Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paper fish

My sister teaches sixth graders in St.John's, Newfoundland. Her students are considered an "at risk demographic". She and I and our brothers would have been placed in that category as well if it had existed when we were young... poor, industrious, resourceful, tenacious, painfully aware of our subordinate status, our odd clothes, the unspoken expectation of being pathetically grateful.
She cares about her kids, my sister. That's her greatest source of anguish. We trade anguish stories all the time... just lately she 's been agonizing about how her students are aghast at the prospect of doing the bare minimum, much less what is simply required. At least they're not indifferent, I say to her...she is not amused. You'd think I was asking them to give me an arm or something, she says, and their parents... it doesn't seem to faze them that their kids can't read or don't get their work done... I just don't know what their chances are, what is going to happen to them...
( here it comes) Geez, I remember when Mom sewed a paper fish for me when we didn't have any glue in the house....
I smile at that. That is so Mom, I think...
...out of school herself at age 13, her generation of women relegated to caring for homes and men, no chances to explore her potential, she worked and cleaned and worked and cleaned, our home's spotlessness a balm against cold rooms, sparse furniture, and our steady diet of canned food. Dented cans, piles of blankets, and one warm room. If we were indoors and awake, we were in the kitchen...and if we were awake in other rooms, we were very efficient.
Our poverty was the context of her resourcefulness, and I never met anyone as brave as my mother...and I say brave and not fearless because she was afraid of many things. No skills, little education, less sophistication, but she toiled and learned and scrapped on our behalf... and even when I was mortified by her tactics, I had to admire her. She never put herself first; never. And no task was too menial, nothing was beneath her. She always seemed a little bemused at how things worked out... even now, her old age pension is an amazing thing...imagine, she says, getting money just for lasting. Pensions... the first steady, predictable income my mother has ever seen.

Imagine how that fish must have looked... one of my mom's labours of love, larger than life, a bright--almost luminous-- green, a strange and wonderful thing, beautifully cut and traced and sewn with green wool... exquisitely stitched...the mark of a family running on little but the essentials: talk is cheap; friends are better than money; unconditional love, no matter what the crime.
At the time, I used to wonder about my mother...now I just wonder at her. Her basic approach to life has not changed...she would happily pick grains of salt off crackers if my sister's son asked her to...no subservience being too low in the service of grandchildren.
I am terrified of becoming her, yet I am also proud to see so much of her in me... and in my sister. I want her kindness, her resourcefulness, her utter lack of pretentiousness, her gut level candor, tempered with absolutely no need to have the last word...or the first one....her immense satisfaction with the ordinary, mundane world. Thinking of her and the strange and wonderful things she would do for us almost always leaves me crying for all that I did not appreciate...every time I talk to her I tell her I love her, and I mean it.

And what does that mean, to tell my Mom that I love her...for me and my long journey to integrity it means that love as a feeling is not sufficient. I have to be sufficient. I have to talk to her as a person who knows things, I have to be interested in her life, to take seriously her take on things. I have to disagree ( with respect ) when we differ, not surrendering to tokenistic platitudes, agreeing and smoothing for the sake of filling air time. My " no" has to be a legitimate response of preference, but I cannot let it be a response of laziness, convenience or dismissal.

I used to feel bad that my mom's sphere of experience was so small ....now I know that the everyday world, as mean and small as it can be, is teeming with acts of resilience, hope and craft... I guess she's taught me more than I realize.
I smile at that. That is so Mom, I think...


  1. This is great!! Don't forget ..do unto others BEFORE they do onto you! Not how I want to live, but, there it is.

  2. Pardon me while I goreapply my mascara. This is one of the lovliest love letters I've ever had the good fortune to read.

    Your mother, your childhood, sounds very much like mine. I am glad for you and your family that you have your mother still with you. Thank you for sharing your mother's grace and your admiration of her with the rest of us.

    Martha, missing her Mama terribly this moment

  3. Beautiful and moving! This is so harlequinntessential -- candid, honest, visceral -- from a confessed nomad with a gritty past who continues the maternal heritage of discovery in the everyday.

  4. I love the way you speak on the largeness of a bubble that only appears small. A place in time that seems to be without so much yet is filled by greatness of the principles who live within that time. Your mom is a genius.

  5. thanks for these warm and ingenuous sentiments... and, yes, my mom is a genius... the more I write about her, the more I get to know her... and myself.