Looking back and thinking forward

Month: May, 2011

Homecoming haiku

Nostalgia – what is
me – includes what was, and is
bringing all back home

Settling in


It is almost a year since we moved into our new home in Mount Airy. A lot has happened. Much of it has to do with a change of heart, attitude, and shift in a psychological understanding of my Self. My therapist terms it as "taking off my sunglasses …" Perhaps a person has to reach the glorious decade of the sixties in order to achieve this type of awareness. Or, maybe it has more to do with clearing away fear (the "final frontier," as my old friend, George, used to call it). I wonder at which point I decided to fear no more – or, rather, to fear less.

On Friday I happened to catch the last moments of one of Oprah's farewell shows. Toni Morrison was on and talked about her son's death. When asked what it was like to get over it, Morrison said that she did not want to get over it. She wanted those memories of her child to stay with her forever. She thought it would not do her son justice if she just got over it and went on with her life. His life was deserving of her remembering him forever. Toni Morrison clearly does not fear grieving. Indeed, she embraces it!

I realize that all of my ruminations lately are the stuff of memoir. While, once I thought I was a developing an outline for how to write about my life, I am finding that present notions and feelings are shifting. Looking back on my childhood is just not the same as it used to be. More distant now, and more objective in some ways. Stirrings of pain are still there – much like the awakening of old wounds on a cold and rainy day. And yet, understanding and forgiveness offer me a different perspective. 

Lately, I, like Toni Morrison, embrace my grief with less fear – honoring my losses through enriched memories.

Celebration of motherhood

John left a comment that made me look again at this old photograph of Gilad and me when, in 1975, we were visiting my father in Zimbabwe – then Rhodesia. In fact, while I was out walking by the Wissahickon on this exquisitely beautiful day – sun shining, cool breeze in the clear, fresh air and many, many people out and about walking, running, jogging, cycling, all ages, colors, sizes – indeed, while I was out walking on this gorgeous Mother's Day, I was starting to become wistful, realizing that this was one of those times Gilad will be forgetting to remember and acknowledge my mothering day. And then suddenly I thought about John's comment. And also Richard Cohen came to mind as I have been reading what he has written about his experience with Byron Katie lately. As I arrived home, before I took my shower, I rushed to open my blog and look at the photograph of Gilad and me once again.

And I realized immediately that Mother's Day is not about Gilad remembering me or acknowledgment from others. It is not even about how much love I put into my time as a mother. It is about how I loved giving birth to my son. It was a privilege and honor to have him enter into my life and accompany me on my turbulent and interesting journeys. I learned so much from him especially about unconditional love and commitment. It is I who should be remembering him on Mother's Day, and thanking him for sharing his joys and sorrows, musical talent, truthful opinions, humor and love, and, especially, for being a child of my womb who changed my life in so many ways forever.

It feels exciting to celebrate motherhood in this way today. Am grateful to John and Richard for their reflections and ruminations, opinions and stories. For, with their words, I was guided down a more joyful path.

Here we go – it's Mother's Day again!

Wisdom of the age

On Friday, at home from the couch in my living room, I watched the wedding of William and Catherine. In fact, I intentionally woke up at 4:00 in the morning so that I would not miss a moment of the celebrations. Many times throughout the ceremony and processions, I found myself feeling wistful, even sad, about Princess Diana not being there to experience that beautiful day in her oldest son’s life. I thought she would have been proud to see him standing tall and handsome next to his soon-to-be princess. I also noticed that when Prince Charles appeared with his wife, Camilla, I became uneasy. Quite uncomfortable, in fact.
As the wedding progressed I thought about my 94 year old mother watching the television along with all of us – two billion or so souls around the world – in our case, me in Philadelphia, USA, and she in Israel. I had been texting back and forth with girl friends about fashions, the “dress,” or what we thought about this or that incident or situation. For example, at one point I texted a friend: “What do you think the Queen carries in her handbag?” She responded immediately, “… A sandwich!” she wrote.
After awhile I called my mother on the phone. She answered quite quickly. I imagined her sitting in her special chair by her bed watching the television. My sister had informed me via text earlier that our mother was “glued” to the TV. We exchanged greetings and talked briefly about what Queen Elizabeth was wearing. My mother was not very impressed with her yellow outfit, she told me. I mentioned that I was sad about Diana not being there. She agreed. Then I said that Camilla, Prince Charle’s wife was getting on my nerves. I even said out loud, shamelessly, that I found myself hoping she would trip on the steps of the Abbey!

My mother was quiet for a moment and then stated, “You don’t like her.”

“I guess,” I responded, thinking to myself, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Well,” my mother ruminated softly, “I suppose each person has their own way of being sad about Diana.”

Tears filled my eyes, as I instantly realized with shame that through my sorrow about Diana, I had judged Camilla harshly. More than that, though, I was in awe of my mother’s gentle, non-judgmental way she had spoken her thoughts out loud to me: no admonishment, no change in inflection as she spoke … just the statement, which immediately filled me with empathy, and understanding.

Sitting here in a corner Starbucks by the sea in Waikiki writing this post – waiting for my conference to begin, I reflect on my brief, poignant conversation with my wise old mother last week, and I feel proud to be her daughter.