Spooning with my Mother

Spooning with my Mother

Well, I finally got the courage to ask my 83-year-old Mother if she wanted to spoon with me in bed.  I’d been wanting to ask her to cuddle for days, ever since my daughter and I arrived at her house earlier in the week. My Mother’s house is small, perfect for one, with a little bedroom and an office. It’s bright and sunny with windows which look out into the garden. I was supposed to be sharing the fold out couch in the office with my 25-year-old, but it proved too tiny for two grown ladies. So after a few nights of tossing and turning, I headed over to Mom’s bed down the hall, which she shares with her two little dogs, Jack and Jackie. To this day I do not know which is which, but my Mother speaks to them as if they are her children. “You’re as close to human as possible,” she whispered to the fluffy white one just two minutes ago as I sat here writing, “but better,” she cooed. The first night I gingerly peeled the covers back on the far side of Mom’s queen-sized bed so I could slip in unobtrusively – almost like I was never there. My plan was to sleep and rise without messing up the sheets. Partly because I felt like I was intruding, but also something deeper, and which would take me a few days to understand. We’d come to L.A. to help her with some house projects, and to give her company during the pandemic, which she’d weathered alone with the dogs. We’d work in the garage,...
What Belongs to Us

What Belongs to Us

(From a line from a Marie Howe poem of that same name.) Not the way I set my alarm for 5am so I could get up and make her coffee before she set off for 12 hours on the road. Not the way we sat across from one another at the kitchen table in the dark, her blond hair stuffed under a scruffy cap, her face unwashed, her glasses smudged. Not the blue fish earrings she thought she had lost the day before. How she said she loved fish earrings, and that I didn’t know that about her, my own daughter. How I said whatever she thought she’d lost I would find. Not the way I opened the iron gate for her car 10 minutes later, how I’d gone out into the yard, my loose pajama bottoms trailing in the dirt, a lit stick of sage in my hand as I walked around her car, blowing smoke on it to protect her from the road. How she stood in front of me, arms extended, eyes closed, so I could blow the smoke all over her, something my ex, her father always did to me when I’d leave the house for a trip. How I’d often roll my eyes that he believed a little sweet smoke could save me. Not the memory of the day two weeks earlier when she drove to California from Boise, and had literally crawled in the bathroom window to surprise me, a plan she and Ruby had hatched a week before. How when I saw Zoe standing there, I sunk my head into her neck...
Uncertainty Soup

Uncertainty Soup

Prior to Covid, I was one of those people who liked to say things like, “change is inevitable,” and “everything is transient” – the words floating out of my mouth, making me sound like the good Buddhist I wasn’t. I wasn’t a liar, I just didn’t know what I was talking about. Yes, I’d let go of a long marriage, and I had watched my father die – which, 11 years later still feels inconceivable as I scan for him in crowds, sure he’s out there somewhere. My children have moved away, an important and deep relationship ended this year, my ex husband is about to move out of state with a new partner. I do understand that things change, but it wasn’t until the entire world fell to its knees in what seemed like a matter of days that I felt the truth of impermanence and got an actual taste of the fragility of our lives. The poet, Ellen Bass, has a beautiful passage in her poem If You Knew… What would people look like if we could see them as they are, soaked in honey, stung and swollen, reckless, pinned against time? I’ve read this poem many times, but I think I preferred it as just a pretty thought – something that would be good to remember when I could, but not practice if I didn’t have to. I remember the day in March when I first heard the term “sheltering in place,” and how I kept forgetting it over the days that followed. I’d turn to my daughter and say, “Sheltering where? What are we doing?” Or the...
Tiger Puff Puff Orange

Tiger Puff Puff Orange

As I write this, my 24-year-old daughter is working remotely from the kitchen table in the next room. She works for a large, California-based clothing company, and while their brick and mortar stores all over the world have closed, the ecom team – which Ruby is a part of – chugs along. Ruby is responsible for what you see when you go to their website and search for women’s tops and outerwear. Sometimes I’ll be in the living room working or teaching on Zoom and I’ll hear her say things like, “I like this top in Raspberry Scream,” or, “Do we have this in Tiger Puff Puff Orange?” Some parents might worry if they heard words like that coming from their child, that in times like these, by which I mean, the pandemic – they’d raised their daughters all wrong. Why isn’t she out there on the front lines sewing masks like her friend Sally? Instead, I feel a deep sense of relief. My daughter is dressing us for the post apocalypse, and it’s very sweet to watch her take it so seriously. “How is Ruby holding up?” concerned friends ask. A day before sheltering in place, I drove to San Francisco from our home on the other side of the bay to retrieve her and her one house plant. She’d only been in her apartment for a month and she was loving her new life and her new job – sometimes walking, sometimes taking a cable car home from work. Her apartment was well lit. All she had to do was walk down four flights of stairs to...
The Great Blah Blah

The Great Blah Blah

Bear with me: I want to tell you what happens when you let life do its thing to you. That’s how my old therapist, Gary used to talk about situations you didn’t love, but which were happening anyway, despite what you might have preferred. “Just let it do its thing to you,” he would say when I was sad or angry or tired, and sitting in the leather chair across from him, sobbing. “Let it do it’s thing to you.” Which is a really great concept – “Yeah man, let it happen” –  but harder to swallow because I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m feeling sad or angry or out of control, there’s a knee jerk tendency for me to want to change the channel, pour a glass of wine, pick up my phone, get on Instagram or open the refrigerator. I want to feel better right now, and run from whatever is working me, instead of letting it touch or change me as Gary might suggest it could. It was the consuming of things that was often my little escape from pain in the years right before the pandemic. The internet too – of course – and my best friend – the phone – were completely addicting. But the consuming of things – even small things, like running to the market when I was certain I needed one bell pepper, and then spending $50 more on things that caught my eye. I did that a lot. I went to the market every few days – felt better the moment I walked in. I exhaled. All those...