May 10 2015

Mother’s Day: Always changing and every change fabulous.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Ah, to be a mother.

I don’t have children, never had that strong drive, that ticking timebomb in my uterus. That said, I always assumed I’d have a daughter, and a second child (one of them would be a girl, because… well, just because). Two because being an only child seemed so lonely. And because so much life-learning comes about simply by virtue of being a sibling: sharing, choosing your battles, compromise, conspiracy, etc.

But it didn’t happen. I had my chance, was married to a wonderful man in the prime of my child-bearing years. But we were traveling, and being struggling artists, so the time was never right. We didn’t try for one, but we weren’t hell bent against it either. It didn’t happen and eventually we divorced and so it all worked out for the best, right? Right?

Then I got Picard. How he came into my life is a whole ‘nother story you can read about Here.

And, I got it. Motherhood… I got it.

This love, this – for lack of a better term, maternal (parental works too, but I’m sticking with maternal, as it is Mother’s Day) love that runs deeper and stronger than any love I’ve ever known. I’ve had crushes and gaga love that feels this intense – but the excitement wears off, the hormones wane, you look back and go, “What was that?” But this Maternal Love, this is hardcore. This is the Real Deal.

Queue the naysayers, with “Loving your dog is not the same as if it were a child.” You’re right, it’s not the same. Because my dog is pure, as a child is in its early, pre-verbal years. But children, being human, grow up, and learn to manipulate and say cruel things and test us and break our hearts. They learn to hate and they learn to hurt. Hopefully they outgrow that sort of behavior in their teenage years, but I know far too many adult assholes to know that not to be the case.

There are no asshole dogs.  They manipulate and test us and break our hearts – but never for that purpose alone. It’s always, only to get something they want or need from us, that they know we alone can give them. And they’re not a dick about it if we say, “No.”4th

Their love is pure, so our love for them is pure. They remind us of our own innocence. They have the power to reinstate our innocence. Their love is perfect.

My heart swells with this love for Picard every second I look at him: when he’s there staring sleepily as I wake up, when he’s waiting not-so-patiently for me to feed him, when he plays with his bunny (which makes this inane musical noise when he plays with it) because he KNOWS when he successfully makes that sound happen, I will drop everything, whatever I am doing, to DO THE BUNNY DANCE!!!


So yes, I am a mother, and this Mothers Day is for me. Mother’s Day used to be very sad for me, as I lost my own at 19 – you can read about that Here and Here. I could not be more proud of, more in love with my “child” if he came out of my uterus. I cherish every second with him more so than if he had come out of my uterus, because unlike a human child, I will outlive him.

Aye, there’s the rub. There’s the one thing that makes my love for him all the more intense and all the more painful: it has a short shelf life. His puppy years are over. He’s five. How the hell did he get to be five already? But he’s small and curious and extremely healthy and active (his well being is the most important thing in my life), so he still seems like a young dog. And I swear, all the love I have for him, he feels the exact same way about me. He lets me know. He’s the one thing in this world, the one decision I made, that I got 100% right.

But for now, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Our 5th together. And I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the others out there who didn’t get the conventional Mother-Child relationship they thought was a guarantee: To the pet guardians, the single dads, the foster parents, and all the teachers/leaders/mentors/neighbors/friends/siblings who step up and give the world “That Mother Thing.” Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

May 9 2014

Why I Hate Mother’s Day

Me and mine: Our first Mother’s Day together.

I hate Mothers Day. That’s not true, I don’t hate Mother’s day.

But I did. And it’s not because I don’t have a mother. Okay, I admit, that’s a big part of it. Mother’s day is a big brunch holiday. And nine times out of ten, the family looks miserable. And it pisses me off.

There are the reunited siblings who can’t stand each other; silently tolerating one another for the duration of this brunch for mom’s sake. There’s dad, cranky because there’s no goddamn steak on the brunch menu. Then, there’s Mom. She’s young and relishing her new title of Mother. Or she’s middle-aged, and relieved that they chose a decent restaurant with good Bloody Marys. Or she’s old, and grateful that she and her husband are still alive to enjoy Mother’s Day. I want to sit next the old mothers and put my head on their shoulder.

I have an overwhelming urge to go up to every one of these tables, every one of them, and say: Do you know you lucky you are, you idiotic ingrate, that you get to spend time with your mother?

But then I remind myself: Not everyone has the mother I had. She died of a brain aneurysm when she was fifty. I was nineteen. I never got the chance to ask her all the life questions, questions I could never have anticipated at nineteen. Questions that come up when you’re first engaged; when you’re going through a heartbreaking divorce; when you’re told you’ll never be a mother yourself. And no matter how old I get, the hurt never lessens, when one of those Mother questions comes up (do they ever stop coming up?) Or when I see a Mother at the head of the brunch table on her special day.

Not every moment of those nineteen years was perfect. We fought. She embarrassed me (as most 12-15 year olds are embarrassed by everything about their parents). But I swear, she was one of those people who truly made life magical. My father was overly protective of his only daughter, the youngest. To the point where his auto-response to everything I asked permission to do was “No.” He meant well. He didn’t want to see me fail, or get hurt, or whatever. That sort of constant “No” could have resulted in a pretty broken spirit, an “I-can’t-do-anything” mindset in a very insecure woman. But my mother was there at the opposite pole to balance things out. If I said to her “I want to fly to the moon.” She’s say, “Okay, how are you going to get there? What’s your plan?” Nothing I wanted to do was immediately impossible, or no. She’d ask “How?” first. And if it was impossible, she knew I’d see it for myself if I thought it through a little longer.

She always wanted a daughter, and she and my father agreed on three children. Firstborn: boy. Secondborn: boy. Thirdborn: boy. But he died. I don’t recall if he was stillborn, or died shortly after birth. So they tried again: girl. Me. Needless to say, I was destined to be spoiled by my mother. She was the oldest child of Norwegian immigrants who barely spoke English (with twin siblings eight years younger than herself). Her own father was a drinker and would disappear for periods of time. She was forced to be an adult at a young age. With me, she rediscovered the joys of childhood, of having a future ahead of you where anything is possible. Something that was taken from her that she made damn sure I had.

But she died almost thirty years ago. And I think about her less and less… and I hate it. I don’t want to forget. Sometimes I force myself to think about memories that don’t have any photographic evidence to support them, just so that they don’t fade away. But at this point, my life memories that don’t include her far outnumber those that do.

Back to Mother’s Day. What to do with Mother’s Day when you don’t have a mother? There’s the obvious: Call all the mothers in your life that you cherish: friends, cousins, neighbors; and tell them all that you love them. But that always reminds me of her absence — that I’m trying to make the most of the situation. Mother’s Day needed new meaning for me.

Last year was the first happy Mother’s Day since 1983. It was the first with my newly-adopted rescue pup, Picard, who has aroused some long-dormant maternal instincts in me. Providing love and a happy home to another is indescribably satisfying, life with Picard has taught me.

This year I have a whole new celebration planned: A girlfriend, also motherless, has re-entered my life after a few years of estrangement, which began shortly after my ex-husband and I separated. I’ve come to learn that she was going through a separation (and eventually, divorce) of her own during that time. So we’re going to spend Mother’s Day together. Cooking, eating, drinking, catching up, and celebrating our Mothers with the joy and gratitude that I wish those miserable-looking people at brunch could appreciate.

That’s where I feel lucky, because I had the greatest mother that ever lived. I’d rather have the nineteen years I had with my mother than ninety years of anything less. I just wish you could have met her.