Monday, May 22, 2017

Grace in the madness of mothering

The Bargain Hunter, where my column appears, is undergoing website changes. For now, my columns will be posted here: 

There’s grace somewhere in the octaves between high-pitched and emergency, where I could hear the timbre of my voice and know that I was one step away from madness. This chaos lies in the line of crooked bangs cut with a dull hair scissors, no longer able to brush them away from the brown eyes of a child you love with such fierceness and agony. She would look at me, taunting, hugging me before she ran from me to do the things that would make my throat quiver. She would get up from her bed twenty-nine times in an evening, her Aladdin nightgown swinging as she descended from the stairs, and nothing I did would make her stay.

There’s grace allowed somewhere in that madness.

I remember rocking my baby in a rocker that several of our family had bought us for our wedding. The curves of it embraced us, and the nursery was warm with forced air from the furnace. I sat with my eyes closed and she was crying, just crying, newborn and wrinkled and unsure of why she was thrust into a world where people existed that couldn’t comfort her immediately. Yet I was there and she was cradled in my arms and all I wanted to do was sleep, yet knew that my sleeping days were over. The lilting tune that flowed from my lips to soothe her was called, “Ghost in this House” and when I hear it in my now it never fails to make me cry. It hearkens another time when feet were tiny and I couldn’t see past the wriggling baby in my arms and know what I could do to comfort her.

I remember this and that my mom came to my house right at this moment, to check in and see if she could help. She walked into the nursery as I struggled for composure, and she took the baby from my arms and I just cried, overwhelmed with hormones and cesarean section scars and no sleep. Moms are the absorbers of tears and snot, the re-assurers that the circle continues whether we believe we can continue it or not.

Two more times I would pour forth life, dark-haired babies that looked to me for their sustenance – tiny lips pursed with need. And when they grew and the house descended into a chaotic mix of Barbies and Legos and empty sippy cups that held chocolate milk, I would sit on the porch and find a silent moment to read and remember who I was. Enjoy this time, the older ladies would tell me, because it’s gone too soon. I would smile and nod my head and know that I would never not be wading through anarchy, and that I would be overthrown soon and sent to the gallows because the minions will have won.

And those moments when all is calm, and a sea of soft blankets is thrown on the floor with a movie playing and they are held in silent wonder. I would sit with them and they would lay their heads on me, and I would brush their jet-black hair from their eyes and feel like the queen that I should all along have known that I was to them. The cycle of motherhood and its wonder laid out on a blanket and reminding you who you are.

I find myself older now, my kingdom reduced to only the king and I, and I embrace this phase as a fresh breeze on my face in summertime. I see my own mom walking through the twilight phase of her cycle, resisting and fighting a big battle. I see this and am humbled as sometimes I arrive at her house, hasty and breathless in whatever my day has held, in a moment like my own, when I couldn’t handle the baby crying one more minute, and am able to help her do something she no longer can. 

The perpetual cycle of mothering tumbles over and over into infinity whether we believe we can handle it or not. I raged in defiance for the so-wanted responsibility I shouldered, a choice made and tucked under my belt to fulfill. In wonderment I brushed the hair of my children and watched as it fell in soft waves, the sweet scent of it filling my nostrils.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Shaun Cassidy, Kenny Rogers, and my worn-out speakers

This question was posed by my daughter on Twitter yesterday and I decided to take the challenge:

What song must you listen to every day without fail?

I have long and varied playlists that run the gamut of many different genres: techno, house, old country, pop from the 70’s and 80’s, and metal. There’s a tab on Spotify, my platform of choice, that lets you see how often and who you play the most. I was sure what the top ones would be, but was semi-surprised as it went along. Call me eclectic, or just weird, because I won’t be offended:

      1)   Shaun Cassidy: I make no apologies because he has been my favorite ever since he belted out “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Hey Deanie.” He was also Joe Hardy on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in the late 70’s and that sealed the deal. I was an obsessed reader of the Hardy Boys books, and he came to life for me on that show. I had every one of his albums and now realize I listen to him every day.

      2) Barry Manilow: Oh, Barry. “Sweet Melissa, angel of my lifetime” did me in when I heard it for the first time. There was something about his smooth vocals and that small dip into disco he did in the seventies that still holds me in its thrall. I have a long list of his songs that I put on when I need to chill. George says he gets depressed when he hears them, and I reply that I wasn’t really asking him to like Barry anyway. BARRY FOR LIFE.

3)    Olivia Newton-John: Long before she donned her aerobic-wear and got physical, she was the Olivia who sang, “Have you never been mellow?” We had the 8-Track and I played that until it was nearly worn out. My sisters and I will still do an acapella version of “Let me be there” at random times, belting out those half-country half-pop notes like no other. In the 80’s I was a big Xanadu fan, and the songs “Make a move on me” and “Magic” are some of my all-time favorites.

      4)     Metallica: I’m a product of the time I grew up in, and the first time I heard this band growl out their lyrics with those angry guitars, I felt like I was hearing something clandestine. I could find them on an alternative radio station that I could only tune in at night, and I’d lay awake in wonder. The wild beats and drums drew me in and I’ve been a fan since the early 80’s. You couldn’t be a high school kid during that time without loving some form of metal. Metallica forever as well.

      5)    Steve Wariner or Kenny Rogers or early George Strait: I’m a sucker for this style of country, not the country of today. No haters please. I have long lists of this style of music that I evidently play every single day. My brother got me a Kenny Rogers album in 1979 for Christmas and I never looked back. Marina Del Rey? Kansas City Lights? You Decorated my Life? Nothing more to say here.

So, this is the music I surround myself with nearly every single day. Music is a feeling, an emotion. It can wildly swing you from memory to memory in the span of seconds. I don’t believe I need to stick to a certain genre to be the person I am or profess to be. I challenge all of you to look at the music you listen to, and instead of beating yourself up for it – or being embarrassed - embrace what you love. Life is too short to listen to music that bores you. The next time you hear the words “Hey Deanie, won’t you come out tonight! The stars are dancing like diamonds in the moonlight” whisper across your neck, you won’t be dreaming. That’ll be me blasting Shaun Cassidy at top volume with the windows down, as I cruise through Berlin.