sabato, aprile 15, 2006

Hope Begins

I made the earrings at Jenna's house last weekend, and made the Art Squared (3" square) collage holder today. I thought it might make a cute Mother's Day gift for someone. I've been thinking a lot about mothers lately.

Actually, I am thinking about hope today. I am thinking about hope, and Anne Lamott, and motherhood. Of all things.

Of course, anyone who has ever read Anne Lamott will know immediately that there is a connection. But for the rest of you all I can say is - get one of her books and read it now!! There are authors I really like (Anne Tyler, Joyce Carol Oates, Sue Monk Kidd, David Sedaris) and authors I love (Wally Lamb, Augusten Burroughs, Jennifer Lauck) but never has any come close to Anne Lamott.

When I was pregnant, ten years ago, my good friend Carla - who has known me since the thrid grade (!) (aren't old friends the best) gave me Anne Lamott's incredible memoir - Operating Instructions. I can honestly say that book, and the books I read by her to follow, including Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, and eventually her fiction too - changed my life. Ann Lamott's outlook on grace and hope and love and spirituality and children and humanity is so utterly human and hearteningly imperfect and beautiful, that IT is grace in and unto itself. Her call to writing, I believe, is a calling from God - and I thank the heavens that she followed that calling and that publishers have the good sense to publish her - for needy readers like myself. Of course she is not only a devout Christian, but also an extremely liberal, addict in recovery, single mom, with an attitude and a sense of humor that could save lost souls all by itself. Though I'd never dare claim her wit or her calling, I will admit that the fact that we have/had a wee bit in common may count for something, in my eyes. I don't know. You do the math. : )

So. Motherhood. Let's get this out of the way. I am thinking of my own mother today. Here is a picture of my mother that I have framed and keep out. This picture was taken in November of 1949 - and my mother is right around 2 years old. I like this picture a lot. She looks so cute, and her little yellow dress is adorable. I suspect my grandmother may have made it for her. But there is something else I love about this picture. The family resemblance between her and my own son, RJ - is startling in this picture. I don't know if you could see it. I tried to find a picture of RJ when he was the same age, and I came up with this one:

We took this picture of RJ in 1999. We were in Athens, Greece at the time. Not that you could tell by the lovely cement parking lot background! For a while, I'd been looking at my son and marveling at how beautiful he was (well, all mothers do that) and too... how much he looked like my mother. Of course he has his father's blond hair - but he has my mother's brown eyes. He shared the same pug nose that she had as a child. The same fine straight hair. Her face shape. There it was. Right in front of me. In my son.

My mother was still alive of course. RJ was 4 years old when she died. But we weren't in contact, and hadn't been for many years, my mother and I. Not for the majority of my adult life. Oh, that of course is a long story and I won't go into it here. Time or place type thing. But I can tell you this, as most people who have lost their parents (either lives, or relationships) probably knows: it is not an easily settled thing. You can not easily move on or away from parental ties - and the pain and pull are constant. Before my own child was born, I had gotten fairly proficient at distance, distraction, detraction, denial ... whatever it took to get through the day with that unsettled pain and pull constantly there. But when motherhood hit - I could no longer look away. Because IT was looking right back at me.

It took me a long long time, till after her death in fact, for me to realize that my son looks like my mother, because he looks like ME. Before my mother died, I was not an artist. I was not a writer. I looked nothing like my mother. I couldn't allow anything of her in me, because that would open up that pain. It never occurred to me that motherhood might do the same.

But motherhood, miracle of all miracles, has done something else too. It has tendered forgiveness, too.

So. Yep. I am thinking about my mom. This month. This week... Two days from now it will be exactly four years to the day since my mother died. The aniversary always hits me hard - and harder than I expect. How do you plan for grief to hit you anew?

Me? I begin to begin to slow down. Not in that good ... you know, be-easy-on-yourself way - but instead, in that broken hearted life-comes-to-a-halt way. Somehow, I have managed to accomplish about 1/10th of what I do in a typical week. I just want there to be a closet or table nearby at all times as of late. Just in case I need to crawl into or under it!

But I hang on to something that reminds me that this too shall pass. That forgiveness - of myself and of others - also comes anew and provides new healing. That life offers up joy tenfold for every grief you live through. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe that this is hope. What more can I ask for?

I'll end with a picture, a quote from Anne Lamott, and a poem by Mary Oliver that Anne Lamott has referenced in her writing.

The picture is of me, nearly a decade ago - hanging on tight to another reminder of constant love, and miracles - my baby boy and darling joy:

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

- Anne Lamott

Everything I have ever learned in my lifetime leads back to this:

the fires and the black river of loss whose other side is salvation whose meaning none of us will ever know.

To live in this world you must be able to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

- Mary Oliver

So I wish for you all today, that you may hold tight when it is right to do so, and that you may let go, when it is time - with grace, and neverending hope.

xxoo - Chel


Blogger zorana said...

Very lovely, touching and smart. You made me stop, think and analyze my own feelings about some things... Big hugs for you Chel.

4:22 PM  
Blogger cmmama10 said...

Oh Chel I love the photos you shared today!! Your mother was a beautiful baby! And you little guy at that age was just so kissable! And that pic of the two of you is so sweet!! I love that he's sucking his thumb!! I was a thumb sucker too!!

Anyway, I also loved what you wrote about your mother. I pray and live in fear at times that I'll follow in my mother's footsteps and go nutz, but then I rmember that I have Christ on my side, that I'm aware of these awful possiblities in my life so I'm sensitive to it. But at the sametime the one person that I always looked to, to be my grounding in a crazy world while I was growing up was my Daddy!!! I so miss him each and everday of my life. Ny DH is there for me, but it's not the same comfort and security that I always felt in my Daddy's arms and words. It's odd, but I'm sure not coincidence that this Father's Day will be 4 years since my Dad passed. Just like it's been nearly that for you with your Mom. Chel, I love and treasure your love and friendship that we've gained by being kindred spirits and sister's in Christ. I thank God daily for brining you into my life!!

1:57 AM  
Blogger Izabella said...

Wow Chel, this is some great writing..I sometimes feel guilty for reading your blog, like I am peeking into your secret diary.

Thank you for sharing your story, as I reflect upon my own story with my mom~

xo ~Bella

9:08 AM  
Blogger Turquoise CRO said...

How are you Chel?!! That is such a sweet pic of you and your baby sucking his thumb!!! Sooooo SWEET! and your mom's pic is soooo SWEET! too! Yes! You all look alike! I will come back to Zne one day! I don't know, I just don't have much Zest in me but I want to get more zestful!All this sickness is sqeezing the life out of me!I'm going to make myself paint! All Your ATC's look lovely!!! and your earrings, so dainty!!! like you!!! Take care!!! xoooxxooxox

10:38 PM  

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