Posts Tagged ‘Other Mother’

a dr. pepper mom

April 15th, 2012    -    13 Comments

I drank two Dr. Peppers last week. I just might have another before today is through. When I reach for one on the lower shelf of the refrigerator case of Happy’s corner convenience store, I think of my mother. My mother drank Dr. Pepper. It’s one of the things I couldn’t stand about her, so when I do it now, it’s the atonement of a fully grown daughter. It tastes pretty damn good.

I wince when people tell me they could be more forgiving if they’d had a mother like mine (or even me), a different family, a more enlightened upbringing, better genes or geography. Every mother is the mother you wish she wasn’t.

My mother drank Dr. Pepper because she was a Texas farm girl and Dr. Pepper was the state’s own peculiar brand of soda. When she still drank Dr. Pepper in the middle of the ‘60s Pepsi Generation in beachside Southern California, I was mortified. There were other things that offended me about her then. Her clothes weren’t particularly cool. She never put on much makeup. I wished she would do something about her hair. And she had big hips. She seemed considerably wider and rounder then the other moms. These other moms were the ones at home in their split-level houses when school was out, for another thing, while my mother wasn’t because she worked. She worked because she had to and because she wanted to, her work as a teacher adding both dignity and indignity to her life. She had to endure the insults of her own family for becoming the first girl-child to go to college; she had to become better educated and work longer and harder every day and night to make and save the pittance that kept my family afloat. It was less money for harder work than my father was paid, but she did it for 40 years. Only rarely did she buy herself a Dr. Pepper as a ten-ounce consolation. I can’t believe I begrudged her that.

She gave me the chance to choose a different kind of education, job and beverage, those of my own generation. Those choices weren’t much better, but they were mine. It’s taken me this long to respect her point of view on most things.

Mom, I’m buying.

What brings this to mind is the recent, ridiculous, overblown and entirely artificial discussion of mothers, (again) their work, (again) and whether we value it (of course we don’t.) When these kinds of political fabrications get conjured up, I can’t stand it. They are never about real mothers with real lives, but always about some idealized mother. We only protect and defend idealized mothers. Only imaginary mothers are served by political campaigns. Real mothers are never served by anyone, anytime. If you don’t know who the idealized mother is I’ll give you a hint. It’s not you, and it’s not your mother. It’s the one that wasn’t.

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The mother you never knew you had

October 18th, 2009    -    3 Comments

Bring me that mother.
The one who fills up a pot
turns the flame up to hot
dials the phone for a long talk
and lets it boil over again.
It’s okay.

Bring me the one who wakes from a snore
plants his feet on the floor
grabs mismatched socks from a drawer
darts out the front door
running fast, late and stressed out again.
It’s okay.

Bring me the one who lives by herself
a chipped cup on a shelf
unaware of her wealth
power reach magic health
until she smiles at a stranger again.
It’s okay.

Bring me the one who sniffs change on the breeze
covers a sneeze
lets the air freeze
and knows the bloom will unfurl once again.
It’s okay. It’s always okay.

Bring me that mother who isn’t a mother.
Not the kind you think she would be.
Man, woman, mother or not.
It’s okay.
There’s no other mother to be.

Bring me that one.

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The mother at the end of my block

April 7th, 2009    -    4 Comments


Just a few months after my daughter’s birth, I saw another mother on the corner at the end of my block. – Momma Zen

Amy Tiemann’s second edition of Mojo Mom is born today. It is an updated compendium of thoughtful questions and resources about rebuilding a healthy life after you become a mother. I just read it for the first time, although it was the second time. That’s what I’m told the second birth is like: not like the first, which you can’t remember anyway.

There is a story about me and Amy that I’m not sure she knows. And the story is this: she is the mother I met at the end of my block. We all have this mother. Another mother that you meet in a jolt of recognition in those first desolate months, the other mother to whom you will reveal yourself in the mutual reflection of empathy and acceptance. The mother with an extra ziplock bag of Cheerios in her stroller when yours have run out just as you start the steep homeward climb.

Amy was that mother not for the birth of my baby, although our daughters were born within weeks of one another. Amy is the mother I met on my block for the birth of my book.

A few months before the birth of Momma Zen, I started casting a crazed daze about the neighborhood. I’d started and finished the project in a creative cocoon, oblivious to what was already out there, unaware of what anyone else had written first or best. I highly recommend cocoons for all transformative processes. It is nature’s perfect way and thankfully requires no recommendation from me.

I ordered Amy’s book, her baby, just to confirm that it was not my own. We can all envision the movie-of-the-week hysteria that would overtake us should someone else leave the hospital with our baby! I read her book to check for family markings: the ear lobes, the nose, the big toe, and came away convinced. She had hers; and I had mine.

In the years since I have confirmed that and more. Amy has her own inimitable approach to this bottomless topic of life as a mother. She has a scientist’s mind, a seeker’s eye and a mother’s heart. She is overwhelmingly generous, kind and reassuring. If I am the priest at your bedside, she is the doctor. Believe me, you want to see the doctor well before the priest arrives.

In her book, Amy asks the questions we may be afraid to ask ourselves. They are practical, not spiritual, but can seem quite impossible and intangible in the early years. Questions about work, time, space, money, childcare, self-care, power and politics. Mojo Mom will leave you energized and activated, not agitated and polarized, as so much mommy talk can.

As life would have it, as it always will, Amy and I have walked these blocks, these years, in each other’s continuous company. With mutual respect and humor. As life would have it, as it always will, we will soon be walking the blocks in my very neighborhood when Amy comes to visit me in June. She and I will host a Mother’s Summer Reading Salon at Sierra Madre Books on Tuesday, June 23.

Can you believe it? I can’t, but I can trust this life exactly as it unfolds, as surely as you can trust yours and everyone in it.

Buy Amy’s book for any mother on your block this Mother’s Day. The block is both bigger and smaller than you think, and no one walks it alone.

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