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.
After the last suture was stitched, the mohs surgeon said he was going to cover the incision with glue. This guy is the best. You wait months to be in his surgical chair. And he’s funny, so I thought the glue comment might be a joke. But no, his intern told me with his eyes, glue is the next step. And then, as he applied the sticky goo across his handy work, my Dr. broke into another chorus with his favorite group, Supertramp, who had been serenading us during the whole procedure through the portable speakers.
Take a dream on a Sunday
Take a life, take a holiday
Take a lie, take a dreamer
Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream along
Tonight I celebrate my mother’s would be 90th birthday. Yes, I know she’s gone, although a force like hers can’t be contained in a simple afterlife, right? Of course I’m sad not to have her physically with us, but wow, did we have spectacular fun these last many decades. Holidays and vacations and just spur of the minute plans that would always turn into something fabulous.
As we approach this Sunday in May when families sing the praise of the woman who brought them into this world, or the woman who adopted them, those mothers and step-mothers or aunts and grandmothers, let us also remember the mentors and caregivers, for there are many ways to mother after all; let us collectively nod our heads to those who nursed through feverous nights or cheered during wet soccer games and heralded us along with a nudge and even a song. Mother’s Day celebrates the cycle of love spiraling down the generations, from those who mother to all the rest. Honor her, in her multitude of forms, indeed.
Last summer, at my god-mother’s funeral, a cousin asked me if I missed my mother. Without skipping a beat I said of course, but I also added that I feel her inside of me, and in that place I hold her even closer. I hear her laugh coming from my throat, her gestures moving my hand, and her confidence as I stride into any situation. I encounter reminders of my mother in the shade of nail polish I pick out at the salon, reminders as I dive into the salty surf, reminders as I sit with her sister or brother, and certainly whenever talk drifts to the precious old days. She’s gone but she’s everywhere all at once.