I’m Not Their Real Mother

The three youngers (not to be confused with the three olders who were each at their various jobs-so-they-can-afford-to-buy-me-stuff-some-day) paraded into my room this morning carrying their Mother’s Day tribute: a rose, a carnation, a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a Mother’s Day poem written by Mitchel, the youngest of the youngers, about what a great mom I am and why. I informed them that I loved it ALL and immediately popped a peanut butter cup into my mouth and sent Mitchel to get some food coloring to put in the water to see if we could turn the greenish white carnation a different color for an experiment. When he returned with purple food coloring that was already all over his fingers before he’d even started to put drops in the water, I told him I especially liked the part in the poem that said R is for “Really good at handling all 6 kids”. I  said I would keep it forever. Because while I’m disappointed in the fact that M is for “Magical No! Best Mom, Yess!!!!” (Clearly he doesn’t realize I have magical powers: how else would one handle all six kids?) he made up for it with the second line O is for “Other moms are good, but not as good as you”.

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Hello! Winning!  Sorry all you other moms. There can only be ONE “best mom”. GOOD is just going to have to do for the rest of you!

I thought about sharing the Reese’s but then quickly thought again and tucked the rest of the bag away in my underwear drawer where it would be safe from thievery. I’m just not a sharer especially when it comes to my favorite candy.

Mitchel wanted to know if I saved everything they gave me. “Even the flowers?”

Remembering what happened when I tried to save a dead grasshopper Duncan once gave me in the same container as his preschool art work, I said “No, I learned the hard way years ago to stop saving anything that used to be alive. I don’t want all those great letters and pictures you guys made to get mold on them; it’s important to keep them in tact for when your real mom comes back.”

All three of the boys snickered a little bit at that and then each gave me a hug and scampered off to do various youngers activities, tribute over and done with. Which is fine. Tribute makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and extremely guilty. Their real mother, the one I invented when I was young, energetic and optimistic, left years ago. I’m just the stand-in who’s doing an adequate (at best) job of mothering. Selfish peanut butter cup hoarding is just one very small example of many. I could fill a book my good people. So though I joke about being the best mom ever, I am fully aware that there is just no sense pretending that I’m even trying for a GOOD rating.

I is who I is.

Kids, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry but I don’t think your real mom is coming home anytime soon. I’ve TRIED to find her but her last known number has been disconnected and I don’t have the cash for a private detective. She clearly doesn’t want to be found anyway so why waste any more effort? It’s probably time to face the fact that you are stuck with me as the stand in. So let’s save the tribute for Father’s Day where it has been earned and is deserved.

You olders probably remember your real mom and all of her fantastic mommying: all those healthy breakfasts, clean clothes, notes in your lunch boxes, lipstick kisses on the day-care window, homemade clever Halloween costumes etc. I could go on and on but quite frankly doing so would probably make us all a little bit bummed out. Her sole purpose in life was to make your lives rich and fun and full of love so that you all would go out into the world as good, kind, nurtured people who would spread love and peace into the world. You know: that ‘make good ripples’ line?  Please don’t tell the younger ones too much about their real mom.. They are just going to feel ripped off. Plus it creates so much pressure for me to try and fill her shoes. My feet are way too big for those cute little sandals she used to wear because they, along with the rest of my body have grown quite wide over the years. Practical footwear is where I am at now.

Along with practical mothering. Which involves as little effort as possible on my end.

So, That being said, here are some ideas for Mother’s Day cards that my kids SHOULD give me:

*****

Front of Card

Mom: Well mom, you tried.

Inside

You did TRY, right?

*****

Front of Card

Mom: At least you’re not as weird as grandma

Inside

Mostly.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: thanks for making me do all that stuff by myself, you know, like cleaning my room, doing my own laundry, getting out the band-aids all on my own for my bloody skinned knees so that I wouldn’t get blood all over the carpet and get killed by you.

Inside

Lazy meanie.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: A is for Affort

Inside

Too bad you didn’t help me study for my spelling when I was young. I could have ben someone.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: I’m sure you’ll finish STRONG!

Inside

Hopefully you won’t die before it’s too late.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: remember all those times you were there for me?

Inside

No wait, that was dad.

*****

Ha ha!!! I suppose that may be a little harsh. I’m not THAT bad of a mother. And quite frankly my kids are turning out really fantastic despite the fact that I have not lived up to my own ridiculous and over the top expectations of what a “good mom” is. So who’s to say that if their real mom had stayed longer that she would have any more right than me to take credit for how awesome they are.

 

 

Dear Mom

I am one of those people who has saved almost every letter anyone has ever written to me.

During this age of texts, emails, and social media, we are able to write instantly to people we care for. I cherish words from any medium when they come from the heart. Sometimes a simple text can stop me in my tracks with an intake of stunned breath. Words in any form can be an intimate sharing of the heart, a singularly focused extension of love.

But nothing is quite like a handwritten letter. They are ghosts telling of places and events and feelings that once were. The ink sings, the paper smells of history filled with joy and turmoil and everyday living, the words paint a picture that can lead to an understanding of how the present has been wrapped and unwrapped.

The last few days I have been sorting through a giant tub filled with letters. Letters from my children, ex-boyfriends, friends, husband, grandmother. History.

But most of the letters in this particular green plastic tub are from my mother. She was a letter writer.

And my grandmother was a keeper like me.

I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder. Like on the show about hoarders where there is not a single space on which to eat or sleep. My house doesn’t have cockroaches or mice and its relatively orderly. I simply feel its important to keep tangible pieces of history.

