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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Collecting the Shells

Happy Mother's Day to all of the women who raised me. The short list includes: Dolly, Shirley, Margo, Leslie, Charlotte, Danielle, Jonna, Sarah, Kate, Mary, Barb, Bev, Elaine and Lorraine.

I woke up this morning at 4:00 and realized that I had to write. My muse is an early riser and she does her best between 3 and 4, so I knew exactly who it was. "Aw com'n..." I mumbled and attempted to nestle back into our newly foam covered mattress. No such luck. Then my mind started to whirl with the pictures and the glimpses of what I should be up writing about. I saw Dolly's picture in my mind, the one of her as a child. I think that is my comforting frame of reference because children are blameless. Right behind that I thought to myself that I had been beating her over the head and shoulders for most of my life -- and that's when the tears came. Rather than cry all over the pillow and cause my husband to wake from yet another night of sound sleep to entertain my muse... this is what I wrote.


It took me twenty years to catalogue my anger, to tell the story, to have it in my hands as proof positive that I wasn’t imagining it all and I really did have the right to be upset. At the end of the book, I was much as where I began, with a death that I could not solve and my own life to appraise, find the faults and the forgiveness… and move on.

I met an author on a website slush pile, a place for people to present their writings and back one another’s quest to become published, finally. She claimed to be a medium and I gave her the socially-acceptable amount of doubt and lit my candle quietly, sitting there hoping that she might choose me. She did. Her message back to me was that my mother, the same mother that I had skewered publically to all of my family, friends and complete strangers passing by, forgave me. She forgave me for my anger. Lorraine told me that when I got stuck writing, I could ask my mother for help and she would give me the words.

If I could go back and pick up the pieces of the eggs lying scattered on the slate floor of my memory, my hands would not go unguided. There would be hands that were slightly darker than mine with their nails manicured and painted in 1970’s green glitter. She would wipe the makeup that was smeared on my face with her tears and spit and I would flinch away giggling, “Mommy – ewwww.” When I asked her to explain the marks to me she would tell me the whole story, holding nothing back, and admit to me that she was in more pain than my child’s mind could fathom. I could hold her pain, for just a second, because she wanted me to find the catalyst for forgiveness. Then, she would reach for me and help me to stand up again from the floor where I laid waiting for the slap that never came.

For twenty years I waited and when the opportunity came to deny me the right to tell my story – she chose instead to guide my hands, picking up the pieces together.

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