Gifts of the Mother

hand painted terry cloth robe, 1986

I fell the other day.

It happened in a dirt parking lot which was rutted and sandy.

I was not hurt.

I slipped in the gravel next to my car as I was negotiating the narrows I had left between a railroad tie and the car in an attempt to give my dog some shade.

Needless to say, it was not a handicapped parking spot.

As I sat there in the dirt, I looked at Olivia who was sitting in the driver’s seat with a mixture of confusion, compassion, impatience and love on her face.

We chatted, my beloved dog and I as I sat there in the dirt.

“Well, Livvy… here I am sitting here and I can’t get up.”

Her eyes go half mast as they do when she feels love toward people.

I tried to turn myself over but my feet kept slipping underneath the car, not able to get a foothold in the dirt.

“Let’s try this again… hmmmm… if I hold on here and twist here, I might be able to do it..”

This went on for 15 minutes without a tear in sight.

Yes, I was swimming in humility.

Yes, I was frustrated.

Yes, I wanted to be ‘saved.’

But most of all it felt like a challenge far from the spiral of darkness it could easily have attached itself to.

What does this have to do with MOTHER?

I am the eldest of four.

I saw an old family movie recently where I was impossibly innocent and cute.

There was light there in my eyes.

I lost that at 5 years old when I got buck teeth and a new, blonde sister.

Something happened, then, that put me on a very gritty road I actually am not sorry about.

I was… believe me..

But not now.

Because I really am enjoying who I am these days and know she came forward BECAUSE OF choices I made in the midst of a challenging childhood.

My mother and I parted emotionally supportive ways early on.

Pretty much at birth.

She wasn’t ready to be stripped of the possibility of getting her own enormous needs met.

Forgive her? No.. not there as yet.

My sister got to ‘have’ her.

I have sometimes hated my sibling for the injustice of it all.

My sister became my mother’s confidant and ballast and empty space-filler-in-er.

They gathered in the kitchen whispering and judging.

A covert comment.. then the weird ‘cover’ of silent cooking or cleaning or: “Just LOOK at that crabapple tree in bloom.”

Needing a place of my own, I learned how to change myself around to charm, entertain, soothe and mollify my alcoholic FATHER.

She got mom; I got dad.

This arrangement served us well in the ability to survive a very dysfunctional family.

But my sister and I lost each other in the process.

I became a juvenile delinquent as I spun around, trying to finding a place in the world that felt free and mine.

I spent hours and days in the woods behind our toxic house, soothed by nature and the blessed non-humanness of it all.

I smoked cigarettes, pot, did drugs and skipped school.

I got a semblance of the attention I was so hungry for.

My mother and I got so far apart that when I was raped as a college student she did not show up at all.. a cursory “I’m so sorry” on the phone was the extent of support.

I asked her why? years later and she said: “I just didn’t know what to do or say.”

My sister and other siblings have created healthy and happy families, marriages and lives.

I am so proud of us all for surviving what we did without hurling our unhappiness outward toward whoever was there at the moment and creating good lives for ourselves.

I see that my sister knows how to be in relationship in ways I don’t.

Watching her in family and marriage inspires me and instructs as well.

This ability she has is the thing I envied for so long and can only happen as a transmission from ‘the mother.’

When I was struggling in the dirt of the parking lot after my fall, I was using all the skills I learned as an independent and rebellious forsaken child:

I know how to work my way through challenge by entertaining myself with a shift in point-of-view.

My movement toward Life includes the ability to NOT COLLAPSE and trust myself to know I can figure a way to achieve the thing.

I find myself and Life eternally interesting as I watch the ways in which people (and I) negotiate the shadow; society’s and their own.

I have learned to find solace and inspiration in the smallest of things.

We protect the things we love.

I grew up without that sense of safety that should have been a given.

I have had to learn to lick my wounds and choose now to enliven in each moment because it feels good.

This is an EARNED skill and truly one of my greatest achievements.

These abilities are the things I love and protect.

Here’s where duality comes in:

I know what LOVE feels like BECAUSE I also have been privy to it’s absence.

I can get over myself and love my sister,

And keep those away from my sphere who want what I have without putting in the work.

Because work it is

And truthfully, I’ve had enough.

I open myself now,

As a healthy, emotionally sturdy


Albeit a bit grimy on the backside.


3 Responses to “Gifts of the Mother”

  1. Dorothyanne Brown on May 8th, 2011

    Wow. Lovely entry. WIshing you the strength to let that love happen – it’s tough! I still haven’t figured it out.

  2. Carol S on May 8th, 2011

    Well, the challenging family got you where you are now, albeit not a smooth path. Glad to hear you got up from that tight jam, sounds like you’re good at that. What a sweet dog you have.

  3. Laura Hegfield on May 9th, 2011

    …and in our brokenness we learn to love the whole of our being…the whole of what it is to be human, to be alive, to be one with all that is (including the dirt beneath us when we fall). It isn’t easy and it isn’t comfortable, yet gradually, if we are so blessed the other aspect of loving our whole/brokenness is learning to comfort ourselves and find ease within…and you are an excellent student of life Cathy.

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