Thanks to my grandmother, I inherited all the letters she kept. It’s very interesting to read letters a younger you wrote.  My mother also wrote to my grandmother diligently. Here is one from 1955. My mom was living with HER grandmother (we called her Tiny Grandma) in Pasco for the summer. She was ten at the time:

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I only have a couple letters from my grandmother to my mother. Grandma was also a letter writer but my mother was a purger. When things got difficult she would throw or give EVERYTHING away, sometimes even her furniture and clothes, thinking she could start fresh without any reminders of the past. One letter my grandmother wrote to my mother is dated December 14, 1994. The only reason I have this one is because my mother sent it back unopened, marked “return to sender”. Those two fought a lot, sometimes going years without speaking to each other: women who dug their heels in painfully deep.

My own heels have been dug in the last few months. It seems that year six of my mother not being here, bugging me in first person, has brought some anger. It’s “mad at my dead mom” year: the year I finally stop reaching for the phone to call her and tell her stuff. Mainly because I’m not speaking to her.

This is why I got the letters out. To see if I could drum up some feelings other than anger. Well, also because I have been working on a book about her, though it’s turning out to be a fictional work of nonfiction. Which I think is okay. My mother would appreciate her biography being filled with creative and elaborate exaggeration. Any lunatic would.

For two days, all I did was stick my face in her old purse inhaling her smoky smell, peeking every now and then at the menacing piles of letters that I had not had the courage to read since she left.

Her life was filled with a lot of drama, especially her last few years. Some of the details are told in the thirty one letters she sent me from the Newport, Washington jail during the second half of her 60 day stint. She wasn’t speaking to me during the “time” she did in January 2007, after which she was released on good behavior. But when she had to go back to finish her 60 for “bad” behavior in August 2007 she wrote me every day, vivid letters full of nattering details about what it’s like to be “on the inside”.

You all are probably thinking: yikes! Why are you telling about this? This is not a very good tribute to your mom! And here it is Mother’s Day. Rude daughter!

But here’s the thing about my mother: she loved everyone she met.

Everyone.

She tells in her letters from jail about the people she met, the guards and the prisoners, what they did, why they did it, what kind of people they were and how she felt compelled to help them. She would use the money from her ‘incarceration account” to buy these women candy and new underwear. She would talk to them. Tell them they were beautiful and important. In some of the letters to my grandma, she tells of keeping in contact with some of the women after she was released.

The reality is, when my mother put her love on you, you were changed. And she managed to do this for other people even during the lowest periods of her life.

In a silver mirrored box I discovered fifteen letters that my mother wrote to my dad’s mom from 1967 to 1970. I am unsure how I ended up with them, but they (at least in my mind) smell like my grandma Joycelynn, a faint perfume captured and contained by the box. She died when I was five from breast cancer but I have vivid memories of a gorgeous woman who called me Goldilocks. My mom was a new stay at home mom. She was wicked smart and struggling with boredom. She says so a few times in the letters. There are details: “thanks for sending me back my pants”; I love the Reader’s Digest you sent me! Golly, maybe I should be a doctor now I am so smart from all this reading”; “Got a perm, my hair is really curly and only an inch long. Your son is asleep so that proves how exciting I look”.

But here is something that stands out:

She told of her stepfather coming over for dinner and how I cried when he left. She did not dig him. Not at all. “I cried when he came into the room, not when he left. But Heather is so outgoing…she figures everyone loves her. Nice way to be.”

I was two then. I have almost no recollection of her stepfather.

But up until I was a teenager, I really did assume that everyone loved me. My mother put her love on me like no other person ever has and made me believe everyone loved me too. Who could not? Me who was loved so truly, so genuinely by the most beautiful woman I ever knew?

My letter writing mom gave me a whole lot to be angry at her for. What mom doesn’t? Lord knows my kids have probably kept a pretty big mental list of all my really crappy moments thus far. But my mom also gave me a great gift of understanding what it means to love unconditionally, which I have discovered from her letters doesn’t just mean loving others no matter how imperfect THEY are but also continuing to imperfectly love others in your OWN darkest and most imperfect moments. And as I unfold these letters from the past in this present moment, I am able to see what perfect love this is.

Dear Mom,

I love you too! Thank you for showing me how to give and receive love even when it’s dark. I will call you later!

Love Heather

Mother: Noun, Adjective, Verb, Nutto

NOUN: she who is a woman in authority is a mother. Leaders of nations, cities, classrooms, churches, committees, businesses and homes are mothers to be reckoned with and there will be no back talk unless you are very brave, or stupid. And this is good.

ADJECTIVE: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind in terms of scale is a mother. When we hit the mother-load we have struck the jackpot. What better way to describe something so amazing that we are breathless than to precede the item of awesomeness with the word mother. And this is also good.

VERB: to give rise to or to produce something is to mother. You who mother into the world art, song, words, beauty, laughter and joy: you leave the imprints of your creations upon the world, making it better, richer, bolder than it was before you touched it. And this is so very good.

NUTTO: What the mothering women of the world become when they actually have children. And to say this is good is a little debatable. Turning into a nutto is the unpleasant byproduct of the confusion that comes when you are bombarded by bipolar emotions that only your child can create in your once rational mind.

Or children: the more of them you have the bigger nutto you can become, unless you started out that way before they came along, then you might be screwed, like me.

How does one otherwise contain a love that is so painfully deep, so intense, so wicked fierce that you would sacrifice everything you are and everything you have to keep these human beings who are your children safe from harm but also have the occasional passionate desire to take them out of the world with a vicious, satisfying choke hold.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers and nuttos out there. The world is blessed because of you, even if you sometimes feel like choking your children. I know you wouldn’t ACTUALLY do that, mostly.

Mothers Day Blog Two

Mothers Day Blog One