Once upon a time

Simon Hantai, Etude, 1969, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Simon Hantai, Etude, 1969, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, you were a child and I had magic. My kisses made your tears disappear.  My cookies melted your sadness. Your “lovey” and nap solved tumbling world crises, vanished them into thin air.

Not so now. Now your home is full and my floors are empty, of tiny toys and rollicking crumbs.  Now when you call (BTW not enough), you have problems I can’t poof away. Money problems, relationship problems, state-of-this-spinning-world problems. My crystal ball eye can’t tell your future and my conjuring is at best only words. Syllables dropping.

I worry. Did I spend too much time on the rules, when I should have guided you though the white space?   The space outside of the rules, and in between them. The under-over weaving of chance and circumstance. Did I give you a leg up to climb that big oak clear to the top, cheering you on from below. Did I draw a crayon sketch to diagram this folding, unfolding world. Instead of saying, “don’t get sent to the principal,” I could have said, “when you see the principal, tell her this. . .”

I’ve lost that magic wand, and the power to make the stars line up. My old lady hands cannot set things to rights for you. On this Mother’s Day, I give to you this painting. A wish.  A thousand kisses to banish tears. A thousand wings to fly. Strength to choose your color and call beauty out of the wild white unknown.

Now when am I going to see the grandkids next???


The perfect card

Helen Baker, Red Rag

I’m a mom in the middle. I’m the between generation. My fingers touch both the hem of my mother’s skirt and the collar of my children’s shirt. This painting reminds me of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and of motherhood.

At the temple wall, you’ll watch people writing little white prayers, rolling them up like cigarettes, and stuffing them into the chinks between the rocks. (for God to smoke, I suppose)

The blocks here are memory stones in a relationship wall, a Facebook timeline of our evolving experiences of “mother.” Inside these memories we are five, we are fifty, we are thirteen. Often in the course of one telephone conversation with her.      Or in the way our patchworked hands reach for our kids.

A boundary-marking wall, a door-opening wall.  Each block, a bit different in its materiality.  Some are fading, some are strong and demanding. A bright turquoise shines from behind, a flexing light-giving life.

The mistakes she made with me pop up now on the backs of my hands, in the lines of my mouth. I sometimes find them in my bones. My reflection in the mirror dissolves into mystery, translucent overlays of my mother and her mother. Am I conflicted? Absolutely. I’m a card carrying member of the “deeply conflicted moms club.”

Go ahead and search the shelves of Target or Walmart for that perfect card. Find a Hallmark card that says, “I love you Mom, for all your cawing red blocks and the ones of whispering lavender. I love you for your brilliant turquoise soul. The one whose fingers now lift me.”

My kids will visit their checkered-past wall, and roll up their own prayers there. Prayers that they can someday be like me, prayers that they can be better.


Special needs mom

James Rosenquist, White Bread, 1964, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

James Rosenquist, White Bread, 1964, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

My teacher asked me the other day about you. We were making cards. I said that you were a “special needs mom.”  They say that kinda stuff about kids all the time at our school, but I think they mean the moms really.

If I had to pick a painting for you for Mother’s Day, I’d pick this one.

Because of the white bread and butter. The butter stick that you told me I can’t eat like a popsicle. I’m still mad about that, cause I can’t figure out why. It seems like a great idea to me.

I like this painting because it shows the middle part when you make me cinnamon toast — my all-time favorite breakfast. You taught me how to make it myself, but I’d rather have you do it. So I can watch my Lego movie, Clutch Powers.

I’ll try to eat it in the living room when you’re not looking. And I know that’s against the rules. You will probably find the crusts underneath the couch or between the cushions in a month or two, and make a fuss. But I can’t think about that right now cause it tastes sooo good and Clutch Powers is getting eaten by a Lego troll. . .

Happy Mom’s Day.

Your son (and my brothers too, but I think they would pick waffles)