Tag Archives: mothers

when the (white) mothers choose the abuser

Graffiti image of child spray painting the word MOMThis is a hard thing to write.

It’s been a painful few months. For you, too? I’ve been trying to get to the root of the heavy depression–despair, really–that I’ve been stuck in since November. Or even before November, but 11/9 is when it really took hold of all the insides of me, squeezed tight, shuttered me in with its bleak outlook: nothing is ever going to be all right again.

This, of course, is not true. So many of us have made it through impossibly painful times, and we have built up skills and tools for navigating the horrors of our world: governmental ignorance and abuse, a society¬†that treats women and all folks of color like animals to be used and then discarded, that treats the earth like a garden to be plundered and then abandoned. My sweetheart last night reminded me of how scared we all were at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, when no one really knew what was happening–and then, once we did know, the folks in power alternately pretended like nothing was happening and tried to force us to be even more terrified of sex than we were already supposed to be. But we got through it together, with rage and sex and laughter and art and community.

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the past is never not with us

This morning I wake up at the seaside. Although my Oakland block looks the same as it always does — early traffic rushing toward the 880, neighbors being walked by small dogs, trees leafed out bright green against the brick and concrete apartment buildings — the sky is clouded like a Parish painting and the air smells like the shore. It seems as though I could wander with the pup just another block or two and we’d be there in front of the biggest mother of all, pounded by surf and sunrise. Did San Francisco fall into the sea overnight? Did Oakland finally pull up a chair at the table of the Pacific?

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This Saturday, it’s time to gather again for Writing the Flood — we only have a few spaces left. This is our monthly, half-day writing group, a space to write in a room full of other fun, creative folks. Bring ideas for a new project, or the voices of those characters who’ve been rattling around in your head for a month — or just bring a notebook and let the prompts take you somewhere surprising. Join us!

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her garden is my best hope

Good morning, you gorgeousness out there. It’s all sun and cool breeze and spring open outside the window, almost warm enough to take the notebook out write directly into morning. My mother writes a couple of days ago to tell me that it snowed back home in Nebraska — in May. It’s just not right. I look out at my garden while we’re texting back and forth, I think of the lettuces, the spinach and broccoli and herbs that we’re already harvesting; I think of the tiny green tomato taking shape on the vine. I remember how devastating it used to be, when I was living in Maine, when the crocus were well blooming and the redbuds had taken firm hold on the maples and I’d begun to trust that finally, finally, spring had arrived — my bones could relax. And then, boom, more snow.

I don’t tell my mom that I spent her snow day out in the sun. She has only just begun to set out her garden — has the potatoes in, is turning over the wintered soil to prepare the space for her many tomato plants, the okra and eggplant, all the annual flowers. Her garden is my best hope. It’s from my mother’s gardening that I learned about the longevity of faith, about persistence of effort, about doing it anyway. She kept a garden all the way through until the very end of the time with her abusive second partner; through all his control and rabid mania, through his sobbing manipulations, through the spending that forced her to work more and more hours trying to reconcile the books and accounts that he refused to be responsible for, through the hostility and hatefulness that he forced her to refer to as love, through all the behind-closed-doors horror that she has never described to me,¬† she found time to hold on to her connection to the earth, to find solace in a thumb so green she could lift life from a toxic wasteland (which, it turned out, she would have to learn to do).

I don’t know how late into that marriage she kept her garden. I don’t know if her tomatoes were putting out fruit when he was arrested for incest and child sexual abuse, and she was arrested alongside him as an accessory after the fact. I don’t remember, just now, what time of year it was, and I’d been away from home for a few years: he may have driven her away from her garden, the way he’d driven her from cooking and baking and writing, the deep loam of her creative life.

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an impossible intimacy

graffiti of blue bandaids, one crossed over the other to make an x, on a brick wallgood morning good morning. I am in the aftermath of mom time. I am in my small room and trying to make sense of this life I am just now choosing for myself. In the dream last night someone was mugged, a woman had been hurt and we were doing a fundraiser for her maybe. I woke up and told the story of the dream to myself so that I would remember but all I have now is the word mugged, some sense of aftermath, people taking care of her, a sense of threat, we weren’t safe, it could happen again.

After I drop my mother off at the airport, I go to a coffee shop in a shopping mall, I order tea and sit outside in the breezy afternoon sun, I think I’m going to pour myself into writing but I can barely breathe. Next to me, a small family, a man and a woman and a very tall girl child. She looks like a great dane puppy, all muscles and flop, surely an athlete; she drapes herself over her mother, wraps her arms around her mother’s smaller shoulders. I wonder, what is it like to be the one trying for mother’s affection, to want your body in such proximity to the body that formed you, the body that drew you up, the body that let you go. What is it like to have that feel ok, to have such closeness be a welcome thing, to not have to shutter myself off inside, away from the vulnerability that opens in me just by being in her presence? Continue reading

after mother’s day

watercolor of a smiling woman holding a baby up to her face

(check out more of Will Kasso's gorgeous artwork by clicking on the image!)

Good morning, all — good Monday to you!

Yesterday was mother’s day, which can be a straightforward celebration for some people, and quite complicated for others. Yesterday, I was thinking about those of us who can’t find cards at the Walgreen’s or at Hallmark that say what we really want to say to our mothers, who can’t take those flowery cards that say, “Thanks for always being there for me, Mom. Thanks for being my rock and my constant support. I know it was a struggle to deal with me sometimes, but you had faith in me even when I didn’t have faith in myself…” Those of us who are looking for the cards that say, “You were a disaster and yet I still find myself aching for a relationship with you” or “I wish I hadn’t had to be your rock and your constant support” or “I missed you for a lot of my childhood, but I’m glad that we can have a relationship now” or — what would your Mother’s Day card say? I always just go for blank cards these days, when at the store shopping for Mother’s or Father’s Day — the regular, pre-printed cards with that Hollywood-Mother message just won’t work for me, and my mom and I have a pretty good relationship these days. It’s just that we don’t have one based on revisionist history; we have one based on the facts of our lives, which are too painful for Hallmark to make pithy and flowered-pink.

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