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August 23, 2007





Okay, I'm a real rookie (see "test" comment above - don't even know how to log in!)but here goes...

I'm watching my mother and my five year old daughter elaborately lining up every stuffed animal she owns in an attempt to upstage Ringling Brothers in a game of Animal Circus. I am grateful for the opportunity to give my mommy guilt a brief siesta, as my mom is playing with my daughter in a way that I rarely have the time and energy for since the birth of my son. We used to play this way all of the time - right in line with my plan before her birth to be an "active parent". In the familiar lament "before I had kids...", I was so critical of my own mother's child rearing style. "She never played Candyland with me....never got down on the floor to see what my dolls were up to...never had a good answer to my frequent complaints of boredom." I would do better! I would be super-parent! How naive and arrogant I was in my pre-mommy days. Thankfully, being knocked around a bit by motherhood has brought me to my senses. But not as much as what I have learned about my own mother in this time. Like many her age, she became a member of the "sandwich generation" - caring for her chidren,
grandchildren and her elderly mother at the same time. After her visits to the assisted living facility, I heard the sadness in her voice. Gradually she began to let me in on the world she shared with her own mother. I had always known that my grandmother was tough - not very nurturing, fairly self centered. But the icing on the cake came the day that my mother told me that she can only remember one moment in her life where she felt that her mother was genuinely happy to see her. As a mother, this is so inconceiveable to me, that it is a wonder that my own mom was able to be a mom to me at all. I am so grateful to her that she did the best that she could despite the experiences of her youth, and that she tries even now to be a better grandma than she was a mother. What a lesson in the dangers of judgement, because you just never know.



When my mother is painting I am sometimes allowed to watch. It happens in a silent way. I come in through the kitchen, its stark light dimmed only a bit by the deepening evening outside. It's the kind of light we are known for out here where, as my father says, weather does not matter and so has no connection to time. Time and weather float above us somehow and we have to strain to feel ourselves part of it. A painter has to know the light and has to feel the weather through it so my mother paints most often in the early morning and early evenign and it's the evenings when I can slink in behind her if she's left the pocket door open. I take it always as an invitation. With her paints she is with herself they are so much part of her. When we were younger my sister and I envied them a bit, the way they clung to her skin and she didn't seem to notice. Even now I think we are, my sister and me, trying to get back to her hands and arms, to feel her molding us, taking hold of us, making us up. She moves with the canvas, stands never sits. Her hair is housewifey in a bandana tied at her neck where a tangle of dark curls fades into a downy seam, trailing into the scoop back of her tanks hirt. Her neck is a fine thing and when you see it as I do now you feel she's given you something.


I found your web page, I don't know, about a week ago and keep finding my way back. I love to write but am nervous. Where do I start? Will I fail(my biggest scariest question thus far)? But most of all... Can you make me a better writer? Scared yes, nervous yes, someone who follows through? No. Because I tend to stop before someone tells me "that really sucks". I am afraid of failure but really want to improve my writing skills. I'll keep reading and hopefully find the courage to start this path, this journey, that I've dreamed about for so long.


Hi Tina -
I wasn't sure how else to respond to you, but I wanted to encourage you to post on this site. I gave it a not so great first shot above and hope to do better next time. Remember that it's all about taking a chance and doing your best and going from there. Nothing you write has to be perfect - it's perfect enough just to try.

Good luck and I hope to read your work soon!


I watched my mother in her bed at the hospice center, gathering her strength to raise herself up into sitting. Gathering strength to get help to go back into her wheelchair, to go with her day. I watched her smile and tell the physical therapist that she'll see her later, when she thinks it's all bunk, "Doesn't she know I'm dying, for cripes sake", and then I watch her grimace in pain and I remember when she used to grimace like that when she wiped one of our boo-boos, cleaning off the scraped knee and putting the band aid on tenderly and knowing it would be all right in a few days. I wondered how many few days she had.
I watched her wheel herself into the common room, and her face change as her friends and family came in to visit-one by one they came in, watching her, talking to her, being with her, and I hated watching her face saying good-bye to them. I watched her laugh with her brothers and sisters, and watched her cry with her grandchildren and watcher her stare into my eyes for seemingly hours as she dictated her obituary and them watched her face as decided she was happy with it. I watched her finally weaken so she couldn't sit up, and then I watched her as she couldn't talk then not open her eyes then I watched her not breath. I watched her die.

Queen of Carrots

My mother was asleep in her chair, as usual. Her mouth hung open slightly, her snores punctuated the afternoon stillness. Her bulk was a bulwark against bogeymen and burglars, her closed eyelids a license to tiptoe away from our chores and schoolwork, permission to read the books we weren't supposed to be reading, to return to our endless Monopoly game in the attic, to revel in the essential idleness of childhood.

My older brother would call out, "I'm going to Jeremy's," and she would murmur assent. We younger ones were tied in by two rules: Do not go outside, do not turn on the television. We questioned, challenged, and undermined all other rules, but not those.

And we were quiet, very quiet, because we never knew which loud noise might override the misfiring synapses in her brain and bring her back to consciousness. This danger was also our reassurance--if anything truly terrible happened, she would awaken and set all to rights.

The last time I saw her, she was sleeping in her chair. My sister said she was dead. I tiptoed outside.


MJ, welcome, thank you for your honesty, and your open, lovely post--clearly a good start to something, because you cracked open a geode of important stuff!


Wendy (I go by Wendy, too, btw), welcome, and were you crying when you wrote that? The central beautiful part, to me, is that the expression on the dying mother's face is the expression she had in caring for her daughter. Kudos, and keep on writing! (and thanks for your comment above as well) The details, folks, that's where you slay us!


Yow. What elegant, specific, captivating detail. I love how the narrator expresses light, and the light around her, in a very painterly way. I love how she observes the housewifely hair and the glory of her mother's neck. Yow is my inelegant reply. I do hope this is part of something much larger! (my mother is a painter, btw).


Tina--and thank you MJ for your comments (I'm getting all tangled up; I think I thanked someone else? Sorry folks. Post-vacation spider web brain)--JUST WRITE. Just do it. Don't worry about whether it's good. If you don't write, you'll never know what your pen has to say. Just give it a try and don't worry--follow our rules. We don't care if it's good (though sometimes I fall off my chair in the privacy of my office, amazed by what you women have to say...), we just care that you give yourself the gift of testing out your voice. Remember when you were little and sang along with the (in my case, record player), knowing you were an amazing singer (sure, someone might've squelched that later, someone mean and sad, but never mind) knowing you could do anything? GO THERE. And welcome, by the way.


Dear, dear Queen of Carrots (love that nom),
Her bulk was a bulwark against bogeymen and burglars,

You are a poet! And a scientist, I'm guessing, from your way of looking at things. And leaving us in terrible suspense...........



I'm watching my mother...in the antics of the great-granddaughter that she never met. It swooshes the air right out of me, some of this child's expressions and drama! Oh, I know where she got that from! How can this be? How can she place her hand on her hip and peek down the stairs whenever the doorbell rings? How can she hunch her shoulders and giggle like that when she's talking on the phone? How can she REEK of my mother when they never even met?
I'm watching my mother in this child's sassiness and confidence. In her heart shaped face and whiskey brown eyes with mischievious glints. I'm watching this spirit carry on but, most of all, I'm loving this little one twice as hard 'cause I know that my Mom is watching us both.

Gwendolen Gross

Dina--whiskey brown eyes! This is a great relationship--I love the frame of generations.

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