Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day started with fireflies, but this was only one of the reasons why it felt so magic. We went to Thibodaux, just my mom and I, to get away from the city for a second and have time to eat crawfish and listen to music and take walks and be absorbed by all the different kinds of green that take over south Louisiana this time of year. And my mom’s been captivated by fireflies ever since my dad told her he saw some out there a few weeks ago. The last time my mom saw fireflies was when she was younger than me and living in Italy.

So after dinner, when it had gotten so dark we could barely see our hands in front of us, my mom said, “Let’s go outside and look for fireflies!” You could tell she’d been thinking about it since we got there. And I was like, “Mom, there’s totally not gonna be any fireflies. It’s too late, it’s too dark, we’re not even looking in the right place…” and we stood outside under that tent of stars that’s so much brighter in the country and the whole time I was like, “See? There’s not any. I’m getting bitten by gnats; let’s go inside.” And then, as if for maybe no other reason than to remind me that I actually don’t know everything, the whole sky started blinking. It was like we were being visited by little spirits. They were everywhere! Better than the Northern lights; better than TV. We could barely take it. Remember this, little one, the world was telling me: your mother’s beliefs are stronger than your skepticism.

It was awesome.

This Mother’s Day felt like my day, too, because I kept realizing all the gifts I’ve gotten from my mom. It felt like I was opening my own presents all day, realizing again how connected I am to the people in my life who’ve made me who I am and who’ve put so much fierce labor into loving me. My mom and I both cry when we hear beautiful music, when we drive past glittering fields and red sunsets, when we tell stories about the people we love. The world grabs us both so hard sometimes, we can barely take it. She’s given me all the awe and wonder I feel at the world. Any scrap of tenacity and determination I have comes from my mom; any search for truth, both in myself and within the world around me; any commitment I have to continue to grow and learn every day I am here on this earth. And our hearts! Have you felt how much loves comes out of these hearts? I think the depth of how we love blows even us away.

I’m realizing as I grow older that one of the things I cherish most about myself is something deep I share with my mom, and that’s our rootedness. This all comes from her: my deep sense of place, the way the smell of sweet olive takes me back to being six years old and up past my bedtime; that thick danger and safety nighttime gave me as a child; the knowledge even then that I was being watched over by all these people I’ve come from, how living and dead they’re with me all the time. My mom planted a garden in the cemetery where our ancestors are buried, and she goes there regularly and waters the flowers there. She takes care of this place because it’s part of her. In dreams she has visits—really, visits!--with our ancestors. Like, they have conversations. I realize as an adult that I believe more in my mom’s dreams than in some scientific evidence, that the world has so many different ways of teaching us if we just pay attention.

Mother’s day is also a day for me to give tribute more generally to everyone who’s raised me: it’s a day for me to realize, with awe, what a collective process my history has been. For better or worse, I’m a product not only of my mom, but all my aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, cousins, teachers, and all the other elders who’ve taken me under their wing. These people have made me who I am in ways great and small: it’s from my aunts that I’ve learned to bring Band-Aids and Excedrin and also mix CD’s and awesome books with me wherever I go; my grandmothers have taught me gentleness and diplomacy and unconditional love; my cousins are this hilarious dynamic posse who keep me grounded and remind me that no matter where I go or what I do, there’s 20 people who’ve got my back in a second. And there are so many wise teachers in my life who’ve pushed my learning and kept me committed to being humble and honest and working for social justice in a steady, long-term way.

No matter how old I get, most of the time I still feel like a kid amazed at the world. Last night, with all those fireflies blinking electric-green above us, we couldn’t stop jumping and exclaiming and pointing wildly at that cool black sky. “It’s a sign,” my mom kept saying.
A sign of what, I wondered.
“I don’t know,” my mom said. “Maybe it means we just get a little bit more time. Maybe they’re giving us something back from long ago. I don’t know. But it’s good.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

cj, i love you! love bee

10:47 AM  
Blogger Kirstin said...

Wow. I love your writing.

You really are blessed.

12:02 PM  
Blogger g love and her special sauce said...

cj! i am so, so, so happy that you restarted floodlines. mike and i are in pittsburgh right now and before i left work on friday i printed out ALL of the new posts (since you restarted it) - all 18 pages - and read them in the airport before getting on the plane. you are an amazing writer and a beautiful soul and i miss you. yes: please come visit in july! love, susanna

3:40 PM  

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