It’s a beautiful morning here on the peninsula- still, the way only Sunday mornings ever really are, gray, misty, quiet. The only sound I could hear, as I sat out on my front porch with my mug of hot, strong coffee, was the clang of what I believe to be buoy bells- I could be wrong about that, but in my head, that is what those clangs are.
But that is not the kind of beautiful I want to talk about right now. I had an interesting conversation with my mom, yesterday. It probably wasn’t very interesting to her, but it stood out to me. It went like this- we were talking about my youngest daughter, Camryn, and how she is just getting cuter every day. I said something to the effect of, yes, she is just lovely, but it’s her personality that really takes it over the top for me, and my mom says “No, I think she is just beautiful, just a pretty girl.” To which I replied “Yeah, she reminds me more of Aisley (my older daughter) all the time.” Then my mom says, and this is what got me thinking- “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but I see a lot of me in her.”
Now, why would I take that the wrong way? I was confused, and told her as much- I was honestly not connecting the dots. “Well, ” she said, “I don’t want you to think that I am saying I am beautiful…” And the conversation went on, and then I was in the store, so I had to go, but her words stayed with me.
At first, I was baffled, but then, after a while, I was sad. My mother, one of the most beautiful women out of all of the mother’s I have ever met, doesn’t want me to think that she would be foolish enough to call herself beautiful. More pointedly, my mother doesn’t think that she is beautiful. Now, I struggle with this all the time, and I understand, but when your own mother, who happens to be so pretty that people are constantly commenting on it, says something like this- it really strikes a chord. And I have something to say about it.
Listen, ladies, lots of you may know this on a certain level- that there is more to beauty than a flat stomach, and a pleasing face- but when it comes down to it, I think we have a tough time internalizing and believing this truth, as it applies to us. But you know what? Fuck that. You are beautiful.
You look in the mirror, and maybe you see ten or twenty extra pounds, but your mother looks at you, at this person she loves, and she sees you vibrant and healthy, and everything you have ever been, and all of the things you are going to be. She sees you, and you are beautiful.
You see a picture of yourself, and you see gray hairs coming in, or crows feet, or maybe a face you don’t even recognize as your face anymore. But your children look at you, and they see the person they love more than anyone else in the world. They know your soft, cool hands that would soothe away nightmares, and the safety of your embrace, and the way you know what they really need when no one else does, and you are stunning. Nothing in the world could mar that kind of beauty.
You maybe don’t even bother with the mirror anymore. You long ago lost the idea that anything about you could be appealing or pretty. But let me tell you, your grandchildren? There is no place in the world they would rather be than in your lap, snuggled into your arms. There is no better place they can think of than your presence. You are the most beautiful person in the world.
You may not fit the format that has been laid out before us- maybe you are too skinny, or not skinny enough, not quite there yet, or past your prime, maybe you hate your thighs or suck your stomach in, think your legs are too short or your boobs are too small. Maybe you spend a lot of time wishing things were how they used to be, or just different than they are now. Well, stop it. Because someone, the most important ones, look at you, look into you, and they see all of the things you ARE. Your great laugh, and your sharp wit, your kind heart, your willingness to be there, the ease with which you give.
Whoever you are, wherever you are at in your journey through life, you are beautiful. Way more than just a pretty face, my friend. And that includes you, my beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, funny, strong, mom. I love you. I would be proud to have daughters just as radiant as you are.
As a writer, the thing I know how to do when the chips are down, when something strikes me or inspires me, when something saddens me- is write. But this…this I don’t know how to write about.
I’m sure that my mind is much like your mind is, a swirling mess of emotions, vacillating between disbelief, horror, grief, anger, shock and heartbreak. I find myself imagining what it must have been like, in that school, yesterday, then I am glad that I cannot. It’s that bad, that unthinkable, that I can’t even imagine what it must have been like. My mind has no capacity for this kind of thing. It is literally unimaginable.
