Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dog And Butterfly

NOTE: We will be on hiatus this week. My conspirators are going to visit their mothers, so we post our Mother’s Day entry a bit early, and we’ll catch you again next week. Take good care of yourselves and each other till then!

See the dog and butterfly / Up in the air he like to fly / Dog and butterfly below she had to try…

So goes the chorus to a song I’m shamelessly ripping. I loved this song from the first moment I heard it. Gentle melody, soulful guitar, smoky vocals… what’s not to like? The song, by Heart, was released in October of 1978, just before my mother and I parted company for good.

My mother had rare good moods in those days. I was the only child left at home, and, at 16 years old, nearly fully raised. My world, then as now, was defined by music. Back then, those dim, dark days of analog broadcasts and transistor radios, CDs were insurance against a poor retirement (and had much more yield!) and all good music was heard on vinyl. Cassette players were vanguard – Sony had just that year introduced the Walkman.

Good Heavens am I old!!!

Because my mother was having one those rare good days and because, no matter what our history, I needed a connection with her, I took a chance. Music was my chosen bridge. She and I both loved and related to music. And so it was, on that rare, good day, when my mother had just finished her breakfast and lingered over her last coffee while smoking her after meal cigarette, while the sky was blue and a gentle breeze wafted I dared approach her.

“Mother, would you like to hear a beautiful song?”

“Sure, why not?” she conceded. Right then I knew this would be a ‘good mood’ day.

I turned down the volume and unplugged my headphone. Now, floating alongside the cigarette smoke drifted the ashy vocals of Ann Wilson: “See the dog and butterfly / Up in the air he like to fly…”

Mother erupted into laughter. Laughing? At my beautiful song? What? What the…? HUH?!?

After the chorus and onto the second verse, my mother mopping her tears even as she gusted more merriment, now unable to sit still for the gales, soon bent over double. Because of Dog and Butterfly, through the air they like to fly.

I take my music seriously. I was prepared to get deeply offended. After turning down the radio I asked her, carefully hiding my wounded ego, what she thought was so funny. She confessed: “I heard that line and in my head there goes a beautiful butterfly, fluttering over a meadow…” She simulates the motion, her hand fluttering gracefully from left to right.

“And then there went the dog, flying right behind it!” This time her head bobbed ponderously, tongue poked out and panting like a dog. Her arms were up in the air mimicking the paws of a flying pooch. That was all she could get out before breaking down again.

I was miffed. This is MY music she’s making fun of. THIS piece of music, so peace invoking, that I chose to share with her. To build a bridge with. To try to connect with her, all the while knowing the clock was ticking and I would soon be out of her life for good. This attempt of mine to reach out to her and find something to share… she laughed about it!!!

Years later, in this now, I find that her laughter did help build that bridge I needed so desperately. On that day I learned my mother had a sense of poetry, as do I. My sense of humor and hers are pretty much the same. Our capacity for visualization and our ability to project the absurd comes from the same source. I didn’t realize it at the time. Now she is eighteen years in her grave. My chance at connection, or even acknowledging that we did indeed share something rare and precious that morning is forever gone. I never thanked her for it, or for those other rare, and all the more precious for being rare moments that we shared.  

In China as in America, Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May. In both countries mothers are treated to gifts, usually handmade; or flowers, candy, and maybe a meal out. For one day a year, everything our mothers do for us, have done for us and the promise of more maternal deeds to come is recognized. Matter of fact, on that day, not just in China and America are mothers recognized but pretty much all over the world. Those countries/regions that don’t honor mothers on that day dedicate another day, usually in the Spring to celebrate the joy, honor, work, pain and heartbreak of being a mother.

Exceptions to the ‘usually in spring’ rule are Panama and Indonesia, who celebrate Mother’s Day on December 8th and 22nd, respectively.

Elizabeth Stone once said: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Anyone who is a mother will testify to that.

Elizabeth Stone was a pioneer woman, born in 1800, twice married and mother of 8. Besides raising her children she worked alongside her husband(s), building various businesses first in Missouri and later in Illinois and Minnesota. At age 62 she and her second husband moved to Colorado where again they built successful businesses. After burying her second husband she continued to run the various enterprises until she succumbed, at the ripe old age of 86. Notably, on her 81st birthday, with 4 generations present, she danced till 5AM, and then went home to prepare breakfast for everyone. What a woman! What a role model!

What an odd connection: she and I share a birthdate.

How lucky her children to have had such a mother! If anyone knows about hearts walking around outside bodies it would be her, don’t you think? Within two marriages she generated 8 hearts.

Other remarkable mothers: Queen Anne of England, Scotland and Ireland ascended to the throne in 1702. She was said to gasp, after the birth of her 17th child: “My quiver is full!” of course, she was a devout woman and ripped that quote directly from the Bible. That bible passage provides the origin of today’s eponymous religious group, who pledge to bear all of the children God sees fit to give them. What makes Queen Anne remarkable as a mother is that she outlived every single one of her children.

How does a mother bear the pain of burying her child?

Even though I personally know a mother who, at one time was in that position and in fact having attended that funeral I cannot imagine being whole, or right in mind, body, soul or spirit afterward. Gloria took it hard and even now, years later she mourns and misses her youngest. Maybe it even fractured her psyche. She has never been the same since that terrible day Willy died. I think, neither have I.  

All of these women, these mothers who fight alongside their cancer stricken children, who hope every morning will bring back their kidnapped baby, who, heavens forbid must go to prison for their accolades because their child is incarcerated. I simply can’t fathom how they deal with it, Mother’s Day after Mother’s Day. Those women who crave a child but, by some cruel twist cannot be mothers. How do they do it? How must they feel each and every Mother’s Day?

And then there’s the men. Men who single parent their child, who learn to braid hair and other ‘girly’ things. Men who buy curling irons and watch movies about princesses. Am I stereotyping? Perhaps. Nevertheless, single fathers deserve mention on Mother’s Day.

I’ve written a tribute to Veterans every year since I started this blog, nearly 3 years ago. If memory and my archives serve me, this is my first Mother’s Day entry. Wonder why I’ve not written a tribute to mothers (or fathers, on their day) when I’ve written dedicated entries for every other major celebration? I’m making up for it now. Now, because for some reason that song, Dog and Butterfly popped into my head, bringing with it crashing memories of my mother.

I moved out shortly before my 17th birthday. She and I never did establish a relationship. How she lived after I left, what she did, what thoughts possessed her and how she managed her world are a total mystery to me. I do know that, had she lived and been raising children nowadays she would have been on medication. She suffered, was tortured by inner demons. In turn she lashed out at us. We all ran away as quickly as possible.

She was cremated and buried in an unmarked grave, ostensibly so that her progeny would not find her. That was the way she wanted it. It doesn’t matter to me because, on any given day but especially on those special “Mother” days she finds me again.

If you are so fortunate as to have your mother in your life, please give her an extra hug for all of those who don’t have a mother to hug. If, by some twist of fate your father had to do double duty – be both mother and father to you, please hug him extra tight. Single parenting is a tough job, maybe even tougher for men because of society’s norms.

Now, go! Make that phone call! Wrap those chocolates! Get to hugging and celebrating! Mom won’t wait, you know.

Oh, wait… Yes she will. She’s MOM!!!          


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