Moms and Wine and Laughter

     It's been a busy week, which for me means little to no blogging time. Rose has been up every night, I had my nieces over, and I have been pretty busy with "Camp Awesome." I also made a new friend through the "blogosphere", who could be me if I lived in the Mid-West (don't take offense, New Friend, if it's not the Mid-West...every place that's west of Massachusetts but isn't California is the Mid-West on my mental map.) I even managed a girls' night out--well, actually, in, as we are all in the same financial sinkhole this week--with 2 of my 3 best friends. We had a lovely potluck dinner, and the conversation and the company was fabulous (not to mention the kid-free atmosphere!) I had a glass of wine, so I must admit some of the conversation was foggy, but some of the highlights were not only worth sharing, they made me once again appreciate the clarity of thought I find around them.

     I have known these two women (our fourth friend couldn't make it) since high school, which was...a really long time ago. We don't live in the same town, not even close, so we're only able to pull together a gathering maybe once a month if we're lucky. Three of us are married (thank you, MA, for your marriage equality laws), two of us are divorced, one is re-married, and three of us have kids. We have a cross-dresser's wife and a lesbian's wife. We have three strong mothers. We've got a blond, two brunettes, and a redhead. We have four tough women, who have struggled through a lot, survived it all, and all of whom have at one point in their lives thanked some deity or higher power for these other three women. (And yeah, it's kind of abstract math, but trust me, it all adds up.)

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     We chatted about a few recent dramas (my husband had recently revealed to them that he was a cross-dresser, and I felt if I didn't bring it up it would be an elephant in the room. It wasn't. A mouse maybe? But there was only interest, not the blazing curiosity I think I had worried about. One friend had some news about her teenagers and we briefly touched on that. And one friend updated us on the latest visit with her wife's niece and nephew, and how that whirlwind of love translated into complete contentment with their decision to not have children.) Those things were fun and interesting to hear and talk about...but the one thing that stayed with me all night was our conversations about our mothers. It struck me that we, three women of differing circumstances, had three completely different experiences with our mothers, and yet we had all turned out similar in terms of strength and determination, and that it was because of our mothers.

     In the midst of a discussion about her younger sibling and cooking, I remarked that Bookgirl had had the benefit of a mom who taught her how to use sifters and make decoupage boxes, whereas her sister (who has a different mother) had clearly learned different things from her mother. Bookgirl had had a push-pull relationship with her mom--partially due, I think, to the divorce of her parents and the inherent pull of her love for her father, and partially due to Bookgirl's ability to be an adult and her mom's inability to recognize it. I will never forget the eulogy Bookgirl gave at her mother's memorial...she had remembered all of the homemade dollhouse pieces and little bits of heart her mother had put into her childhood. That one speech had forever changed my feelings about what I wanted my children to remember about childhood. I wanted them to have the memories that Bookgirl did, of the time that her mother had invested in her childhood, of the value she had placed on creativity and knowledge. Maybe it was my wine-fogged head, but the value of all of that effort was evident to me in one story about making salad.

     Yogamom had a different mother-figure altogether. (Side note: I have named her this because she likes yoga and is one of the most level-headed and best mothers I know, but if you're conjuring up a suburban stay-at-home in an 80s headband and a leotard, you've got the wrong girl. This chick is one of the only hard-working and sensible government workers I know of, and she is a bad-ass. I wouldn't cross her, if I were you.) As we polished off her home-made no-bake (and gluten-free!) brownies, she told us of her Nanna, who in the prime of her life was much more a mother to Yogamom than her own, but who was suffering from the end-stage indignities of Alzheimer's Disease. It said something that while everyone else had become a figure from Nanna's past, Yogamom always got to be herself. You could see sadness that the true matriarch of her life was fading from it, but the strength ingrained in her keeps her from yielding to that pain. Yogamom's own mother has always been a little anxious, breathless, and, well, zany. It was not uncommon as Yogamom was growing up for her to be yelled at for anything and everything--and to be told that talking too loud at night would bring the police or some other over-the-top response. It was pretty much Yogamom's job to keep the sanity in the household--both in regards to her younger siblings and her mother. It wasn't a complete surprise when she moved out at 18, and married young. It wasn't a complete surprise, but it was disappointing, when her divorce didn't garner much support from her mother. And yet...despite that lack of support, Yogamom is never bitter about it. She knows exactly what to expect from her mother...and she knows that her teen daughters are better in a crisis than her mother, because she made them that way. She knows that they are prepared for life; that they have a support system at home; and that if the life they choose fails them, she never will. She is one of my favorite people, one of my favorite mothers, and (obviously) one of my best friends.

     Which leaves my mother. In the car ride on the way home, Yogamom and I got to chit-chatting about life, about our families, about anything and everything, as we do. Earlier in the evening I had mentioned that Coffeeguy had decided I should tell my mother about his cross-dressing, especially so that if the kids needed to talk about it they wouldn't be giving something away that they would have to feel bad about. My mother took it in stride, and my friends were not only full of praise for her, but they were devoid of surprise. "Good for her!" said Bookgirl. "I think your Mom would support anyone in her family, though," Yogamom had added thoughtfully. In the car on the ride home, she clarified this. "She supports you in every way. I think that when Coffeeguy married you, he became an extension of you. So she becomes as protective of him as of you."

     When I was three my brothers left the gate open and I got hit by a car, shattering my femur. From that moment on, my relationship with my mother changed. She had become my protector, and the closest person to me. I didn't fight with my Mom as most teens do, and I actually enjoyed hanging out with her--we had moved a few times, and to make up for my lack of friends she had filled my life with trips to the movies, shopping, card games, etc. I lived a pretty sheltered life, and compared to a lot of kids my age I was "over-protected." I didn't go to the crazy parties, or hang out with the smoking kids, or even steal the occasional alcoholic drink. I did learn how to wash the dishes, and use the washing machine, and how to have an incredible work ethic--God, my mother worked hard. I also learned something that has made me who I am today. I am the mother in the Rainbow Family because of my mother. She has always, always, always championed her loved ones. She might complain to my brother that I didn't come over that week or that my brother is messy or my oldest brother hasn't called. But Heaven help you if you say one word against her children or grandchildren. She holds us tightly--sometimes I used to think too tightly--but as the years go by and my view of her changes from the vigorous matriarch of the family to the 68 year old with a bad heart and high blood pressure, so too does my understanding of her need to hold on. (I even find myself envying the secret candy stash she has for Punkgirl, of that little memory they're making together.) Most importantly, she sees the wonderful in us. She sees the potential. And when you tell her your husband and son are crossdressers, and your daughter is a lesbian, she joins Glaad, PFLAG, and Glsen.

     I am not sure whether to hope or dread that my children are as influenced by their mother as the three women who had dinner, wine, and laughs last Saturday night. I guess I should hope instead that they are influenced in the right direction--that my failures will make them strive for better and that my successes will stick with them forever. Above all, I hope they find the friends who are like them, who have taken the good and the bad and made a life with lots of dinner, and wine, and laughter. I'm a 40 something year old with two tweens and a new baby. This is my effort to keep my sanity after leaving the workforce, taking up breastfeeding, and managing the kids. I'm mostly failing at it.



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