What we know so far is this: A twenty year old young man killed his mother yesterday. Then, he traveled to the school where she worked and opened fire in two classrooms, killing six adults and TWENTY small children. He then killed himself. I can’t help but to say this- if only, if only, if only he had simply turned the gun on himself first…then none of this would be so, so bad. There is a very small, human part of me that registers, even in the face of all of this, that even one life lost is too many, even a very sick, very dangerous life such as his. But still, why could it not have been just him? I think we all want to know why- why ANY of this happened, what caused it, what happened to trip his switch, WHY didn’t we somehow know, see the signs? And I think that is a really important line of questions that we do need to discover answers to if we want to keep this type of tragedy from happening again. I think it is incredibly human to want to know what happened, to know why, because we need it to make some sort of sense so that we can cope. But I don’t think this will ever make sense.
I just keep thinking about the families. I keep thinking about the presents under Christmas trees for kids that are GONE. I keep thinking that, right now, some mother in Connecticut finally dozed off for five minutes and had to wake up and remember that this is REAL. That her son or daughter, her BABY, is dead. I keep having moments of unbearable sadness, crushing grief, wild despair because I imagine myself in her place. And I am so incredibly grateful that it is not me, that it is not my daughter, gone. That I can, right now, stop typing, run into the other room, and touch my daughter’s warm, sweet, sleeping face. My heart is just broken by the knowledge of all that was lost, yesterday. The lives of far more than twenty children and seven adults lost- just the tip of the iceberg, really. I don’t know how to say what I mean, but I think, if you have children or nephews and nieces, or little brothers and sisters, you know. The destruction of lives radiates out into the mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, big and little brothers and sister, grandmothers, grandfathers, neighbors, best friends.
All bets are off, now. In a few days, we will start to go on with our lives, we will begin to heal the way our resilient selves do- we are not in the midst of it, and we are so blessed. But it has marked you, somewhere, I promise. You will pay attention for a long, long time to how you say goodbye, I love you, goodnight. You will look at the people around you, the ones you love best, in real time, seeing them not just as fixtures in your life, but as they are- beautiful, precious, prized parts of your heart. It is too bad it takes something beyond comprehension to bring the truth into sharp focus- that everything we strive for and grab at and prioritize is NOTHING compared to the love we give and the love we get in return. Nothing else means anything.
I would like to start by saying “Hi!” to all of you. I miss you guys when I haven’t been writing, and I really haven’t been writing with much consistency lately, for many (lame) reasons (excuses). So, I am being honest when I say I think about the little blog community I am getting to know when I am nowhere near my computer, and I think that’s cool. I also want to say “Hi” because my next statement is going to be a little (lot) negative.
2) My computer is a f***i**g piece of S**T! I am losing my mind on a daily basis (at least) now due to whatever issue it is having. It appears to have caught some type of unknown virus, probably the computer version of AIDS back in 1983. No cure, no hope, prognosis terrifying and grim. Geez, I am so off track here.
3) I hate to waste more time talking about this, but # 2 is a total lie. I actually have a really great laptop, but I don’t know very much at all about maintaining a computer. I do what I know how to do, and I have some program that is scanning stuff every forty-five seconds (it seems like) and I guess I’ll have to get with it, because this is really slowing me down. It has totally hindered my writing, of all types.
Okay, FINALLY, that is done with- can I PLEASE tell you the main thing now? So, as many of you know from either knowing me in real life, reading my blogs, or both, I have been having a pretty tough time with my oldest girl for a while now…like, maybe since birth, but until this past six or seven months, there were still good times, too. A lot of good times, and despite all the bickering, we were always very, very close. Not anymore. She really, really hates me. She’s done some pretty despicable things to me recently, and out of pure maliciousness, stuff I would NEVER have dreamed of doing to my mom. Not in a million years.
Sometimes it hurts my feelings pretty bad- the other day when we were fighting on the way to her school and I was trying to tell her that had she missed the one hour class that is required of her that day, she would have to repeat 8th grade instead of moving on to HS. She said “I don’t care.” Which frustrates me, because if SHE doesn’t care, why the hell am I doing all this stuff for her?! But I said to her in reply “If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be crying right now.”
