Tag Archives: parenting

When Our Mothers Die

I wrote this during a memorial service for a friend’s mother, who died this spring. I just came home from a funeral for the mother of another dear friend. We are all adults and losing our mothers and it kind of stinks.

When Our Mothers Die We Come Unmoored

When our mothers die we come unmoored.
There is no one to call on a Wednesday night to ask how you can tell if frozen food is still good; how you know if you’re really sick or just have a normal cold; or the best way to get a stain out of your favorite shirt.

There is just you.

If you’re lucky, you have someone–a husband, a wife, a roommate, a best friend–to puzzle over these things with you. But still,
it’s just you and your little brain
in your car, alone, at 8:15 on a Monday morning looking for someone to tell you that everything will be fine in a way that makes you actually believe it.

When your mother dies, there is no one to tell you that you’re doing things right, or
more crucially,
about to make a faulty major life decision.

If you’re lucky, you and your little brain will someday be called “Mom.”
If you’re lucky,
if you want it,
you will become the center of another human being’s universe,
a human who will ask you the best way to lace your shoes
or make chocolate chip cookies.
Your method of making scrambled eggs will live on it another person’s little brain
as the best and only way to make them.

You will teach and instruct and advise and
someday,
somehow
you will come to know the answers to all the questions this young human being may pose.
If you don’t know, you will make them up,
but you will never lie.
Just as you suddenly knew all the words to every song in the top 40
when you hit 8th grade,
you will just know.
And you will trust your gut and will be able to answer all the questions
except the one about why one day
you will unmoor your child.

Good-bye, Big Baby

My daughter is ten and moving into the so-called Tween years, that nebulous period between Kid-dom and Teen-dom. She loves climbing trees, playing in mud, and all sorts of imaginative play. Listening to her and her friends can still sound like a good improv scene, where everything is “Yes, and…” Like “Yeah, we’re all ponies, except S., who’s a goat. And we can all change colors whenever we want.” “Yes, and we all live together on a farm.” “Yes, and we have a bunch of cats…” And so it goes. On the other side, she’s more into pop music than she used to be. She loves to paint her nails. She loves to do hair–hers, mine, her dolls. When she and her friends get together, they spend more time talking than they used to. And on more than one occasion, she’ll take the phone (or the iPad) into her room and close the door while she’s talking/skyping/texting with friends. Oh Lord, it’s starting already.

She still loves to play with dolls, but only her American Girl dolls. Sometimes they’re the students in her classroom as she and a friend play School (my kid wants to be a teacher), and sometimes she just likes giving them elaborate braided hair-do’s. Her first-ever doll, whom she christened Big Baby (to distinguish her from a little Cabbage Patch Kid who was named Little Baby), is a rag doll., the kind with a plastic head, hands, and feet but the rest soft. Perfect for a three-year-old, which is about how old she was when she got the doll. Over the years, Big Baby’s name was changed to Abigail (because she has grown up), but she was played with less and less. She doesn’t have any hair, and because she’s a rag doll, you can’t make her sit or stand on her own. Despite the name change, Abigail is still a little kid’s doll.

big babyWhich brings us to this morning. We’re getting together old clothes, etc. for donation. You know where this is going, don’t you? This is the part where the child thoughtlessly parts with the doll that she once loved, once carried around constantly. The doll that was real enough to¬† her that she gave me a mortified look when I said Big Baby wasn’t real. (In my defense, she was sharing her real lunch with Big Baby, whose little mouth actually has a tiny little hole. I just didn’t want yogurt going inside a hollow plastic head.) The doll that brought her from toddler to little kid to, damn, big kid. To tween. The doll that brought us to this Sunday morning, where my child is going through her old toys and I, her mother who never even liked dolls when I was a child, am trying not to cry while writing an elegy to a rag doll who will, if the Toy Gods deem it so, find another little girl to love her.

Godspeed, Big Baby.