I don’t spend my days listening to fringe news or scouring YouTube to follow the latest conspiracy down into the void, perhaps that is because I am busy encouraging young people to read slowly and carefully and respond in a way that shows their own well-developed reasoning, but even if I wasn’t, I’d like to think I would spend my energy in innovative adaptions to our new COVID 19 reality. There are days when I wonder who has the nerve to grab their military weapons and take to the street with dangerous demands, and on those days I remember the audacity of white privilege and the lengths it will take someone, and then I remember this is not the case for black men who are hunted without penalty, and then I remember still, oh yeah, I’ve got a job to do, so I go back to thinking of my students, who are still showing up by the way. By whatever determination they are conjuring, they are my heroes today, so I focus on them and ignore the crazy out there.
That isn’t what I want to write about though. Enough with a world of crazy and the sensational headlines, let’s talk mothers, aunts, and step-moms, and your girlfriends who are always there to support your mothering. Today, let’s remember those ladies, who bathed you when you were a mess, and held your hand when the world got dark, women who said do it, and pushed you onward when you were sliding back. The mothers who stripped your hurt and replaced it with hope. Those ladies who were the prettiest ones for ever and ever and even when their faces were roadmaps to loads of worry you could find a happy day. In fact, you were always their happiest day. Just you. I had such a mother. She was a larger than life forever waiting for another party to start hard working and smart cookie type. Her laugh legendary. Her smile big and easy. Her ability to give endless. And as flawed as they come, needing to apologize endlessly for all sorts of mix-ups and wrong comments and weird gifts. But she was perfectly imaginative and daring, everyone’s best date who looked smashing in orange and loved me best.
Los Angeles is crowded and busy and overwhelmed by its own populace, a city drowning in its own promises, but to this east coaster, traveling from a monocratic winter white, this California blue sky meeting an expanse of aqua ocean is all the elixir I need to refresh. Color therapy.
Flowers too. Brilliant blooms fluttering along vines, crowding through hedges, even in doorway pots, all singing the same happy tune. Hues encourage life. Pushing you to do the same with your short years.
Even in paradise I can still hear the faint trail of fear racing from media sites to newspapers and back, but for now, I’ll keep that crazy at bay, and soak in azure and magenta and teal. No filter needed.
18 years ago this date became etched in something stronger than stone. In blood and horror, in loss and destruction, in fear and retaliation. But something brighter too. I would venture to say there is a tenacious streak, a solve it any way possible bit, that place where survival for all takes over and lending hands come from every direction while individual needs take a back seat. It pulls together unlikely alliances during the worst of times to change the tragic trajectory. This is what we understand to be wholly American. From our small towns to urban neighborhoods you can feel the ripple reshaping torn communities into something unified, something that makes us proud.
Took a well-needed respite from this biting East Coast winter by heading as far West as the continent allows. Left a black and white Vermont in search of sunshine and green and two hours outside of LA, happily found a place made infamous by being Al Capone’s desert hideout. Three days of watching the palm fronds sway as I floated with my daughter in the healing mineral waters of Two Bunch Palms proved to be exactly the refuge I needed.
Memory flooded my mind these weeks. Perhaps leisure during Labor Day Weekend allows that for some of us. This holiday, a century old acknowledgment for those who labor around us, building and mending our structures and infrastructures, three days that neatly divide summer from fall, freedom days from the job-filled days, a weekend when 35 million people hit the road or take to the skies for one last fling, or in the case of many travelers, bring their college students to their respective college; regardless, that long weekend filled me with images. It wasn’t all that long ago that I too drove the highways for that task, and although I would say I eventually got better at those goodbyes, I am reminded of a first one, many years ago, made easier by the wisdom of my mother.
Mothers and their daughters. I do suppose one might say, fathers and sons, but for me, as a daughter and a mother, these two relationships have loomed large. If fact the complexity is still unfolding for me, the relationship I had with my mother, the one I still forge with my daughter. Some of my mother’s finest gifts took years to appreciate. Remembering a Labor Day weekend, years ago, me with a SUV packed full with my daughter and her ‘bare essentials’ as a Freshman entering college, and my mother waiting for us in a five star hotel, is certainly one of those gifts.
Today I was a pallbearer for an aunt who loved me, and her and him, and countless others like you. Today I swam in the deep blue ocean with my uncle who showed me a rainbow and together we saw that effervescent light. Today I laughed and cried with many and knew who I was yet still wonder what tomorrow might bring.
Today was forever and still not long enough. Today reminded me to live with faith and forgiveness and fortitude, and joy whenever it slips in the cracks. Today was quite a day… one to hold dear. A gift.