I should not be awake. I should be asleep.
I can't sleep.
I am going to hate life in the morning.
My brain, as per usual, has started a mutiny against me and simply refused to stop whirling and twirling.
I am missing my mother. Spending the yesterday and today in the hospital with Zack watching his father fade away has brought the loss of my mother to the forefront of my thoughts. What I wouldn't give to talk to her face to face, woman to woman, adult to adult.
I suppose I am writing just to write. Even this drivel here is just a way to get myself started, to get all of these thoughts out of my head. Blank pages are scary. I am not good at starting things. Or finishing them. How telling. My gravestone shall perhaps read,
“Here lies a woman who hated beginnings and was horrible at endings but was very, very good in the middle.”
Where to start?
My mother was a shoeshiner and my father was a stripper.
I had a mother once. My whole life is now divided into when I used to have a mother and then the time after I didn’t. It is the Grand Canyon of my life. It is the Continental Divide.
There were already four of us when my mom and dad announced that they were pregnant again. We were on our way to church and we stopped at a fast food restaurant, one involving Kings and Burgers, for breakfast. This was a treat as breakfast usually consisted of cereal and milk or oatmeal. I remember so clearly the way the restaurant looked. I remember the way the sun came in the windows. It was late February, I think, maybe early March so the sun wasn’t the robust sun of summer, it was thin and wan, it was almost gloomy in the restaurant that morning.
I don’t remember how it was told to us, the news of the impending arrival of another sibling, I just remember our reaction, all of us whooping and hollering and making a racket. What didn’t register then, but registers now, were the knowing looks between my parents. My mother’s face, smiling and yet so tired. I didn’t know yet that my mother had started to fade away from herself. To children all mothers are tired, they don’t know yet there are places in mothers that are still young and hopeful, places that still feel beautiful and long for adventure. If your mother is still alive and you are reading this, put this away immediately and go to your mother. Look her in the face long and longer and ask her,
“Who are you when you are not being mom? Tell me about who you are.”
It’s not that mothers don’t love being mothers, no, ( I am a mother and count it the highest calling in my life), but there is more to them than the honour of having YOU. Their purpose in life isn’t simply to function as YOUR mother. If you think that then you are very selfish and ought to be ashamed of yourself.
I never got to find out who my mom was when she wasn’t being mom. I was too late. Or she left too early.
The baby was due in November. November 9th, to be exact. My mother was miserable that summer. She had to wear support hose because her legs were swelling. She turned 36 that summer, on the 17th of July. I can remember her belly and the swelling under her swimsuit, the freckles on her thighs as she waded into the pool at the athletic club by our house. She was taking water aerobics, the lone pregnant woman amongst the elderly, all moving their limbs in a graceful, albeit with pruny fingers and toes, strokes about the pool.
That was the summer my body blew up. The summer I was twelve about to be thirteen. My chest and hips started expanding rapidly. I wasn’t skinny and scrawny anymore. I was awkward and chubby and my body was determined to betray me in every way. It was horrifying. My mother took me bathing suit shopping. She picked out different styles, stood in the room with me as I struggled into and out of that array of torturous lycra humiliations, ( which, may I add, hasn't gotten any better ). We finally settled on a black and white striped one with a polka dotted little skirt on it. I thought it looked like an old lady swimsuit. Mom informed that it was “flattering”. I didn't want flattering. I wanted the old me back, the one who ran without bouncing; the one who didn't have to deal with menstruation and the idea that I could now have offspring if my "garden" was "watered".
But, "flattering". I can see now that my mom was very aware of how clumsily I was lurching into my teenage years. I can see how she was trying to help me learn to make sense of myself. I don’t know that she ever knew that every time I dove headfirst into the water that summer the top of my suit would flip down over my breasts and I would have to hike it back up before surfacing. This made it very difficult to pretend to be a mermaid. Mermaids do not hike, mermaids effortlessly EXIST while moving BEAUTIFULLY. They do not scramble about with their hands in order to yank up an offending bit of old lady suit that has escaped to their waist. I can only imagine the eyefuls that the boys with goggles (no pun intended) were privy to that summer. Flattering yes, good for diving and actual SWIMMING? No.
This has helped.
I think the notion of sleep has wooed my mutinous brain.
I might write more about this.
But then again, I might not.