On this day that I imagined would inspire me to write volumes, instead I find myself scrounging for words. I have been away from the computer too much this week addressing important household preparations for the stem cell transplant and now I am a beggar as I sit down to write.
Please let me tell a story the way I would like, I command myself, but my mother muse will not be summoned. I fear that I can't meet the standards this exceptional day demands from someone with a self-proclaimed title of Woman Seeking Mother. Shouldn't this woman who obsesses about all things mother be able to write about the spiritual pilgrimage of motherhood with ease? Or of how much gratitude a mother feels for her child on this day and on the succession of days leading up to and away from this day? Or of the bereavement of a child, a daughter, feels for her mother? Especially this. Or on any of the numerous mothering topics that accumulate daily in my thoughts? So why are these right words kept so far out of my reach on this day of all days?
This morning Aaron discovered two dead baby birds in a nest tucked in our front trellis that had been blown over by strong gusts last night. My cousin, Jill, and I had just trimmed the vines back from the neighboring trees on Monday. Now all I can do is envision the Mama tending to her dead babies on Mother's Day and I mourn along with her. All day long I torture myself with what if's. If we had waited another week or two to deal with the overgrown garden might these lovely new birds still be alive? If we had left this woody strand or that one, might they have been spared this tragedy? At the time, I hadn't realized the vines anchored to the trees were the necessary additional support for this structure which has hit the ground on numerous occasions during storms, or that there was a nest hidden amongst the leaves. If only I had paid better attention, I tell myself, this poor Mama would not be grieving today.
The tradition of Mother's Day observed on the second Sunday in May began with mothers mourning their sons lost in battle. As I stare out the window, I can't help but think of my own mother's ache in having her child taken from her by her own mother's hands. Now that I have been a mother for a year, I can better appreciate her suffering as she watched myself and my grandmother live the life that should have been hers because she was deemed unfit to be a mother.
Though my mother could not translate her mother instinct into action, she must have known her mother was not fit to raise me either. I try to conjure a scene in which she approaches her mother on a Mother's Day like this one and asks for her child back. And though it is hard for me to believe this episode ever took place, I do know that my mother wanted me back in her life because she married a man to gain custody of me away from my grandmother. And yet it was this action, this courageous but ultimately flawed decision, that brought me into the presence of a man who would do me great harm, and prevented her from ever having me alone again.
A year ago when I began this blog, I did not know my mother the way I do today after spending so much time exhuming fragments of her life from anyone who would speak with me about her and from mining the recesses of my mind. This is our time of year, my mother's and mine, the time of lilac blooms, Mother's day and the anniversary of her death. It is a month heavy with mother longing. My mother's existence has always been more of a legend than a presence, but this year, the space between my mother and I, once so vast, is beginning to fill. Now I walk the labryinth of my mother's life steadily and deliberately. When I say my mother now, I know more of what that means.
How many years did I yearn for a Mother's Day with a mother to celebrate? When I reflect on this today, I realize how foolish I was not to cherish my own mother, the woman who carried me in her body and gave birth to me. I don't know how much choice was involved in her becoming a mother or how much she was able to connect with me as her child with such a cruel and incurable disease, but this mother is the reason that I am here holding my son today. It was her body that conceived and sustained me and from whom I made my way into this world. It was not a luxury to be born to her in her condition, nor was it a blessing to need to seek out motherly attention my whole life because the gestures of mothering had been denied both her and her mother. Certainly we were all soaked in sorrow, but she was my mother nonetheless and all of these years should have been ones gifting her what she had lost--her daughter.
If I sat beside my mother's grave today, I consider whether I would repeat the same things I've always longed to communicate to her about how much I wish she could have held my hand and walked me to school or read me a story or lifted me into her arms or said that she loved me or brushed my hair or crawled into bed beside me until I fell asleep or any of many experiences I missed instead of shared with her? Or would I for once just say thank you for whatever she was able to do, because in the end, neither of us were blessed with one another and yet we still belong to one another?
This morning as I lay in bed with Sasha, I envisioned my mother walking through the door toward us--her child and grandchild--and considered if she would approach with fear or abandon. Even if she was the mother of my past-- unsteady, shaking, eyes unfocused--as she made her way to me, I knew that I would welcome her. I would let her hold my child the way that she was not able to hold me. With my support, she could be shelter for a child because that is what she always needed, some assistance in navigating the visceral connection between mother and child. I would listen to anything she had to say even if her words were unintelligible. And I would tell her what she most needed to hear, that she did good with me even though she couldn't fully be my mother. Look at me, I'd exclaim, how content I am with this child, who is a part of us both. This is because of you.
When I watch my son experience this world--confident and sure on new legs-- I know that I am doing what my mother could not do for me. Sasha is loved, cherished, nourished, supported. My mind is tuned to him. My eyes on him. My heart his. He will never know anything but this. He will always be able to claim me. I am marked by motherhood; no day is ever truly ordinary. When my thoughts turn black with all of the massive fears engulfing me around Aaron's illness, I look at my healthy and strong and delicious boy adventuring in the world and my life is sacred no matter what tragedies came before or may come. Everything pales in comparison to my son's reaction when I draw him close to me.
Motherhood is mythic and essential and now mine.