Here in the US, businesses are starting to open back up after weeks of pandemic lockdown. We’re about to enter a new phase in this journey together.
Today marks 60 days that my family and I have lived and worked and been schooled from home, the five of us. It’s been a cozy little cocoon these many weeks. The weather is finally starting to improve in Ohio with warmer temps, no snow, less rain. This particular way we’ve been living life is coming to an end.
We all know how easy it can be to lament the many things we’ve lost over these 60 days: people chief among them, followed by jobs and life savings, milestones like proms and graduations and weddings and spring sports, and then maybe even followed by civility among our fellow Americans.
Let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on what we’ve gained, what we vow to do differently. I don’t want to go back to the way things were.
I’ll go first. In no particular order and by no stretch all-inclusive, here’s what I have gained and want to keep in my day-to-day life:
Routine family dinner, and all this extra time with the kids
Working from home (aka, the three-minute commute) with a puppy in my lap now and then
Reconnecting with far-flung friends using any manner of video technology
Netflix (yes!) for on-demand comedy
Savings that arose from not buying gas, lunch, clothes, etc.
The ability to focus on and truly enjoy the moments that make up the here and now
The realization that some things are truly outside of our control
The gift of my tribe – my tight circle of family, friends, and coworkers who I love
Simplicity of routine and in possessions
The sound of birds singing
Extra time for more hiking
A mostly empty evening and weekend calendar to use as the mood strikes me
Immense gratitude for my health and for all front line care givers, essential workers, and creative types who found ways to inject joy into these crazy days.
How about you? I’d love to hear at least one thing you discovered or reclaimed since the pandemic and you resolve to continue, to do different than you did before the world changed.
My youngest turns 10 tomorrow. Double digits. Normally we would be having a pretty cool birthday party with his friends, maybe even hire a gaming truck to come to our neighborhood so the kids can compete to their hearts’ content.
Not this year.
Nope. We’re stuck in the house, doing the same old, same old, as we have for – what? – the last 60 days.
Oh Lord, it’s even been SNOWING here in Ohio. Mother Nature isn’t even cooperating with us.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a kid to go through a pandemic and celebrate a birthday, although at this point I know quite a few who have. Shoot, I’m an adult, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.
But you know what? ANYBODY celebrating a birthday in a pandemic is something to celebrate.
All told, though, it won’t be that bad. Frankly, it will be pretty awesome by many standards. We ordered a cool gift online and it’s arrived. We’ll order take-out dinner from his favorite local Japanese hibachi place and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, you know, the kind with the chocolate fudge and crunchies on the inside. I’ll make a sign for the front yard. His Dad and I will blow up balloons overnight while he’s sleeping and cover his floor with them so he has to wade through it when he wakes up, and we’ll tack crepe paper streamers down his bedroom door, to usher in the big 1-0 in style. For extra flair, I’ll put a lip stick smiley on his bathroom mirror.
Maybe we’ll even deliver breakfast in bed, since it’s entirely possible to pull it off.
I wrote to some friends to see if they’d be interested in forming one of those car parades in front of our house so he can see his old school and soccer buddies. It’s been two months after all, and who knows when he’ll see them all again for real.
I even floated the idea of a single kid sleeping over if the parent consented but hubby nixed the idea because our other two kids will beg for exceptions we are not willing to grant, so isolated we will remain for now.
My baby is 10. He’s healthy, he’s happy. He’s AWESOME. He’s loved. He knows that.
Never in my wildest imagination did I expect this is how we’d celebrate his big birthday. But we are blessed beyond measure inside Louie Lodge, no matter how much the crazy swirls around us.
It’s Mother’s Day and this photo popped up in my Facebook memories. That picture reflects a rare moment of peace during those teen years when my mother and I were constantly at odds. Her face shows it. She could barely crack a smile. I was excited about leading the flag corps in the marching band on a beautiful sunny day and the homecoming dance later that night.
She had me at 45, so that makes her 60 in this photo. Part of our troubles was the drastic age difference – two generations separating us rather than one. Part of it was her depression that swept in like a tsunami when her best friend and sister, my Aunt Nancy, died five years earlier. She had nothing left to live for after that. Not me, not her other kids, not her husband nor her grandchildren.
At home? Her care for me was overpowered by her unrelenting fear for me; she always expected me to succumb to the worst, whatever sensational crap Phil Donahue shilled out earlier in the day. She expected me to fall victim to AIDS for example, even though I was a virgin, as if I was clueless and stupid.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I was obedient and kind, sweet and studious, a straight A student who attended church, didn’t drink or do drugs, didn’t carouse at all hours of the night, and cleaned house regularly. I was president of this, that, and the other in high school, active in every club I could participate in. Nothing was good enough, though.
It was so demoralizing how she couldn’t see me for who I was and celebrate that. She died just a few years after this picture was taken, after I left for college. We never had a chance to heal our relationship. She never got to see how I turned out, that the core of who I am now was present even then. She didn’t see me. She didn’t really want me. She certainly didn’t care enough to live for me. She was definitely ready to go when she did, dying suddenly of an aneurysm.
