And here’s the story where I tell you about why I think Mother’s Day hurts every part of my metaphorical heart.
I live in the state where the woman who created Mother’s Day lived, and it began in Grafton, WV, at a small church. Later in life, this same woman, decided that it was not the holiday she intended and she could not support it.
Mother’s Day breaks my heart, and I know I am not alone.
The picture above, it’s my mom, Vivian and I. It’s 1972, she is 22 and I am 4. We are in Washington, DC. Vivian was dating a musician, he would have us fly out and hang out with him at different US tour dates. This was one of them. At the time, I did not know this, I was like any four year old, along for the ride.
If you look closely at us, we both look feral, a bit edgy, we are both cut from the wolf-woman cloth, and yet, we are both too young to know what that means.
I raised my mom, she raised me, it was mutual.
We would for years discuss how we both chose each other. I chose to incarnate with her, and she chose me as her daughter. We would also laugh, that neither of us were good choices and that we were both difficult.
I was not an easy child. I was willful, given to tantrums of epic proportion, not agreeing with my mother on things a child needed to, not seeing the world as a child, but as an old soul in that tiny body. It put me at odds with her and most. I believe it still does, (see previous post about getting kicked off of girl island.)
My mother, for her wildness had a refined sense of taste and pleasure. She allowed both to take her life. She paid for her beauty and it had no problem exacting it’s toll on her life and eventually what she would admit to as her soul.
Growing up, my mom was not like the other moms, they all shunned her, she had me, my grandmother and small army of tiny dogs, all named Tina. The one boy dog we had, I named, and his name was Dude, as I knew then, the Dude, abides. No doubt, see old soul.
My mom was judged harshly by others. She was often being called, slut, whore, the N word, or any variation of words that one would use to marginalize her and her odd brand of strength.
The one name she took to, was Jezebel. The biblical story, she adored the women of the Bible who were marginalized, judged and often killed for their spirits. Remember poor Lots, wife, she was turned to a pillar of salt. For the love of all humanity, she just wanted one more look at her life that was burning. She in the end was punished for her nostalgia.
My mom and I read the bible on the regular to stay well versed in the tactics and judgments of others. Having both been so harshly judged by those who cloth themselves in the Christian name, and by name only.
My mom, decided that every car we owned would be named Jezebel. So, she had it painted on the glove boxes of each car. I still have the last glove box door it was painted on. She had her artist friends paint the name, so it looked what at the time I felt was legit. Really, what the hell did I know.
My mom was at best, complicated. She would show up to my Parent Teacher conferences drunk or on drugs, maybe fully dressed, maybe not. Clearly, she was not PTA material, nor was she invited to that party. Instead, she stopped going to all school events.
She would leave me for periods of time, to fend for myself. I would get up and she would be gone. For varying lengths of time. It was not as terrifying as one would think, I was a swarthy child, and by the time I was five, I knew how to make sandwiches, cook eggs, and lock the doors when no one was home. I knew how to use our phone, when we had one. Dear readers, there was a time we did not have a phone, for over five years. We would walk half a mile to the “mom and pop” market and use the pay phone. Yep, there I was using the pay phone, could barely reach it, but I knew how to use it.
Stranger danger had not been invented. My mom would send me to the store to buy her wine/beer and cigarettes with a note from her, that it was legit. And yes, I would walk home with a bag of beer, wine, cigarettes, matches and sometimes an ice cream for me.
This was not a Norman Rockwell painting of family life.
She would leave, sometimes for a day, a week, or even weeks, she would return and life would resume where we left off. I never shared this with my school mates, teachers, or adults, my mother, was the woman I understood and I no more wanted to be away from her, than to have someone take me away from her.
My mom decided in 5th grade that school was not rigorous enough for me, so she started having me read the classics and writing reports on them to her. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Tibetan Book of the Dead,, the Bible, The Grapes of Wrath, A Stranger in a Strange Land, Lolita, Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, also add, Mary Shelley’s mom, and her husband, Percy. Just name a book, I’ve probably reported on it at some point. She wanted me to know what informed our society, and why people like us existed in it, even if we were invisibly poor, we still had a place and we informed it. Literature, bitches.
She also began a full regimen of old/classic movies that informed life, she would pull me out of school to stay home and watch “Stormy Weather” and we’d discuss the ramifications of the movie, what it meant to be the first woman of color to star in a movie.
She took me to Black Panther meetings when I was a child, and allowed the men and women to inform me of their struggles and their successes and why we were in the times we were in. My mother did not steer away from controversy, lord knows she stirred it up just by showing up.
My mom spent hours teaching me and versing me in music, from classical, opera and the stories of modern music, from country and western, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Willie Nelson, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Bo Diddly, Isaac Hayes, The Isley Brothers, Lou Reed, Patty Smith, Blondie, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, ELO, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles. How disco and punk rock began in the same decade and the movements behind both.
