In one way or another, I have kept a journal since age 12. I've kept an online journal called Musings since late 2002. My topics range from things that happen in my daily life to my thoughts on pop culture to my ponderings about everything from dreams to the secret thoughts of pets. In November 2007, I began mirroring it here, although I often included extras to this version, such as memes and quizzes. In February 2010, I stopped updating the original journal on my home page and instead started a writing journal there.
The beautiful, sweet dog in one of my icons is Una, my best friend and nurse dog for nearly 11 years, who passed away on October 22, 2010. She was my inspiration, and she taught me how to be a better friend and mother; a better person. My son, Kung Fu Panda (KFP for short), benefits from all the caregiving skills I learned in those 11 years. My husband, The Gryphon, probably does, as well!
The goals I established when I first begin an online journal remain the same: this is a way to explore the tangential, the seemingly accidental observations many of us overlook but which may, ultimately, be where all life and all mystery hinges.
- Current Mood: contemplative
Just two weeks ago, I hugged her good-bye, and she smelled like flowers. My Mom loved gardening, painting, the natural world, and learning everything she possibly could. Now, at 72, she is gone as suddenly as if a tornado had whisked her away to Oz.
Though you might think it odd, the character Alice Johnson in "Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" sustains me in my time of grief. I always loved the fact that she acquired traits from her friends as they died, giving her strength and allowing her to vanquish the enemy.
I know I carry my mother with me. Even though I didn't call her as often as I should have, I thought of her all the time, telling people stories about her, things she had said, the way she had raised me and my younger brother and sister. In recent years, as hip problems and arthritis forced her into activity, she plunged herself even more deeply into her artwork. Her favorite thing to do with her five grandchildren was an art or craft project. My five-year-old son, KFP, told me today that he remembered her showing him how to mix colors.
If I am kind and value peace, I get it from her. Nothing upset her more than someone acting cruelly. She taught us children to respect each other, as well as the world at large. When I reached dating age, she sat down with me and told me that she didn't care who I dated: no matter their background, religion, race, or gender, if they loved me, she would love them.
I get from her my appreciation for the beauty around me. Though I didn't cultivate her skill for the fine arts, I've been an avid photographer since I was a child. In the last few years, I would take close-ups of flowers and sweeping landscapes, print them out, and give them to her so she could draw or paint them. I loved seeing the results, and even as her eyesight failed in her last years, I admired her use of color. She drew with emotion.
My mother was a thinker, and we took long bike rides to talk about everything under the sun. We used to giggle, imagining that if I could go back in time to the late 1950s, I could have been her teenage best friend.
She taught me to love music: playing record albums while she cleaned the house. Her favorite were folk albums and the soundtracks to musicals. I remember spinning wildly to "Jesus Christ Superstar" until the carpet spun.
Now, a week into this loss, the thoughts keep spinning. They swirl through my brain: a mix of memories, hopes, and regrets. I still feel as if I should have done more to rescue her from herself. She had a never-ending litany of medical complaints, and despite our urging, she was extremely slow to address them. Only two years ago, she finally got the hip surgery that gave her greater mobility. It was good to see her walking again, but she needed so much more.
My friends tell me to focus on the memories, not the regrets. They are right. Mom would have wanted that. She always said she wanted us to sing at her funeral, and I'm sure she meant it. I don't know if we'll be able to, but we've arranged for a musician to play one of her favorite songs, "I'll Fly Away" by Alison Krauss.
Though she has already flown away, I carry her with me. Tonight, as I head to Philcon, I am wearing a charcoal Vera Wang soft T-shirt with a black outline of a rose, in honor of her love of flowers. In my ears I wear chandelier earrings with multicolored gemstones, because she always courted color. I am wearing little black half-boots I bought today, because her sudden death reminded me that I need to do nice things for myself, not just for others.
If I were a movie character, these external signals would show you that I'd absorbed her spirit. But what really matters is that I carry her in my heart, my mind, my skin and bones. Her DNA, her nurturing, her love and support. Decades of it. Living on.
- Current Mood: grateful
While I gather my thoughts, and while we figure out how and when to travel to my hometown, I'll share with you a couple things I wrote about her. She didn't like photos, so I give you words.
How My Mom Made Me the Mom and the Writer I Am Today
One of my favorite pictures of my mother is one she'd never let me show you: a photo of her in a bathing suit on the beach. And even though she was a decade younger than I was when I first discovered that photo in my 20s, she wore the same serious, somewhat pained look she's worn on nearly every photo ever taken of her. It's a look that says: "Do you really have to take that photo? Well, get it over with."
For my mom, teaching me to be a woman didn't mean showing me how to do my makeup or crimp my hair. She's never been one to value appearance over substance. To the contrary, she encouraged me to be a kid: to climb and explore and rip my pants. (I can't tell you how many patches she sewed onto my pants with loving care.) She taught me to think and question; she told me family ghost stories and encouraged me to share my thoughts about books and movies. When I was a teenager, we spent long hours taking bike rides in the country, where we would explore an old church cemetery and tell each other stories of the people whose names intrigued us. A gifted amateur artist, she taught me to see art and beauty everywhere, and -- through words, art or music -- to express what I see.
My mom was one of my first, best friends, and she is the reason I am the mother -- and the writer -- I am today. When my son and I explore parks and tell each other stories about the animals and plants we discover there, when we color pictures together, or read books, or sing, I think of how my mom showed me -- not by saying it, but by living it -- that I was beautiful, valued and special, inside and out. Thanks, Mom.
You used to wonder if I was trying to help, but I
just liked the sounds of pots and pans.
Now your grandson bangs a cookie tin,
pulls plastic bowls from the cupboard.
Branded with my same birthmark, a forehead V,
he is a changeling child, akin to faeries,
blessed with language, babbling constantly.
A-bubble with words. Like mother, like son.
So knowing all this, I ponder what I take
from you. Besides blue eyes, a sense of wonder
at flowers and mountains, what do you see
of you in me? That joy in living, easy laughter,
the penchant for storytelling? A love of music,
which filled our house as you cleaned? Or
maybe just the way I wrinkle my nose, as
he does too, when thinking hard?
These molecules we pass, like maps, one
to the next. A soupy miracle, which manifests
in little limbs, and faces, and eyes. Finding
new paths, a new will to slam the pans.
And here's the Alison Krauss song. God, I miss her already.
- Current Mood: distressed
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- Current Mood: scared