Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Good Mother Lets Go

I can feel the world pulling… tugging at my child’s arm…testing my strength as I hold on to her… and I think of Brecht’s play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

I have been thinking about that play because of my changing relationship with The Beast. I am sure you know the story—it is originally from the Bible--two women claim to be the mother of a child and the judge tells both women-- whoever can pull the child from the chalk circle can have the child. As the two women pull at the child the good mother realizing the child is in pain—she lets go. She gives up her child to save him.

It is so hard for me to let go of The Beast. She has demanded, for so long, constant attention. From the time she was born she wanted to be carried and shown everything as she grew-up she wanted to explain to me her drawings and tell me stories…but I see the larger world is pulling her. Tugging at her desire for excitement and adventure.

And I know…I know a good mother lets go—but I think it is very fine line between when to hold on and when to let go...and I am not sure where that line is. Yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I try to avoid it. Competition that is…but sometimes…just sometimes…I get a tinge of cut-throat, I will pull your veins from your neck with my teeth competitive feel.

I blame my parents, of course. Although artists, they were also athletes and they were from Boston, where—if you have never lived there—is a WHOLE different mind-set. Don’t let the goofy regional accent throw you off—those people are competitive—think The Kennedys…they were not an anomaly. From pick-up basketball t to badminton to tree climbing and grades….and OMG games—Monopoly, RISK, Parcheesi…Sun Tzu had nothing left to teach us after our childhood.

“Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance”

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

I still remember a game of Trivial Pursuit with a boyfriend’s family. The father, on the other team, was not sure of an answer. I gave him a hint, a misleading hint...about a question on Shakespeare. With his new found confidence from my hint—he announce his answer and with utter disbelief—his face fell and he said to me—that was NOT a good hint. I reminded him—I am NOT on your team, what did you expect?

I married a man who is also competitive I OFTEN have to remind him--Hellllo, WE are on the same team.

The Beast is good and generally kind, but she too has the competitive gene. Games are the addiction. We don’t play them often, but when we do friendships and feelings are at risk. Beware.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


“She is talking about Poe and Poe’s influence on the modern literature and I know I should be listening…I mean REALLY listening rather than just pretending—but I am not…I am making dinner and thinking about whether I need to do a load of laundry.” Ms. Churchlady confessed to me years ago. I did not understand her quandary, or guilt, then. It was not until I had The Beast did I realize the amount of listening it takes to be a parent.

The Beast, like Ms. Churchlady’s daughter, is a born storyteller….so you can imagine the quantity of listening that we do. From the time she could talk she had stories. One of her first longer “works” started with a baby blanket wrapped around her head and shoulders like a shawl. The three year old Beast informed us that she was a little girl from a far away village where the whole village had only a large block of cheese to eat…they had to eat with their hands they were so poor. She did look like a little girl from some post Soviet eastern-bloc country. They were very hungry she continued….and they were very tired of eating cheese in their little village so she was sent out to find food.

Her story was SO long, involved and dramatic that we got the video camera out to film and after about twenty minutes we began to worry that perhaps instead of getting out the camera we should get out the phone and start calling up a.) a psychiatrist b.) an exorcist or c.) psychic who specializes in former lives. Her stories have continued and we continue to listen..some are made up stories, others are about her life outside our realm—both tend to be somewhat scary and totally engrossing.

I was talking to my brother the other day who was wondering why I was so lame and only taking one night course a semester to finish my masters degree. The Beast was grown-up enough to be left alone for longer periods of time he argued.

I explained that I feel my job is to listen…to listen and just be there for The Beast. There seems to be huge push for people to rush through life and get a lot of stuff done, rather then enjoying what we have. When I am not there to listen to The Beast—I feel Mrs. Churchlady’s guilt. I want to see and hear the changes The Beast is going through—she is my creation and I love to see her evolve and grow. I watch and listen to her with a mix of spine tingling terror and deep joy. I am totally engrossed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The police sirens were the first hint that our practical joke may have been played on the wrong person.

“Do you know about April Fool’s Day? It is an important holiday.” said my mother earlier in the day.

At four, I had not yet experienced April Fool’s Day, but our family was one for practical jokes on any day of the year. Plastic bugs tucked into sandwiches, tiny holes punched into paper cups, teeth blackening gum…. Apparently this holiday opened it up to people not living in our house. I was excited…my mother was more so. The older kids were at school so we were alone filling up three boxes each with a few bricks and a note that read: “Ha, Ha, Ha—April Fool’s On You!” We wrapped the boxes , addressed them to our closest neighbors and deposited them quietly on their front doors.

Although we had received a cheerful phone call from one recipient of our prank and a personal thanks with a plate of homemade cookies for another practical joke target…the third victim obviously had not checked her calendar and had forgotten that she lived next to that crazy family who, apparently, had too much time on their hands. Mrs. CIA Plot was that neighbor and her obsessions ranged from cheating politicians to government plots and, of course, terrorists ….the weatherman underground type—not the foreign type. It was, after all, the 60’s

My mother and I wandered next door to explain to the policeman that the box was not a bomb as Mrs. CIA PLOT had suspected, but a friendly April Fool’s Day prank. The policeman was amused, but not Mrs. CIA Plot. She insisted that it could have very well been a bomb.

“For heaven sakes Mrs. CIA Plot” my mother chided “who would want to blow-up a suburban home in a sleepy little town? Someone who does not like historical houses?”

Mrs. CIA Plot’s eyes widened “Exactly—someone who is anti-American—trying to blow-up our colonial houses” she said now with renewed enthusiasm since her hysteria now seemed almost plausible.

“Come on Mrs. CIA Plot, let’s have a cup of coffee and a homemade cookie. We can think of practical jokes to play on the children when they get home.” Said mum. And we did.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Have Seen the Enemy and it is

My Sister.

There they are…like two peas in a pod looking through a rack of trashy little teen tops at Marshall’s—our favorite store. I forget, my sister who is now a high-powered administrator at a famous university, was at one time, a parent-heart-attack-inducing, teen. I remember her storming out of the house in her velvet hot-pants and matching velvet kitty ears as a young teen to go to a friend’s Halloween party. My parents trying to talk reason to her and explain to her the ways of the world—but she did not listen. She was beautiful and sexy and she was going to that party in that dangerous black cat costume. Smart, beautiful and rebellious—everything a parent wants and dreads. She was, of course, my elder sister and my hero.

There she was…talking to my daughter…lingering over little tank tops…talking about styling and cut and the fabric. A shiver ran down my spine…I must remember--there will be no consultation with The Aunt about Halloween costumes THIS YEAR—not anymore. I know her and she is still my smart, beautiful and rebellious sister—leading my daughter towards all the fun and she is loving it. They are both loving it.

I think it is time to fight fire with fire—one more fashion intervention with my daughter…I am going to start sending motorcycle magazines to her son… or…perhaps skydiving…. He is young…but I already see “risk-taker, dare-devil” written all over him.