I shared with her punk rock, Death Rock, Hip Hop, Old School Rap, we discussed for hours the etymologies of musicians and styles of music. I wrote a paper in college on the etymology and philosophy of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
Ultimately, she failed me as a daughter, as she abandoned me in pursuit of her addictions, and by the time we knew what was wrong, she was dying.
There was and is no cure. We were too poor and invisible as two women to know what rights she would have in the confusing health care system of the 80’s.
I was left not understanding what it meant to be me without her. What it meant to be a woman.
I held her as she died, I whispered to her over and over that I loved her, and yet in my belly I hurt, was lost, and terrified of what I would be without her.
It happened, she took her last breath, as my mother, and I held her for an hour after that breath. Taking in the essence of who she was in that room alone with her, I could feel her spirit there, with me, quietly infusing me throughout my skin and my tears.
I despise mother’s day. Not because I had a wolf for a mother, but because I miss the wolf-mother. It’s because I wanted to share with her all that has happened in the ensuing 29 years since her death. I have outlived her by a decade and still have no idea what I’m doing without her.
I don’t begrudge others or their amazing mama’s all over social media, but I do wish that others understood that for some of us the loss of our mama’s makes this impending holiday one of mixed results and desired effects.
As a woman who lost her daughter, and has been a super shitty step-mom/monster/bonus or non-existent other parent, this holiday is one that strikes me at the core and root of my inability to create that most reckless disaster, called life. Of which we cannot predict it’s path, but only guide it.
I have only had long term miscarriages in my life. One at the birth of my daughter, who had died in my womb at nine months, one at four months, six months and seven months. It then was revealed to me that my mother was given the drug DES, if you’ve not heard about it you can enjoy the read of BIG PHARMA in the sixties, with women. I decided no children for me. I still feel lost in these moments, that I am seen.
I watch my peers now, with grandchildren on the way, or here now and I marvel at the life we give, the life we share and the life we get a second chance at with grandchildren.
Women create life. We give life through our spirits and our voices, we share life in our moments together over tea, lamenting our losses and our creations.
I end this post with this last letter my mom wrote to me, I was fond of calling her “old hag” and she called me “young hag” a joke between us that stuck.
“Dear Young Hag,
You were born from me, but not to me, your journey and your life will be terrible, as I did not teach you the things you needed to know to make it through life well. You are my most sensitive creation, and you will bear a world full of hurt and burden for the heart I gave you.
You are weird, odd, charming, beautiful and very smart, but that will scare most people, so you will hide yourself and your heart away.
I failed you as your mom, I didn’t share with you the good things too often and I opened your heart and poured all of my insecurities into it, without a thought of who you would become.
I abandoned you when you needed me most, relied on you to take care of me when I came home from bar fights and brawls, I remember the mornings where you would find my car, abandoned or lost in the woods or our life. Maybe there is a god out there, as we were brought together, I chose you and you chose me.
A young, scared, willful, wicked young woman, who could only think of herself. I carried you home with me to my apartment, I put you on my tiny bed and cried for two days, as I fed and changed you, I had no fucking clue what to do with you. I had no right to have you, and yet there you were, head of hair, smiles and laughing with me and at me. You were a marvel to me, your tiny feet and toes, the way you smelled when you curled up on top of me. I had no bed for you, no toys for you and only the baby milk that the hospital gave me when I walked home, you in one arm, and a bag of baby supplies in the other arm.
I was kicked out of our apartment because I couldn’t work and stay with you, we moved to my only other possession, my car. We shared the back seat, and you seemed to not have a care in the world where we were, as long as we were together. And, that dear daughter is how you’ve always been to me.
And now, I am dying and we will not be together, you will need to make your way into this world, without me. I know you will, but know this, I am and always will be you mother, I will and will always be proud of you, no matter what, and even Mary M. and Jezebel are hugging and laughing in heaven over the women, like us. I love you now, and forever.
Two month later she died in my arms, a river an ocean, a lifetime of tears between us, she never woke up from her coma, and I am thankful for that.
May all of us who created reckless life, see the beauty of that life before us and not take that love for granted, you may feel at times you are failing, but look at it this way, my mom, Vivian is a great litmus test for that.
I am odd, weird, smart and funny. I am now, old, odd, and weird, smart and funny. I have had an amazing life so far, and I continue that journey, educated, informed, and yes, employed. I have not created reckless life in terms of another life, but I have created with reckless abandonment a small, tiny zoo of only rescued beasts.
I still struggle with the legacy and complicated life of Vivian and her tiny army of Tina’s. I still come to terms each day with her life her death as I see myself in the mirror a reflection of her.
I see that life is about one thing, love.
That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.