“I’m crying because I hate your guts, and there is nothing I can do about it! You are a mean bitch. I have ALWAYS hated you.” She said.Yikes. That one really hurt, somehow, and I don’t know why, because she has said much meaner things than that to me. Maybe it was because I kind of believed her, that that is the way she felt. That she HAD always hated me. I’m the first to admit, I am totally hateable sometimes, and the more I love you, the worse I can behave. Which puts her, my child, in the number one spot. The number two spot would be held by my mom. These are the two people I want to mainly talk about right now.
Lately, I just cannot think about my daughter and I without thinking about my mother and I. It’s just so strange to me that I am now, basically, standing in my moms shoes, looking at myself in my own daughter. It terrifies me, because I know I can put up speed bumps in her path, but I cannot stop this child. It shames me, also, because I remember being that….just AWFUL, the way girls can be at that age. I had it all figured out, I did not give a shit about how my mom felt (well, sometimes I didn’t) or how my insanity effected her life. You see, I would run away for days on end, never calling, nothing. I just don’t know how my mom made it through those days without losing her mind. I know how lost I feel these days, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to help this kid, scared to death I’ll make the wrong choice. There really aren’t too many people I can turn to, because it’s a touchy, touchy subject and I don’t know very many people who could give me any advice I could have faith in. Either their kids are awful, too, or they have never been awful so they have to be guessing. I can’t really talk to my mom about it because she gets too upset, and also because she always blames all of it on me. Which is pretty awful on a lot of levels- I mean, yes, I SUCKED as a mother when she was little. I was as bad as they get. Sometimes. But there were many, many times when I was great, too. I have friends who have known me since before I had Aisley, and were around all the way up until I moved away when she was six. When I came back, at least three of those friends has heard me beating myself up for being the way I was when she was little, and too my surprise, they absolutely disagreed with me. “You were a great mother! You always took good care of that kid. She was with you all the time, you never left her for one night, etc., etc.” So, I guess I wasn’t the monster I thought I was, and I let people make me think- again, my mom and Aisley. My mom was around way less than my friends, so I can’t totally discount what they recall. Also, I tended to act up on the phone with my mom throughout those crazy years, and for some reason, I would say terrible things to make her worry about Aisley. And me. I just tortured that woman. I was so ANGRY with her, and I have no idea why. Maybe because I just wanted someone to fix me, and she wished she could, but she couldn’t.
So, anyway, that’s kind of where I am headed with this whole thing. Aisley is tough, but the worst of it is that I MISS her, the her I held for so long…she is just lost to me, I hope only for now. And I remember my mom saying that to me, that she missed me so much, the me that she loved and knew. You think you have so much time to get it right, to fix things and work it out…when that baby is laying in your arms, eighteen years seems like forever. But it goes by before you even have a chance to figure out what you are doing, and that little brown eyed girl who slept curled up in your arms for way too many years won’t even let you touch her hand. She is only 14, but I know the rest of the time I have with her will be more on her terms than mine. That window was shutting and I didn’t even know. I should have known ,because I was the same exact way.
To my mom, I want you to know how sorry I am. I don’t know why I was so wild. I will never know if anything you did or didn’t do had anything to do with it, but I really don’t think so. I think I just was who I was, and I was drawn to that lifestyle no matter where I went. I really believe that you did the very best you could at least 85% of the time, which is a lot more than most people do. I KNOW you love me more than anyone else does. I can’t imagine…no, I CAN clearly imagine what you went through for ALL of those years.
You see, this evening, I finally had a chance to finish going through a box of miscellaneous notebooks and cards and letters and things that I have been lugging around since the early nineties. I have basically been going through box after box of paper, separating the cards and personal things of mine from Aisley’s, and from my drawings and poetry, and from old bills and garbage. It’s been taking forever, but it’s great to see all this stuff. Tonight, though I don’t usually look at the cards, I did. You know, my mom tried so hard, all of those years, to remind me of who I really was. Every single word she wrote was designed to tell me-“This is not you, Courtney. I KNOW YOU, and I will not let you forget.” I never saw that before, until tonight. Thank you, mom. I am so lucky to have someone love me in such a ferocious way, and to have learned to love that way myself.
