A story of infertility and in vitro fertilization. The daughter who died in the womb. The daughter born six weeks early. “Trying to keep her safe in a world I couldn’t control.” The mother dying of cancer and blaming her daughter. The dancer, the hooper, the Circle Game. The mother who lived in a Shanghai paradise and as an illegal immigrant cleaning houses and mucking stalls to raise three daughters. These are some of the threads that ran through the ninety minute slate of performances, poetry, memoir, music and dance, at the Merc Playhouse in Twisp, Washington tonight to honor mothers and mothering.
The performance organizer, and one of its participants, Rose Weagant, opened the night with an overview of the dominant images of women with which so many of us were raised. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle. Virginal heroines, orphans of dead mothers, whose stories not only end in but end at marriage. And evil step mothers killed off by their victimized step children “in the name of justice.”
What struck me about the performance was how rare it is to be offered so much authenticity about women’s lives in one sitting. It was a richly nourishing experience that provided a deep immersion into the meanings of mothering from both sides of the womb. Each woman’s story, and the two songs offered by the one male performer, presented a different facet of what mothering costs and what it bequeaths. The challenges, as nearly every piece said, are ultimately gifts. Over and over, woman after woman, this was a dominant theme. I’m paraphrasing, but it resonated so deeply with earlier posts here, one speaker said that when we lean into sorrow and difficulty they get easier, not harder. Under the stories of loss, abuse, misunderstanding, and estrangement was the truth: this has made me who I am. I’m her mirror image, one said, and a mirror image is its opposite. So much perspective about perspective.
Mother’s Day started in the US when one woman decided to honor her own mother in 1908. Over the years, it’s blossomed into many things, a boon for the greeting card industry and florists, a wide array of traditions from fancy brunches to picnics in the woods. We spent the day gathered with family and younger friends, mothers and fathers and half a dozen children who took a two hour hike in the Cascade mountains above Mazama. The two grannies opted for a walk along the Lost River and a short, exquisite lie down on a bank of pine needles watching the clouds shift and vaporize and listening to the river’s icy rush.
I called home this morning and spoke to three generations of mothers in my family. Mine, my sister and my niece expecting her first daughter on her own birthday in August. She still sounds like a kid to me on the phone even though she’s twenty three. She’s loving this experience of her pregnancy even though it’s had its own set of challenges. She described the baby’s movement in her womb “like a wave in my belly. Like a little animal living inside me.” I remember when she was born, my niece. I remember each of their births, my two nephews, their cousins, and the children and grandchildren of many of my friends.
When I was a child, I remember asking my father once why there wasn’t a “children’s day.” And he said “every day is children’s day.” How right he was. Without mothers, none of us would be here. Of course, we wouldn’t be here without fathers either, and their day is coming soon. Father’s day usually falls right around my birthday, so that will be another post a month or so from now.
In the interim, I am honoring all mothers everywhere: the divine feminine force that births all that is.
You welcomed me into your body
disguised as I was
in the seed of my father’s love.
I must’ve seemed incomplete
as a dream
those nine months,
a comma in the sentence
of your new marriage
But I was ongoing;
for this precious gift
of your making
to bottle me
like a jinni.
I was already old,
the way breath
waits in the air,
has been waiting
since it rose from water.
When I left you,
I was your daughter.
I love everything about this blog. Motherhood has certainly given me a new perspective on what is important in life. My wife and I spent mothers day camping with our son, we took a walk along a river trail in the mountains of PA. We ate PB&J for lunch on a bench in the trees with our son. It was a wonderful day as is every day I have with him.. He may not be my blood, but he is my sweat, tears, and joy..I was the first person to ever hold him, to have skin to skin contact with him. I have a bond with him that I cannot explain in words. I am grateful everyday for the gift of being a mother.. 🙂
What a beautiful response Kim. Thank you!