Post Partum
It's Like Stepping Into the Grand Canyon

William Blake on Mother's Day

Capstone

I lost a lot of Mother's Days sometime between there and here. I was tired but mostly I didn't want the conflict. Elizabeth spent weekends with her father; she spent Mother's Day with her grandmother but she always came home to me. Time with her grandparents was important and I don't begrudge that. I'm glad for the Sundays they spent together; Kitty died right before the COVID lockdown in New York. Not COVID, a heart attack that knocked her to the ground and took her away in under three minutes. My daughter was inconsolable... but. That sort of grief is served up by the ghosts of unconditional love. 

My behavior was generally frowned upon. One more tick mark on a growing list of Bad Mommy offenses. I just wanted to sleep and my Bad Mommy status was carved in granite the year I moved out. Lucia was three. Women are not permitted the luxury of fleeing a marriage when children are involved and fathers are sainted for the simple act of basic childcare (we really need to get past that).

But what of the other two? I just wanted to sleep. That's what Road Warriors want, most of the time. I've already opened my veins to feed, clothe, and house you. I've come home and I just want sleep which isn't the root of it. I wanted a day when no one asked a single thing of me and I got that. In retrospect, I've went and broke my own heart. 

One other thing I see just now. I couldn't bear the possibility of rejection. I couldn't bear the possibility of being ignored, unseen, or just not having any expectations met. We all have them but I don't think I could have verbalized the what of the when. Please don't make me Bad Mommy on this one day each year. Or do it privately where I can't see.

I changed my mind, you know. I'm fairly certain we're allowed to do that, but that doesn't wipe up the fallout. I don't know how to wipe up the fallout because these days it all feels like fallout.

I'm sorry, Mom. I did the best I could and I know perfectly well that my children have and continue to do the best they can. 

This year I decided to ask which entails facing the landmines. I gave them lots of time. I will be in Southern Connecticut from Saturday to Wednesday, can we please get together sometime, any time, just together. Crickets. I pushed the envelope a second and finally a third time and in the end I didn't get to Southern Connecticut until Sunday evening. That was Mother's Day, I'm sure of it. Mike showed up for dinner and this mattered not because it was Mother's Day. I wanted to see my kid, lay my eyes on him, and convince myself that he was and is OK. 

That, folks, is exactly what mothers do. 

I was in Southern Connecticut for Elizabeth's Capstone presentation. A Divided Culture: Book Banning in the US Public Schools.

Oof! If the Zoom recording craps out, I've got audio and that's enough. 

*

I was almost late. I left Easton, CT at 7 to catch the 8:32 out of Dobbs Ferry and I'm just lucky I made the 8:49. I walked twenty sixty-second short blocks (this includes waiting at the lights, my sense of preservation has kicked in) from 45th to 65th and my New York City callouses are gone. Completely. Street shoes tore the skin from the back of my heels and I just kept going. Afterward, somewhere between 65th and 59th I staggered into a shoe store and acquired a different pair of shoes that probably would have saved my feet if I'd had them in the first place. The moleskin helped. I don't want to think about the raw meat that would have happened without it. 

Elizabeth was scheduled to tutor between 2 and 5 and we didn't really want to leave the city and so we waited at Rockefeller Plaza which turns into a pub crawl in the spring. One, two, three: Prosecco, Prosecco, some sort of gin cocktail to garnish the Blue Point oysters, and a chunk of Big Eye Tuna under an umbrella on the sidewalk. She was released at 4 and bolted south on her New York City feet to her mother and father and two points in time came together in the tesseract: Before Elizabeth and 21 years later, today's Elizabeth and that photograph above shattered the illusion of time. 

We are all three together, we have always been together, and that one moment is the touch of a stone skipping across the water. Ripples and ripples until they've passed out of sight. 

Of all the skipped stones, in the vortex of every ripple that is, I appoint this one moment the ambassador of truth. The Ambassador of Truth points out that this one moment is all moments. All three of my children are there. Squint and you'll see them. The evidence is on a sandwich board just outside the 45th Street entrance to GCT:

  1. Lucia crying when the quilt arrived
  2. Michael at dinner
  3. Elizabeth at a podium presenting an unpopular examination of cross cultural biases. We are all guilty, she shows us gently in not so many words, and if we are all guilty, we are all capable of turning the battleship.

You don't think it's just the Right banning books, do you? Maybe so. After all, they've banned books, censored ideas, and slammed another block into America's Berlin Wall. But what of the Left? Not censored, flat out cancelled. That's the good news, this equal footing, this tug of war. Ask a cultural anthropologist presenting at a Human Rights seminar. Or don't ask. She sneaks up on us with her cool and soothing voice, punctuated with the passion of hope. 

I read the paper before the presentation and I should have been prepared, but I was not. 

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Mother's Day started the day Lucia's quilt arrived and passed the baton to Mike on Sunday night. Mike lobbed it over the net to Elizabeth who carried the ball from Monday to Thursday. I was smacked upside the head with a thing called hope. You know, that thing with feathers. 

*

So listen, Mom. That's your truth too. You aren't forgotten; on the contrary the very best of you, the diamonds on the soles of your feet are also on mine. That's not your Achilles heel, it's the very best of your legacy. We all do the very best we can given our personal circumstances which leads me to believe that if we can meet a person exactly where they are, if we can meet ourselves exactly where we are, with no expectations and open hands, what is it William Blake had to say (reiterated by Mr. Morison)? He said, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.“

Truth. 

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