Learning to Hunt

StoriescroppedYou’ve seen those nature documentaries that feature wild baby animals, following them from birth to independence. Furry and wide-eyed at first, they pull at your heartstrings because you know that they are entirely dependent on their dutiful mothers for survival. Fuzzy little cheetah heads and open, hungry eagle beaks, all desperate and competing for food and safety. We watch from the couch while the story unfolds, capturing important, triumphant moments of the young animals as they learn their lessons of survival and life. We know that some of them will tragically fail while others live to struggle another day. The lessons of each generation are not learned in a vacuum, but are taught so the offspring will someday be able to live on their own, contribute to the tribe, or simply perpetuate the species. This is the natural goal of parenting, to teach the young to survive, ultimately without the parents.

We all start out as these hungry baby birds, these squawking, needy suckling babies, who in our first laborious day will transform our mother into a role of great responsibility to the social order, that of provider, teacher, martyr. Fortunately for us, nature makes children  adorable enough that our mothers – at least most of them – do not abandon us immediately! Instead, they dedicate themselves to teaching us to walk and talk, and eventually to be able to feed ourselves, out of love to us, and perhaps duty to the world. This is the equivalent of teaching us to hunt.

Some of us will make it and others may not. Like our animal brothers and sisters, we grieve our profound losses and move on. As humans we honor those lost in our hearts and keep alive the memories they’ve given us, so that their lives were not in vain.

In my own journey as a child, I was jealous of the other kids who seemed to have had more of a childhood, who were encouraged to enjoy their youth and not think too much about survival. They got to go camping and to Disneyland and had lots of sleepovers. Most were sheltered from bills and death and conflict. In contrast, I was most definitely not sheltered, and in fact probably exposed to the seedier side of life earlier than many. Make no mistake, my mom was loving and supportive if I showed any sign of faltering, but she would quickly challenge me to buck up, dust off, and move on. I liken her to a mare nudging me to rise and stand; she knew that my survival would depend on it. Only now can I fully appreciate the gifts of independence won through courage, of strength built on strife, and of wisdom from failure. Of course at the time I thought she was a complete witch.

So, now. It has been eight years since my mother has passed, and every day I hear her voice nudging me, teaching me, reminding me how to hunt. It is painful and yet beautiful, an honor to her life, and the life she has given me. Thank you mom; you have not raised a child, you have raised an adult.


We Had a Deal

 It started when I was about 17 and wanted to take my mom out to dinner for Mother’s Day. I didn’t really have much money and mom knew it so she told me, “Honey, I’ll make you a deal. For every year that you’re not a mother I’ll buy you dinner.”

Although she may have thought that I needed an incentive not to have kids, what I really enjoyed about our annual dinners was just being with her, alone and without an audience. Of course as time and distance separated us, the dinners gave in to phone calls, which I still enjoyed nonetheless. Continue reading

Out of the Ashes

MedusoMuch has been written about the regenerative powers of the Phoenix, the myth of the fire bird. As the story goes, the Phoenix will burst into flame just before death so that it can rise from the ashes to a new life. I have not seen this ever happen in real life. But I have heard testimonies that this has in fact occurred. In Vegas. Let me elaborate. Continue reading

In Character

Mom was a bit of a diva, and I as I write that a chuckle escapes. A bit of a diva. For as long as I can remember, Elizabeth would prepare her day by getting into character. Her hair,  wardrobe, jewelry and accessories, were all considered carefully for the roles she would play over the next few hours. Was she going to talk her way into a job for which she was in no way qualified? Or did she need to blend in with the crowd while she played undercover detective? If she happened into Gucci that day, was she buying or selling? Continue reading

Portrait of an Artist

I admit it. I love the Stones and have for a long time. Most of all I am fascinated by Keith Richards. So when my mom offered to draw any one of them, I chose Keith, thinking that she would immediately be attracted to the wrinkles of his life, crevassing his edge-of-death, tour-worn face. I thought she would too be attracted to Keith’s story, his lows and his surprising survival. I gave her all kinds of pictures to use as inspiration, and even then I had a ton of Mick Jagger photos at the ready in case Keith wasn’t meaty enough a subject. Continue reading

Nature vs. Nurture

Sensory triggers – those sounds, sights and smells that anchor us to a meaningful time and place – wash over involuntarily throughout our lives, quickly and spontaneously, leaving a reminiscent connection to the original event. One would think the triggers would dissipate with time, but life seems to add to the meaningfulness as we go, adding new relevance to what once may have seemed unimportant at that time. Continue reading

A Little Bit Country

It wasn’t for many of my childhood years until I realized another kind of music existed beyond Country (and also Western, as the joke goes). I remember turning on a radio in someone else’s house and American Pie was playing. This wasn’t Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard or Jeannie C. Riley. I was intrigued. Of course, my mother came in the room and acted like I had set off a fire alarm. Turn that shit down honey. It’s too loud! But try as she might to suppress it, the cat was out of the bag. During our stay at that home – Grandma’s no less – I found out about Kansas and Boston and Elton John. Continue reading

Milk and Honey

During the 1960s, my mother was a closet Liberal, whispering to everyone not to tell her parents that she wasn’t going to vote for Goldwater. In the 70s, she would walk between the color lines proudly in support of school busing, (never minding what a target that made me each day). During the 80s her rebellious lifestyle necessitated that she live at least one foot off the grid, avoiding taxes and politics as best she could, surviving just under the radar. And in the 90s she would go on marches for PETA and abortion rights and environmentalism and the screenwriters’ union. I still have her tattered old hemp-woven grocery bag, some faded cause printed in green on one side. Continue reading