the gap

635977508238477723918969241_o-MOM-HOLDING-HANDS-SON-facebookIn my journey thru motherhood, I have known my vocation…to watch over my girls, to provide for them, to keep them safe and ultimately to teach them to no longer need me.

We have traveled some rough roads, with potholes and massive construction detours and I have taken wrong turns at times, having to backtrack- and apologize or undo something I have done with the best intention. When there was no path, i have paused, let them catch up, and touching the top of my wrist to the small of my back, held out my hand and tucked their fingers into my palm. I have walked forward slowly, shielding them as best i could…but as they grew- I moved to the side more and more– until we were walking shoulder to shoulder.

And so we walked on touching, but as time passed and each grew strong, our paths began to move apart, barely noticeable at first, and always close enough to reach out and grab wrists- to tug one another close, if need be. And this was their adulthood for me and my girls for many seasons.

But there is a magical thing that happens. And if you are watching closely, you will see it unfold. In an unguarded moment, a person who loves them with a love as deep, yet different from mine, will step forward and touch their shoulder.  And soon my girl is walking close beside the other, their hands clasped together, heads bent toward one another as they share a joke. And i can feel the change – my girl no longer needs me in the way she has before. The gap between us that has widened as she has grown up- is closed by this one. They have stepped into my spot, and the gap has closed.

But here is the magic- when the one who steps into the gap accepts and even welcomes me,  my girl and I walk close again, with one more in our midst…and I can stand back… as they choose their direction.

 

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once a dancer…

Pat Lindemann dancingI recently found this picture of my mother dancing with me.  The writing on the back says “Judy and Patti Jean on her first “birthday”.”  Its my grandmother’s writing.  When my parents married, they were in San Antonio.  Both were in the Air Force, and lived on the base.

I remember dancing with my mother…maybe not this time, but I remember a time.  I was little, but old enough to be walking…and we were laughing.  She was holding both of my hands and swirling them in figure eights, in unison.  I don’t know what the music was, no memory of that… although I wonder sometimes when I hear a song in a store or elevator that makes me smile for no reason, if it was that song…

dancingwithtashRecently Tasha and I trooped down to the park for a “concert in the park” night.  The music was jazzy and the park was packed.  We wandered around in the back, searching for a tree to lean on, since we had neglected to bring chairs like everyone else.  The band played the song “Brown Eyed Girl”, always a favorite of mine… and we were in the back…very few people were probably even paying attention…until I couldn’t stop laughing…but I totally see nothing wrong with dancing when you hear a good song. I like to dance with my whole body…none of this tapping of a toe, or a minimal shaking of shoulders, pfft!  That’s not dancing!  Dancing is feeling music in your middle, and letting it trickle out to your limbs. It was one of those moments when you feel so good, that laughing out loud is a tiny sound, compared with the light in your soul.

and the memory makes me smile…

…breathe…

ImageOne of the things they will put on my gravestone (if I believed in them), would be “take a breath”.  No matter how urgent the situation, no matter how upset you are, you have a moment to pause and take a breath- and while you are at it, make it a good breath, from your belly, close your eyes, and pause for a moment…stretching out the word BREEEEEEEATHE in your mind, as breathe in, and breathe out. Be present – not in the situation, not in your emotion, but present in your body and breathe. 

Raising three girls, I handed these words out like chewing gum, as they were sorting amongst the debris of a challenging situation or a bad day…”take a breath…”.  They were good words and did seem to make them slow down a moment.  Being a counselor, and being one who taught others to problem solve, to understand their own behavior, to pause and to weigh the consequences of their anger, meant that I taught my own daughters this as well, from birth.  In the midst of their crisis, I was often reminded to ‘stop doing the counselor-thing’…but i did notice that they kept breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

This past year, I did a particularly difficult presentation for a harsh audience. I knew it was going to be hard, and in preparation- to remind myself not to talk too fast, to be mindful- I artfully wrote the word “breathe” on my wrist. I quite liked it…and it did the trick. The presentation was still labored, but I made my way through and felt accomplished at the conclusion.

There was something about having that reminder there, on my wrist…a few days later, I wrote it there again.  After the third time I wrote ‘breathe’ on my wrist, I made the surprising decision that I wanted it tattooed there…in Jane Austen handwriting font- because Jane Austen is my mother’s favorite author.

I am not really a “tattoo person”.  All my daughters have tattoos, Tasha has Beatles’ lyrics, Michaela has Journi’s footprint with “love you to the moon and back” and also a quote from a piece I wrote, Justina has too many to name, ladybugs, and dragonflies among them.  When I hesitantly told them that I was planning to do “breathe” on my wrist, they quickly adopted the idea of doing the same.

And so it is, all of us have the word “breathe” on our wrists…all in our own style, as it should be…because, as I have noticed…they are all still breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

wise woman in a storm…

As my hands automatically tore old bread into pieces for the birds, I remembered my mother’s hands going through these motions hundreds, thousands of times.

“for the birds” was an unwritten edict in our house. Any stale bread, crackers, old popcorn was always shoveled into an aluminum pan for the birds, to be sprinkled in the yard or put into one of several bird feeders available.

My mom is like that. She will always use what she has, for others that have less. This might be magazines and catalogs for a neighbor, a coat for a friend, paying someone’s electric bill, spending time with an older person, and bread for the birds. Whatever she has, if you need it, you will not leave her house without it…she will press it into your hands and refuse to take it back.

Never fails to amaze me how I see parts of her in my children…how Nina carries an entire over-the-counter pharmacy in her bag-which must be within her reach at all times, so does my mom and will hand you 3 varieties of cold drugs, depending on your maladies. How Tasha can read anything and remember the finer points months later, as they pertain to your question to her…so does my mom, and she will tell you that she thought of you when she read that particular article…heck, she will probably send it to you, with underlining on the pertinent parts. How Michaela’s hand gestures, posture, and ways of expressing herself mirror my mother’s mannerisms, down to a specific glance that she gives me when she thinks I am full of it…

I shake my head at her positive outlook, even when things aren’t positively looking up…but lest you get me wrong, she isn’t a saint. She can cuss a blue streak or write a scathing nasty letter when she is fed up with something, and will not trust someone twice, if they disappoint her. A wise woman in a storm…one to batten down the hatches, and listen to a little AC/DC or Nine Inch Nails while the rain pounds on the windows, petting Sam, her feline companion (she rescued him from his stray lifestyle).

Colorful, genuine, brilliant and selfless…that’s Judy.

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