An inner conversation with all the versions of a mother I have been
|I am the desperate mother, in a dark kitchen with coffee, wringing her hands.
I am searching the tiny white flashcards that blink in my memory,
but the recipe for child rearing is blank,
when it flies behind my eyes.
Instead I see an empty shape resembling the number 18
Then 18 cakes with candles
Some shaped like Barbie, the Little Mermaid, others homemade or of ice cream
I am in the company of the other mothers
We are seated at our round candle-lit breakfast table at 3 am
We begin by discussing the importance of kneading dough with a firm hand
Then walking away to let it rise
We debate how much supplicating is enough
How much white patience must be poured, a long nourishing stream,
As our daughter stumbles toward 18 years past the womb
Just into a good discussion, I recognize her immediately.
She is Ms. Critical.
I recall her arranging drawers, pushing her emotional armoires into our daughter’s delicate room – pointing a finger “sit here…do that…isn’t that comfortable honey?”
“Are you listening to me?” Ms. Critical barks. And I ignore her.
Beside her is Ms. Suspicious, who just had to show up.
She was the one with the car running, watching midnight grow dim under a street lamp by a house where our daughter probably was not supposed to be.
Next to me sits the patient one counting to three, and I tell her that is really not necessary.
And just across the table I see the attentive mom.
I can’t recall her name, but she sits with elbows propped ready to play a game.
I remember her kindly, with her well-intentioned bottom anchored on the sidewalk beside our adorable fourth grader - both with Alphabet Chalk and Twinkies in hand, drawing a sea to swim in for Barbie and Ken.
Not far from her, the Cool mother strikes a pose by the window, ignoring me completely. Probably mad that I have not danced with her to the Spice Girls lately, or rolled down all the windows and sped, blasting Smashmouth while holding my hand in the shape of an L on my forehead.
She still can’t believe that we suddenly became embarrassing when our daughter turned 16.
Ms. Denial, who sat patiently sipping tea calculating the perfect timing to jump in, ironically points a finger at me, “It was Ms. Desperation that couldn’t see the black and white lies – smudging the colors of our daughter’s life.”
I deflect toward Ms. Narcissist, “What about you?” I indignantly fuss. “You gave her no direction, gave her no glory, other than those ‘my life was hard, yours does not have to be’ stories.”
Ms. Narcissist looks worn, “I presumed she would learn,” she mourns, “by watching me.”
“But isn’t it really Ms. Behavior who got her into this mess?” asks Ms. Critical, in a way-too-motherly dress.
“Yes, I confess,” gestures the woman with a lit cigarette. “I was a wild-eyed storm back then, born on the winds of lightning pole men. Spinning in and out of the places we had – in search for a love like only my Dad’s. And although we did finally marry, the wounds were not healed that our little girl carried.”
“Our baby knows the pain inflicted,” sighs Ms. Honesty, rather affected. “We tried the best a single mom could, but sometimes our best was just no good. She grew up fast and grew up hard; her family seemed a house of cards. But she’ll sit here some summer night, and look us all straight in the eye. She’ll get it out and talk it through. Till then there’s nothing more to do.”
And then we just began to cry, at the breakfast table in the night. Here at the place where we traded truth, where we talked it out, over and through.
She’s usually here to set us straight, and when she’s done push back her plate.
But tonight it’s only just us Moms, at 5 a.m. approaching dawn.
Our daughter out there on her own, stumbling toward 18.