, but of what they think they know. Their perception of me. I will deal every day with the perception that I am unbalanced, unpredictable, and possibly hostile. I choose to ignore that, as I chose to ignore the girls who were ordered to be nice to me.

I also have this knee jerk sense that for a kid who has developmental issues, the knowledge that your mother sat and explained what would seem like all your dirty laundry may be a bit disconcerting and perhaps even depressing. I have this image of a mother explaining for 30 minutes how Johnny can’t do this, and needs to do that while Johnny is perfectly ok in the other room, playing and interacting in his own way. Without the benefit of warning.

Real life for these children will not include warning signs or labels. It will be full of strangers who will make assumptions from possibly one encounter with the child. Is it better to learn how to integrate and succeed in a world not necessarily suited to you at 6 or 7, or is it better to wait until you’re 16 or 18? Are labels, and diagnosis helping anyone, truly?

There was always something wrong with me, something off. I couldn’t make friends like other kids. I played differently. I was different. But no one labeled me, or gave me any type of warning to hand out to others-and I learned how to properly interact out of necessity, despite whatever was brewing in my brain at that point. I’ve often wondered if we aren’t better off trying to treat more kids as “normal” instead of labeling them so everyone has an excuse. While some kids are sick, some are still just kids. And I fear a world so rife with labels.

This is likely making me sound much more callous than I am. But my concern stretches out to a group of children who suffer under “poor thing” syndrome, and I wonder what their lives will be like in 20 years. Will they learn how to interact with our world, or will they expect everyone to stop for them,  and “get” them?

Do we make children stronger, or weaker by letting their illness or delays define them? Is a mother really a ballbreaker for saying ” Treat them like any other child.”?

The Medicated Child

9 Jan

We watched this Frontline program last night, and sat rapt, staring in horror at what we’re doing to our child.

While I’ll never doubt that some bipolar is evident and needs to be treated in children, there needs to be a better way. Being on that many drugs before puberty cannot be good. One kid was 16, had tics that wouldn’t go away from the meds, and slurred when he spoke. Another kid was 4, and was on about as many drugs.

4. Years. Old.

It will be a cold day in hell before I put either of my daughters on psychiatric drugs before puberty.

If you have some time, go watch it online here. I don’t have the time to really get into the issues, but needless to say, I was rather horrified. I know what anti-psychotics do to me-I can only imagine the effect on a child who is just acting like a child.

I’m sorry Britney Spears.

4 Jan

Who isn’t there honey? What caused that aching void that eats you up at night, that fills your body with toxicity, which keeps your hands shaking and your mouth turned up slightly in a nervous grin? What monster moves you, jerks your body from side to side, makes you late, makes you sick, makes you so unreal you nearly cease to exist?

Today, in more places than I could count, on freaking BBC News you were there, on a stretcher, in your glory. I can’t watch, I won’t watch, but despite myself I read. I read about a hammer being used to tear down a door, small children held as pawns, a woman surrounded by people incapable, or perhaps unwilling to help. I can imagine you there, huddled between the toilet and the wall, shaking, wailing silently into yourself, your money no protection or solace, maybe just the cold clink of a whisky sour in your hand, diluted only by tears. Maybe you stare into the distance, giggling through tears about ending it all, about the fantastic movie it will make some day, about how your sons will have money, in their trust, for years when you aren’t there.

Maybe you stare at your wrists and will it to be so.

They laugh when we call it bipolar, or post partum. How could we know? We only see what we see, what they let us see, what we want to see. But some of us know, oh how sorrowfully we know, the full depths of despair, that which cannot be quenched with things or placating voices, that place that calls to you late at night, the place which spurns even the fruit of your loins, and beckons, like a siren calling you home.

I ache for you Britney. I ache for what you’ve become-for what has happened, for what people have done to you. I can see some of me in you-two children too close, an itch that cannot be satisfied, a need to be recognized. A want for love and security and all those things Hallmark has told us were simple and true and available at any time. You want the dream, and dammit, you were supposed to have it. So what happened? Why did your brain, and body betray you so?

We’ll blame your mother now you know. Not your father, oh no. Just your mother. She who raised you, who raised two daughters who seem to not know any better. We’ll hitch up our pants and feel superior, clearing our throats we’ll say “Not my daughter, nope.” and gloat silently, unaware of what awaits us in 10 years or so.

It’s so easy to be right when we aren’t there yet. It’s so easy to forget that children are people, not merely stretches of light from their parents arms, but people, cacti that will do as they wish, especially with an entourage and millions of dollars. All the mothering in the world can’t fix the worldly overwhelming you endured.

You’ll make some people feel better about themselves, having someone to laugh at, to point at, to consider worse than them. You’ll be the worst case scenario, but they won’t write a book on how to survive you. You’ll be laughed at, mocked, judged, and eventually forgotten until you manage to slice through your delicate wrists, or you perform a comeback tour at 50. We’ve destroyed you, yet we will completely, and utterly forget you. Pop WILL eat itself.

I’m sorry Britney. Mother to Mother, crazy to crazy, I’m more sorry than you’ll ever know.

“The madness of depression is the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk.”

27 Dec

Depression is like peeling your fingernail off just slightly on the edge. It hurts, but not all the time-sometimes it peaks and makes your blurt the f-word off the top of your tongue, other times it’s a dull ache that resounds through your head, whispering slightly to you.

For the first time in my life, I’m depressed, and I don’t really know why. I don’t have bipolar to blame. No one has hurt me. Nothing has gone wrong. And yet, my chest feels hollow, my eyes stretched and full of tears I can’t shed unless I get mad, and my voice is lost. I feel sick to my stomach, and confused. I don’t know what to make of all this. I don’t have the answer to “what’s wrong?” or “what’s your problem?”. I don’t have a problem, I’m just….sad. Awaiting disappointment, listless, and upset.

I don’t know why. I have no concrete reason for feeling like shit. And I don’t feel like I’m allowed to feel this way. I feel like it’s expected that Lithium is the answer-that everything will be right with the world if I just take the pills. But it’s not-something is still slightly broken, a little torn, crumpled. Something conspires to keep me from feeling right. Something keeps the tears behind my eyes, something keeps me waiting for a goodness I don’t have a name for.

I have everything a person could want. Yet I hunger for something nameless. I stare at my daughters, singing, laughing, and find myself snapping at them to shut up. My oldest asks me if I’m happy today, or if I’m still mad.

Am I still mad. If only she never had to ask that question.

I don’t know what’s wrong. There’s too many people in my house, I’m surrounded by chaos, I’ve barely a moment for me, and there’s constant noise. I’m losing me-she’s floating in space these past few days, and it’s like I’m not allowed to reclaim her.

Never enough space, or time for me it seems.

But maybe that’s just melodrama. I don’t even know anymore.