Posted in Fragile Life, Legacy, My own childhood

Pregnancy & Grief

I often think of my 20-year-old mother today.
Irish Catholic.
Exactly 8 & 1/2 months pregnant.

Her President, the age of her father-in-law, shot dead, beside his wife, on a Texas street.
My mother was 17, the age of my son, when she went door to door with her younger sister.

“The Kelly girls,” the neighbors called them.
Their mother sent them out to campaign.

I think of the unbearable grief that I felt on 9/11 & 11/9 and on the December day when children were shot inside their first-grade classroom, and I wonder that today is not my birthday.

And I wonder, what my young mother felt in those last two weeks with me inside.

And I wonder if the sweet sensitivity of my own son is due to the grief I held as he came into the world and she left it.

Advertisements
Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

the measure of success

My early life was bent on success. Born as the eldest of a generation and upheld as the example of all things fine, I led cousins in values and chewing gum expeditions and living room performances, until the age of 7, when life removed us from our family seat on the Atlantic, and took us west, alone, to the Rocky Mountains, where the limitations of love forced creativity, and led me to fashion my own entourage out of neighborhood clubs and backyard variety shows, festivals and fundraisers, until the wind beneath my wings crashed at the age of 14 upon the brutal death of the Queen, my paternal grandmother, Lila.

I dabbled then in darkness, and folly, for a long, long time, until I found myself in love, truly in love, of my own volition, at the age of 22. And as with each of the beaus who came before, I screened this possible partner with my youngest siblings–in his ability to forgo his pursuit of me in attention to them–with humor and kindness. He passed. With flying colors. His predecessor was also a child-loving man, but when it came to considering our own offspring, we argued, at great lengths, upon the manner of discipline and permission and authenticity which ultimately led to the dissolution of this relationship or should have; and either way, it ended badly, and prepared the way for the right man to become the father of my legacy.

DSC02294Sons. I always imagined a daughter. My Lila. But my mother warned that daughters would demand too much drama for no-nonsense me. So sons it was. Two. Lloyd and Aidan. Old Grey-One and Fiery One. And beneath the gift of these children, my trajectory of success took its final dive as it collapsed into diapers and nursing and playdates and carpooling.

The Old Grey-One is now at the tail end of his teenage years, but it was his approach of adolescence when I set out to rediscover my own prowess–desperate to call something mine. There were many forays that led to deadening ends, until I found my treasure buried right beneath me, in my words, first begun when I was at the tail end of my own teens, destructive as they were.

Several blogs and dozens of inner (and outer) journeys later, I find myself scrambling up the steep cliff of completing a work of memoir. A quiet task. Silent really. Lonely. Unknown. Unaccounted for. With no guarantee, of anything, particularly–success.

And yet, successful is how I feel this Autumn though the harvest belongs to my son–as I release him with his backpack and his passport, into the security line for a flight to Central America; and watch as he snakes his way toward the narrow passage which delivers his life–to him.

 

Posted in Milestone Moments, Teens

The Little House & Me

153540

Do you know the story of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton?  It’s a book published in the forties with a sweet little house on the cover and a big contented sun on the back. It’s been a lifetime favorite of mine.  (What more could a long-ago child want?)

The story begins like this:

Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.  She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.

Her-story continues as the Little House watches the seasons pass from her hill in the country and is soon surrounded by a village, and then a town, and finally—by a city–where she is so crowded in by buildings that she can no longer see the sun or the moon.

The Little House becomes shabby and misses the apple trees and daisies that once grew around her.  No one wants her anymore.

I pulled this thin paperback off my child’s crowded shelves with the others that he had grown too old to enjoy.  But rather than pack The Little House with the rest, I placed her on my writing table, sensing that her story and mine were somehow aligned.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl, pretty and strong, living in the countryof childhood.  There were daisies and apple trees and plenty of spaces to grow and imagine and thrive.  But as the seasons passed, thoughts moved in and troubles and worries crowded out the moon and the sun –and soon, I grew shabby too.

So shabby perhaps that my own father decides to travel during the week that I have planned to visit my family at their seaside home.

I sit on the porch of my own Little House in the mountains and sob, wondering how I have become so unworthy.  It’s true, that at 45, I am an old daughter, with chipped paint and crooked shutters, but so is my father, older and shabbier still.

My son finds me on the porch, and sits beside me in my grief, placing his hand on my shoulder.

After I finish sobbing, I tell him that he might be ready to have a girlfriend after all. (Just the day before, I read from a book on teens that young men aren’t comfortable enough with the intimacy required to be in a relationship.  In less than 24 hours, he’s proven that wrong.)

At 14, this same son, leans over my bent neck at the dinner table and kisses me before heading to the sink with dishes.  It’s an act of tenderness that ripples through my heart and sorrow. He hasn’t kissed me of his own accord in years—and never on the neck like a man might do.  I am both touched and shakened by his sweet and mature response to grief.  I begin to feel less shabby.

It is the great-great-grand daughter of the man who built the pretty Little House who comes to retrieve her from the crowded city.  She puts the Little House on wheels and takes her over the big roads and the little roads until they are back in the country.

So must I find my worth–not among my father’s crowded life–but in the wide open expanse of love that surrounds me when I move away from troubled thoughts.

As the Little House settled down on her new foundation, she smiled happily. The stars twinkled above her…A new moon was coming up… Once again she was lived in and taken care of.