Mother’s Day, 2013
I always think of Grandma as Mother’s Day approaches. After all, she gave me my mother who is everything I imagine a great mom to be: fun, generous, moral, enthusiastic, encouraging, a little innocent and very moderate and wise. Whenever the world feels tipsy turvy, I fly down the highway to her cozy house, curl up in her guest bedroom and let her cook lentil soup for me.
I wasn’t able to be a mom in this lifetime. We found out one steaming hot July day four years ago after I was rushed to the hospital by three firemen in the middle of the night (that’s too long a story for the blog). I cried, my husband cried, my best friends cried. My husband cried for me, for him our life was perfect as is, but I was always positive I’d have a little girl named Jasmine Kasha. She’d been alive and breathing in my mind, and it rocked every belief I had when this wasn’t true. Eventually I came to realize the universe is perfect in its own wild way and got used to lazing around on Sunday mornings reading The Times, taking long leisurely naps in the middle of the day, birthing beautiful books instead of children and borrowing other peoples’ gorgeous little ones when the need arose. But still there was the day Peter built a crib for our friends’ who just had a baby, and we curled up that afternoon in bed, suddenly grief-stricken. And there were the nights I was a pile of tears in his arms, thinking what a good daddy he’d make.
Around the time I found out, I was working on Kasey Mathews’ (feel free to visit her fabulous blog!) memoir about her daughter Andie, Preemie (Haverleigh Press, 2012), which came out around Mother’s Day last year. I am a book shaman, a word whisperer if you will, helping people make the vision of their books become a reality, and I am lucky enough to work with all kinds of incredible writers. Kasey is one of those rare writers who makes you really feel. She’s blonde and stunning and has a charismatic charm, and yet she’ll tell you all her deepest secrets, she’ll admit things other people are trying to stuff back in the closet, she’ll take your hand and guide you into her life with such tremendous generosity, you are beguiled. And changed.
As I entered the book (it’s the kind of book you enter), I became Kasey. Kasey went into labor on Thanksgiving, but Andy wasn’t due until Easter. It was terrifying. This tiny girl was the size of a palm, and she might not make it. Or she might. I rode the rollercoaster, felt the terror of losing Andie and the fear of loving her because of that, but like Kasey, I couldn’t help it. I experienced the exhaustion of the fight and finally felt myself surrender to all the strange angels who came to help her. I opened up to love when Kasey did, like a bloom reaching for that star we call the sun. Kasey is lucky at the beginning of the book. But she’s rich, deep and incredibly spirit-filled at the end.
Andie, a tiny little miracle, grows into a sweet, strong, sassy, sporty little girl, and the last pages find them having a girls’ day, just the two of them, at the Gardner museum one spring afternoon, Andie’s hair is long and blonde and they are under the glass ceiling in the courtyard with the sun streaming in.
Isabella Gardner’s courtyard.
I remember reading that chapter in the living room of the Casbah, where we used to live. Outside spring had just arrived and the CT River was alive with current, the mountain was budding with new life and I was crying. I was crying because it would have been just like me to bring my daughter to the Gardner Museum, just the two of us, so I could introduce her new little soul to amazing art. I was crying because I was finally experiencing what it was like to have the daughter I’d always dreamed about. Kasey gave that to me. Great books are like that. We become one another. We are finally able to crawl inside someone else and live another human experience. Happy Mother’s Day to Kasey, thank you thank you thank you: for being a mom, for enduring what you did, for being brave enough to open up to it, and for writing about that incredible journey so I could live it with you.
And now for Grandma. May 10th in 1938 on St. Mark’s place back when Maggie only had a son, my uncle Tee. I guess that was a little too overwhelming for the times, you’d think we were in Downton Abbey, there’s such dependence on The Help. My own mother was still just a thought in Maggie’s ovaries. And actually because each ovary has its own eggs already, I was in there, too. We are each other after all, one big egg, ready to hatch (as you will see). Thank you Grandma and Kasey and Kasha K (my mom) and every single other mother, for every last thing.
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May 10th, 1938, St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY
(A mother’s day for Grandma’s bestfriend Edith! Not as much confidentiality back then…)
Nina still not here. Decided if she to be out all week, ought to get somebody to come and do diapers and cleaning as makes a little too much for me at present. So called Edith to see if her Ruth could give me a couple of hours. Edith not home at two. Called again at five and again at five-thirty and then decided she must be at Harkness, so called information there , and they said yes she was there but had not had baby yet. Told M. this exciting news. Heard nothing by ten so for fun called again and same male voice said, “Yes. She’s had two!” Also kindly told me they were both boys. Half an hour or so later, Lump called, all of a twit. Said they had known all along but did not want to tell. Said one weighed 6 and something and the other a little over 4. Were born at nine o’clock, Edith having about six hours labor; they went up Monday night for some reason possibly pituitrin, he didn’t say. Are to name them Stephen Bradford and Richard Walton, Lump saw them in delivery room and said as neither came out head first their heads were round as billiard balls. Opened conversation by telling Mark he owed him a dollar instead of fifty cents. To bed much elated.