No. She didn’t get to see that I turned out ok, way way way more than ok.
And I have had people tell me over the years, “Oh, she loved you. And she sees you now.” Maybe that’s true. But I don’t feel it. Not at all.
This was my experience being on the receiving end of mothering. My aunts were relatively distant, and much older than me anyway, like mom. I never knew my grandmothers; they were born in the 1880s and died long before I was born. Mom was my role model, and she didn’t believe in me.
I often wonder what it would be like to be loved in an uplifting, nurturing way, how I might have turned out, who I might have been had it happened. Maybe I would be able to connect with people on a more intimate level than I do.
I’ll never know. Mother’s Day brings a certain kind of undeniable pain, pain I rarely talk about. I can’t pretend this didn’t happen, though.
I can’t pretend I’m not jealous either, over the incredible relationships so many of you enjoyed and still do. Don’t get me wrong: I am incredibly happy for my friends who have this experience. It’s just….the cognitive dissonance over the years, learning what a nurturing mother-daughter relationship is supposed to feel like versus what I experienced is a shock.
And how I ache for my friends who are starting to lose their beautiful mothers 30+ years after I did. I saw the love between you both all these many years. I grieve for you. That kind of love, even though it changes form, is a forever kind of love. That’s how it should be. And I worry that I can’t be much of an emotional support for you at these times because your grief is undoubtedly more acute, far different than mine.
I don’t talk about my grief. It comes up on Mother’s Day, and occasionally on her birthday and every now and then when I am reminded of the physical and emotional scars she left in her wake.
It’s a double-edged sword talking about my grief. My approach for the first 25 years after her death was silence. You know, my attempt along the lines of “Honor thy father and thy mother.” I try hard to find things to honor, and harder yet to find things to smile about, so mostly I don’t talk about her.
Yet I’ve learned that keeping your feelings bottled up is not healthy. It’s human to talk. It’s human to feel.
And well, I write. I write to express, I write to understand. And finally I write to share, because I’ve learned it helps other people feel not quite so alone and freakish.
So if this resonates with you, be comforted in knowing that no, not everyone gushes with overflowing love and warmth for the woman that raised them. Sometimes the only emotion that remains is grief for what could have been, what should have been. I can’t tell you how many times I cried over what was. I’ve had to learn to accept it.
Besides, she knew then, in that photo, that I was a writer, five years already. She read my diaries while I was at school, so I learned long ago there was no such thing as privacy. My privacy was violated constantly. My concept of trust was betrayed from the get-go. What difference does it make if I write about her now?
What’s that they say about writers? If you don’t want a writer to say bad things about you, you should have treated them better. LOL
If you know someone who had this experience, know that they are struggling today. Struggling to reconcile their experience with what feels like everyone else’s. Struggling with the loss of the person who is supposed to be your #1 cheerleader, your #1 confidant, your rock. Your mom. Struggling with the loss of what never was: that love, those words of wisdom, the laughs, the pride, the hugs, the inside jokes, the forgiveness, and the help that comes with seeing you graduate college, start your career, get married, buy a house, have a child, have another, and get promoted.
It’s not all bad though. Even though this is what I chose to write about today, it isn’t 100% of my focus. I channel nearly everything I’ve got into being the best mom I can possibly be to my three. Let nothing but love and support flow from here on out and celebrate the beautiful humans I get to mother, with the best father on the planet.
I really should have taken a before and after picture.
As a mother of three, I’ve had more than a few of those heart-sinking moments when you witness something expensive get ruined right before your eyes. Take, for example, light beige wall to wall bedroom carpet, your charming youngest son, and really awesome neon green slime he got as a gift from somebody we’re obviously no longer friends with.
Say some of that slime falls out of the jar onto the carpet in not one, but two places underneath some furniture and you don’t notice it until it’s good and dry, sunk deep into the fibers. Contoured slime, like the fibers in the rug. A work of art, really.
Because, of course, that’s what would happen when you can’t watch his every move 24 x 7. And whilst he be charming, he’s a sneaky one.
Your heart sinks. You call the carpet guys – you know, the ones that specialize in homicide cleanup – and they won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. You figure your only option is to replace the carpet.
And that brings joy, because we’re independently wealthy and all.
Say you let, oh I don’t know, one, two, maybe even three years go by. You feel defeated every time you enter that kid’s room. You tell yourself, it’s a mark of childhood, adds character to the room. Louie Lodge is LIVED IN, don’t ya know.
And then it finally hits you, after several weeks in a pandemic-induced home-bound stupor, to Google it. Surely some other mother has faced this battle and emerged victorious.
Holy smokes, peeps: hot water and vinegar in a 1:3 ratio does the trick. I didn’t even bother moving the furniture, I just used a wet washcloth and rubbed until it was gone. It didn’t even stain. Petrified, neon-green slime.