Monday, May 9, 2016

I Was No Mother

I stood out on the porch with a cigarette in one hand and dialed the phone with the other. When my mom picked up I said, "I'm just not cut out for this."

All three children in diapers, husband out busting his buns trying to keep it together, houseful of un-met priorities, and crying. Crying, whining, complaining, needing - and that was me! I was at my wits' end.

I laid out my case for why someone would have to come rescue me from this clearly devastatingly bad choice I'd made. I was no mother.

She listened patiently and then on the beach filled with grains of excellent advice my mother has given me over the years, she laid this, "Of course you are. Just do the best you can. Don't think about the whole thing. Just handle this minute, if necessary, this second. Get past this one and go on to the next one and do the best you can with what you've got. That's it. That's the job."

She was right, of course, as she always is, I've come to find.

So here's to doing the best you can with what you've got. Here's to doing it if you're a guy, if you're a lesbian, if you're Christian or Muslim or not sure. Here's to doing the best you can if you're feeble, or hurting, or tired. Here's to doing it on days when it all turns out exactly right and, too, on the days when every single thing fails and you spill food all over yourself, to boot. Here's to your kid turning out a little screwy, but you love her anyway and it's not your fault. Here's to your kid being a total rock star, and needing someone else more than you for a time. You're still always going to be the mommy. Here's to all the people on the planet who make it without all the best ingredients and still turn out to have a good life because their moms taught them to just do the best they could with what they've got.

Do good, do your best. That's all you can do. That's the job. And it's great.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

En El Rincon de Mi Niñéz

I stepped into the room as if crossing the threshold of a portal.

At once adrift in the perfume of my childhood and grounded in the sense of my own days, I surveyed the mirrors that called me Ita, when that was my name.

With just a glance away and back the cool girls had become women, their faces smiling at me with the same tender, sometimes the same fade.

The younger girls I cared for and loved were women, too, wearing the stride of hips that carried their own children.

The handsome young men I'd admired, now greyed and serious, spent wistful smiles at the heat and power of their own sons and daughters, those sifting in and out of the room as one does when one is still floating, untethered.

Beyond these, the air in the room had gone cold at the point of absolute void, where his mother stood weeping, silent and lost. I went to her and mumbled some foolishness about how he was being well cared-for in the next life. I presented flowers in her favorite shade, my frail attempt to bring Mima into the room; she was my comfort. I held her again and whispered that I loved her, as I do.

I have the most fractured of families, like a mosaic taken from broken porcelain, some of it so fine and lovely, some of it not so much. The pieces in this room are among the most brightly colored of the tiles. I remember them alive, beautiful, rich, laughing, holding me, feeling as if I belonged.

I smiled to myself, remembering.

When I turned to leave, I looked at Marco, still his cherub face, and closed my eyes to say good bye. He was a baby I had held. I held him on my lap and wrapped my arms around his soft little baby skin and sang to him and played with him. I had teased him at parties and ate the salad from his plate. When the occasion brought us together, less and less as we went our ways, he was a little baby to me no matter how old he grew. I hugged him, he me, and no matter how cramped the moment always I found the space to complain about his faulty baseball affiliation. He would smile. I loved this boy, now this young man, and he is gone.

He is gone and forever safe where I will keep him. In the sweetest corner of my childhood.