The Flights of Motherhood

Today is Mother’s Day. A wonderfully garlanded, beautifully decorated day. Filled with big fat bouquets of bright spring flowers, dewy with sweet sentiment, and big fat boxes of chocolates and deep-dipped love, reminding ourselves and the matrons we honor what a daring and delightful thing motherhood is . . . and was.

Like many robins this time in spring, I am a new empty nester. The waxy crayon-scrawled “Hapy Muthers Day” cards created at school and posted on the refrigerator are long gone. The special brunches and outings of this day are left to glances back and forth between my husband and I ocularly asking, “wanna go out today?”

And though my dear son and daughter and law sent me a wonderful thoughtful beribboned gift, and I know I will receive a sweet sweet loving message from my lovely daughter as well, there is something about waving to the sky and the flight patterns of long-flown children that is so different than huddling and cuddling then waiting for drippy undercooked love-laced pancakes in the nest.

So to all those mama birds who have waved their twittering, free-flying offspring off into the world, I salute you! The bridges cross back and forth in and out of our feathered lands, so in the meantime, blow kisses from afar and listen joyfully to the sounds of familiar migrant birds . . . .

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My own rite of passage: cloud break

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Of course, the other side of the cloud mystery, is the cloud break, beautiful, light-filled, but also in its own way, a time of passing. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” (from the band, Supersonic).Those lovely, white or grey sky-bodies that created those patches of the unknown, also float away into their own directions, and with that we get to experience both “newness” and “change”.

One of my own children today, sends off his girlfriend on an airplane back to northern California; we watch her cloud float away, his remains here. My daughter will leave the state in a couple of weeks to start her sophomore year of college- her cloud will also float.

I can only watch the sky with wonder. So beautiful those particular clouds. So wide the sky. All we can really do is send them on their way with light and blessing and wait for the next northern wind to bring them back, holding new crystals and colors in their formations to share with the rest of us.

My son will eventually float on as well. Our job, as parents, is simply to be a part of their adoring sky.

Held: a quiet presence

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When we want to support our teen or adolescent, the three-foot wide air of independence they prefer to create as pillow around themselves doesn’t always invite the gifts of assistance and conversation we want to offer them. Rather, it creates more of a bounce house effect where we find ourselves propelled in the other direction, the closer we try to get to them. Transition is hard, and we want to honor our children’s desires for “self-actualization” as well as assist in those areas that feel far far away from any breath of that lofty idea.

The world “held” has come into my sphere over the past couple of years, and what that has come to mean to me is merely, “holding with loving intention.” I know that could sound a bit “woo-woo”, but really, when you focus on a person, child or otherwise, with confidence and love, you give off a certain quality and thickness of air as well. I interpret this space as “welcome”, “trust”, “availability”, “acceptance”. And in my experience (and believe me, there are exceptions), those moments of “holding” tend to draw in, rather than push away. They create a resting pillow rather than a bounce house.

Being “held” can be in itself the loving gift placed on their pillows or tucked into their bedsheets. It doesn’t take the place of meaningful and essential conversation, but it does blanket the spaces in-between with a warmth that oftentimes they can feel during these thresholds of their lives. . . .

Boys to men: “enough is as good as a feast”

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Sometimes a child is more ready for a small, satisfying meal than a banquet. This was true of my son at 18. A meaningful afternoon seemed a more fitting tribute to his growth and the contributions of his mentors, than a weekend away. By creating an event within the parameters of a limited time frame, it was important to think of how to pack those few hours with meaning and affirmation.

First came the guest list. By this time in his life, my son had connected with important people that were from both genders. I thought out of the box (of my usual gender specific rites of passage) and decided to choose men and women. Because he knew about the event, I checked in with him on this one, and he approved.

“What would make a rich impact at this time in his life?” I thought. What came to mind was for these loving and accomplished people to give him two things: an object that symbolizes transition, and a thought or two about who John is now and who they see him becoming. The wonderful and the wildly adventurous showed up: a carabiner that hooked meaning and connection on the side of a cliff for his step-dad and mentor, a bark covered journal brought lovingly from a friend’s native New Zealand to record John’s thoughts, an empty notebook to write down any question at this time in his life to share with a ready and willing mentor/friend, a savored movie that opened up the worlds of meaningful conversation and art and the hope it could do this for my son, too.

And that’s really all it takes. Time. Memory. Meaning. And an extension of ourselves. These are all it takes to set the table for another person’s soul.

Crossing the threshold: love poem to a 14 year old boy

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Sometimes you open your eyes to the glinting squinting morning world knowing something has changed. Your child has grown a bit taller, an adolescent voice resonates in deeper or brighter tones, an awakening happens that allows a son or daughter to see the world in a different way- somehow the shades have been pulled up and the windows have been pushed open. Recording the tiny thresholds of a life by playing a song, or creating a piece of writing, such as  a poem, can be a valuable threshold marker, for the maker and the recipient. Here is one I wrote to my boy at age 14, and later gifted to him as a token of his mother’s love at any and every age, tough or tender, smooth-cheeked or speckled with the raw red signs of growing up:

To My John

You came to me wooly and white,

big and soft and brand new,

dragged around by your sister in

the arms of awkward love;

strawberries, red and ripe

marked your birth.

I’d dip my face into your curly hair,

soft peaks of meringue near

sweet pink cheeks and let your little

body curl up inside the cave of my

ribs all tucked up in love.

Now you’re 14, voice falling into

deep rich places, body growing taller

than mine, hair tufts of spun gold.

I still love you more than all of the

strawberries in the world- I love you

redder, I love you sweeter; I still tuck

the curl of your soul into my heart,

the curl of your body in mine as I

sneak a cuddle at bedtime.

I still look at you and see all the boy

you once were and all the boy you’re

becoming, and feel proud, moved,

and deeply in love.

– Gina Marie Mammano

Where are the small markings of your love today?