And there were so many poems and drawings and letters from Aisley that tell me how much she loves me, and how glad she was that I was her mom. I really needed to see that tonight, because I was starting to believe that things had always been bad, and she had never had a mother she could love. I was questioning my own memories. I was really taking all of her issues as a direct assessment of my parenting. But Aisley is making her own choices now and I am not to blame for that. I have been a MUCH better mom to her since she was seven years old, and that is half of her life now. I have been in her life every minute since the day she was born, too, and you can’t say that about all of her parents. I understand clearly that my mom was just as unsure as I am now, and that she did her best to cope with her child who refused to be parented. It’s hard, it sucks and we are still people- busting our asses, keeping things together, and resentful as hell of this KID who gets everything handed to them and still makes sure we can’t have any happy, stress free time, because they have to act like idiots. My mom deserved a way better deal than she got with me. I love you mom, and I just want to thank you one more time, from the bottom of my heart, for never giving up on me. I know it must have been hard.
And Aisley, I promise you, I will never, ever give up on you. No matter what you think right now about me, no matter what you think about me EVER, my love for you cannot be altered. The years you and I had, just us two, are unique to us. You are the best thing that ever happened to me- if it weren’t for you, I never would have thought I needed to change. I never would have understood love. I never would have become anything. You saved my life, and you are so incredibly special to me. I will always be here for you- you can count on that.
Ugh! I am way bawling, by now. This was so long, I thank anyone who made it through this thing. I’m not even going to re-read it, I am going to leave it be. I said what I wanted to say. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fetch a roll of paper towels. Goodnight.
My mom came to visit me a few weeks ago. It was not our best visit ever. It was certainly not our worst. I only cried like, twice, the whole time she was here. Unfortunately, it was in a very busy restaurant at lunch time, and my make-up was PERFECT-so I spent a lot of time doing that weird, wide eyed, blinky face that girls do when they don’t want to ruin their mascara. Head tilted back, blink, blink, blink, waving your hands like fans at your face in some bizarre effort to, what? Dry the water out of your eyeballs? Anyway…
Something very odd happens to me when my mom is coming for a visit. For about ten days before she arrives, I am very, VERY excited. I love my mom! Everybody loves my mom- she is fun and outgoing, full of energy and laughter and encouragement. She’s quite the little whirlwind, my mom, and I am really and truly a fan. But you know…we all have many facets to our personalities. And she’s MY MOM. So, about four days before she is due to show up, I start to get a little stressed. At three days ’til, I begin to see my home through the eyes of the woman who raised me, and wonder how in the hell I never realized what a pig pen in the back alley of a dump my house is. Two days prior, I start to clean in earnest and simultaneously begin to loathe every living creature that lives in this house with me. Filthy ingrates. Do they think their cereal bowls are going to walk themselves to the kitchen sink? A few more days, and they probably would sprout legs and mosey on out the front door. I mutter a lot of very uncharitable things about the people I am surrounded with, and/or created myself, only kind of under my breath, and they try to stay out of my way.
I wrote something funny about this a long time ago, about how my mom can see dirt that no one else can see- dirt on other planets, even. I still stand by it. I don’t know what happened to me, but I got some kind of recessive slob gene that prevents me from giving a shit about how things look for longer than a few days. I just don’t care. I mean, I care what other people think of me, obviously, or I wouldn’t pick up EVER, no matter who was coming over. But it only bothers me to the degree that I allow myself to even notice. I really, honestly, don’t pay a whole lot of attention-maybe it’s a self-protective, learned behavior that I built up over the years just to keep myself from going nuts in the midst of my rubble. Maybe I’m just gravely disgusting. I don’t know. I do know, however, that in those two days before my mom gets here, those blinders come OFF, and I clean until I am physically incapable of doing one more thing. My mother has a beautiful home now, the latest in a string of beautiful homes she has lived in. I’m not saying they were fancy homes, by any means. But my mom can really put a house together, make it look homey and cozy and comfortable, in like five minutes. We were very poor when I was a kid, but our homes were always the nicest of all my friends. Not overdone and anxiety provoking, as if putting your hand on the wall would be a fucking catastrophe, but attractive and inviting. When I was younger, even after I’d gone out on my own, I loved bringing people to my mom’s house-it sort of made me feel like they could see where I came from and think, “oh, this girl is not at all the lame-o she seems to be. Look at how NICE her mother’s house is. She must be a nice girl, coming from such a pretty home.” Of course, I am way too old for that, now. Now the only thing her decorating skills and aptitude for neatness do for me is make me hyperventilate. And clean, really, really well, for two solid days before every visit.
Which, I think, is part of the problem. You see, by the time she comes rolling down my street in her sleek, silver BMW and pulls up with a happy wave in front of my ramshackle little home, I have worked up a serious attitude problem. I am upset that I am so tired, upset that my house is still not perfect, upset that I am upset, again, and also mad that I had to make myself and children presentable on top of the stupid house. I am no longer ready for company, I’m ready for a stint in a psych ward. Why can’t my mom just love me as I am? Why do I have to work so hard to STILL fall short? Yeah, I go through this every single time.
I want to tell you- she has gotten SO much better in the last couple of years. She tries really hard to not criticize my place or me, because she knows I will completely freak out, I’m sure. See, I become hyper-vigilant and painfully sensitive to her every comment. I am ready to pounce at the slightest of slights. Last time she was here, after busting my ASS for days, do you know what she said to me that sent me over the edge? She said “Why don’t you wipe down your garbage can, Courtney? Gross.” Hmm…okay, not the nicest comment ever, and probably unnecessary, but worth remembering and rehashing and repeating to my coworkers and friends? Probably not. I believe my reply to her was “Well, it IS where I keep my GARBAGE, mom. Nobody eats out of it.” But I was thinking- ‘two days straight of busting my ass to clean, and she notices the fucking garbage can?’. The minute she left, I scrubbed that bastard, then yelled at Devon. I don’t know why I yelled at him, but it helped.
My mom loves me, I know, more than anyone else in the world. She thinks so much of me and has such confidence in me, she is so sure of my capabilities of world-domination, that I think it is really easy for me to disappoint her. I know for a fact that she does not set out to hurt me- as a matter of fact, I don’t even know if she knows that she does. I act like such an asshole when we are around each other, she probably just thinks that’s how I am now. Actually, she thinks it was all the drugs- she thinks I am stuck in a perpetual amphetamine headlock. I’m not saying there isn’t, maybe, some element of truth in that…I know I am a little high strung (a little?! Ha!). But, HELLO? Where does she think I got it? Ask anyone who knows my mom, and they will be able to tell you, for sure, it was not my dad who could be a little…intense.
Well, I better publish this before I chicken out. If she gets mad at me, I will totally flip out! Just kidding.
If you know me at all in real life, you may have heard me express out loud (one or two million times) my aggravation with people who compare their dogs with children. It is no coincidence that the people who do this generally do not have actual children-I understand, yes, there is a great bond between a dog with whom you have lived and loved for many years and yourself. However, I will say here what I have often said to these “dog-moms” when they say “I have no kids…but I have two chihuahuas that are JUST like my babies.”
If I left my daughter out in the yard all day with a bowl of water while I went to work, I would go to jail. If my daughter crapped on the floor and I rubbed her nose in it, that would be child abuse. And if I put my kid on a leash for a walk down the block…Wait. People actually DO that, don’t they? My GOD, that is creepy.
That being said, I have to tell you that. maybe I should have looked into dog ownership before I became a mom. Because this shit is hard. Last night, I had to take my oldest girl to the hospital because she had the WORST bloody nose I have EVER seen in my entire life. Why? Hmm…I am not sure whether to laugh or cry about this. The reason she had a bloody nose is because, in the midst of a heated argument about why I had decided not to buy her a new $250.00 smartphone, she got so upset and frustrated with me that words utterly failed her and she tried to blow a snot rocket at me.
I am not kidding you. I am trying to figure out how to explain to you what would have happened to me had I ever tried such a thing with my mother. All I can come up with is this- I probably would not be sitting here writing this right now as I would have suffered a horrible young death. If my mom hadn’t killed me, she certainly would have beat my ass. God, however, works in mysterious ways, and he must have known that this child needed a little shaking up, so he intervened on my behalf.
I have this new tactic that seems not to work very well, but having so few tools in my parenting arsenal, I do the best I can with what little I have. The tactic I am referring to here is what you might call “Calm and Detached.”. I figure it is better than getting down on her level and flipping completely out- except that, when I do this, it seems to make her even more insane. I’m not going to lie, there’s a small, awful part of me that enjoys seeing her buttons get pushed the way she ALWAYS pushes mine. So I was busy being calm and detached when the above mentioned snot-rocket was launched and all hell broke loose. I didn’t even look up from the magazine I was (pretending) reading.
“Mom! MOM! My nose is bleeding!”
“That’s what you get.” I told her.
“MOM! What’s HAPPENING!!??” Okay, so the level of panic in my usually not panicky kid did strike a chord in me as I glanced over. And HOLY SHIT.
I have never, ever in my life seen blood shoot out of someones nose like that. Trust me, should you ever see blood pumping out of your child’s face, leaving puddles on the floor, you pretty much forget about whatever stupid thing they did to cause it twelve seconds earlier. I tried to stay calm, I really did. It didn’t work, though. I sort of remember yelling at Devon to “CALL 911!”, being mad when he refused, throwing Aisley in the car and rushing off to the hospital. She had blood on her shoes, her pants and her sweatshirt. She had blood covering her hands, her neck and her face. On the way there, she said “Mom, maybe you should drive faster, because I am really scared.” So I did. She’s really not a kid who gets too worried about much-not like me, who will go into blind panic. She stays pretty level headed about these things. On the way there, she started crying. I drove a little faster, still.
It takes about ten minutes to get from my house to the hospital, and by the time we drove into the parking lot, the bleeding had slowed down a lot. We thought about going home, but she said “Maybe my brain is bleeding- we should probably just go in.” And though I doubted it very much, there was a teensey part of me that thought “Well, you never know.”, so we went in.
I’m glad we did. For one, I needed the peace of mind that she was really okay, and so did she. Secondly, it was pretty hilarious making my tearful and blood covered child admit to the doctor exactly how she came to be in this sorry state. (“can I put this in the dictation?” he asked. “Oh, absolutely”, I replied, delighted.) But most importantly of all, because, weird as it sounds, I think we BOTH needed a little fear to shake us out of this funk we have been in. We’ve been living together with this hostility between us for so long, I think we’ve just gotten used to it. Seeing her so frightened and upset reminded me that whatever else is going on, she is still my little girl. I would die, I mean, seriously, I could not go on, if anything were to happen to her.
We came home in much better spirits. She cleaned herself up and actually made her sister a bottle. I could count on no hands the number of time that has happened.Earlier that night, as we sat in the waiting room, I had put my arm around her and tried to pull her close. I tried to tell her that I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. I could feel her resistance, and see how afraid she was, and I understood that we have turned a corner somewhere along the way- one where I can’t fix everything, nor can I make her feel safer by pretending that it’s true.
But I can tell you this- I would certainly try. No matter what else is going on in this crazy busy life of mine, if one of my kids needed me, I would be there, period. If all I can do is sit beside them and hold their hands, you better believe I will be sitting there, holding on. I may have to look real hard to see that child I love so much in that fourteen year old, but she is there. And I love her beyond reason. No matter how many snot rockets she’s got up her, er,…sleeve.