Sunday, August 28, 2011

At times, one, more than the rest.

Our seats on Mummy Mountain
Occasionally, like we did last Tuesday night, my mother and I gather at the summit of Mummy Mountain for a glass of wine and a discussion about all things life, work, happiness, and grown children.

“How are you, Mummy?” I asked when we were settled.
“I’m fine, thank you,” she said. “And how are you?”
“My children are abandoning me,” I said.
She sipped her wine and made a cracker, and encouraged me to go on in that mummy-therapist way we mothers of grown children acquire.
Lovely Courtney
as seen from the
summit of Mummy
Last week I went to Cleveland to visit the lovely Courtney. Like always, I spent the first half hour of our visit staring at her and thinking about how lucky I am to have this smart, beautiful, competent, wise, funny girl for a daughter. If she were a cat, this would be when I’d give her a little scratch behind the ears and say, “Yesh. Who’sha a good girl? Who’sha a good, good girl.” But she’s a grown woman with bills and a landlord so I just stare at her and let her update me on all things life, work, happiness, and John.

“John will be here at Christmas because he has a singing commitment," she said twenty minutes from the airport. "He basically always will on Christmas. And we know we really want to be together on Christmas, so I probably won’t be home. But then I would definitely be home for Thanksgiving.”

It gave me pause, as any declaration does if it means I will be forced to spend time with moody Transition and its sad-sack cohort, Coping.  But we had only two days, with things to talk about, and places to go back to and new places to visit, and so I said to Transition, “Get lost, I’m busy,” and I said to Courtney, “You should do what you want to.” Because there are times, when one person needs one other, more than the rest, to understand them.

We had dinner at an outside bistro where a young couple sat with their seven or eight-month-old baby. Next to them was an animated, boorish man, 25 or so, who wore oversized dark glasses, and who, with his entire body, carried on  a shrill, melodramatic cell phone conversation with someone I only hoped would have to hang up soon. The infant watched him, hunched and still with fascination. When the call ended, the man turned, and seeing how he’d captivated her, lifted his giant black glasses quickly and gasped in a peek-a-boo fashion. The baby reared back in surprise, and wailed. The man laughed. Frightened, arms outstretched, the baby reached for her mother who smiled a reassuring “It’s okay,” at the man and lifted her sobbing daughter to her, cooing little things until she settled. The father, though aware, hadn’t stopped eating. The baby never looked at him. There are times, when one person needs one other, more than the rest, to make them feel safe.

We had been talking about what I want to be called when I’m a grandmother. After the scared-baby moment we talked about what I might have done had my future grandinfant been scared by a man like that. I said that not only would I not have smiled reassuringly at him, I might, in fact, have told him he and his giant glasses were both (bad word

Later when I was alone, I thought about the “when I grow up,” conversations we have with small children in which they imagine what they might do with their lives. You know their minds will change a thousand times but still, you help them. You talk very seriously about where they might locate their mansions when they become famous performing artists, what kind of clothes they’ll wear, what kind of dog they’ll keep in their purse. There are times, when one person needs one other, more than the rest, to make them feel the best things are possible.

Hello Transition, where do you want me?

Like always, the visit ended too soon and before I knew it, I was dropping my shoes and purse in the bins at security, distracted and blue, so that when the woman snapped at me for walking through the security arch too quickly, I wanted to sit down on the little feet imprints to weep.

At my gate, I saw, sitting by herself with a Kindle and a Vitamin Water, someone who looked exactly like my own mother who I promptly texted.

“Wine,” I said.
She penciled me in for Tuesday.

“First, it’s Christmas,” I said looking out over the land of grown children which, on a clear day, is visible from the summit of Mummy Mountain. “One doesn’t come home,” I said, “and the next thing you know, nobody comes home. It’s just like when someone leaves the party and then everybody does.”

“That’s not going to happen," said my mother.

“Yes it will and then they’ll be too busy to call at Christmas time and I'll be by myself staring out the window and listening to the Rat Pack and there will be nobody to call because all my friends will be with their grown children who still come home and Tom and Christine will be family-ing somewhere with Ross and Collin and so it will just be me and the tree which I will have started talking to (Yesh! Who'sha good tree? Who'sha good, good tree?) and on the floor there will be a box of ornaments that nobody came to hang which will still be there on January 3 because I will have become too depressed to move it and it will stay there for eleven more months along with the tree which I will be too depressed to disassemble and put back in the basement. So that's it. It’s ending,” I said.

I didn't believe it of course, this Eeyore version of "When I grow up." But one should not let worry skitter away like an ant. If worry is to be addressed, it must be increased by several zoom levels first, so that all flaws may be examined before resizing is attempted. This applies to just about everything in life.  You're welcome.

“This is not ending,” she said. “This is changing. This is how it begins. They change first, and you change with them. If they have to stop coming to you, because they have jobs, or small children, or unforgiving in-laws or whatever it is they have, you’ll pack your bag and go to them. That’s what we do. I did it. You'll do it.” 

I knew that, of course. I’ve always known it. But there are times, when I need my own mother, more than the rest, to remind me that the worst things aren't probable, and that what I hope is true, probably is.

And so, Courtney, if you're reading this, you know by now that you'll need many people and things and experiences in life to remain independent and strong and beautiful and competent and wise and funny. Two of those things are seats on Mummy Mountain.


  1. Excellent post -- I laughed so hard, especially at your description of an Eeyore Christmas Special.

  2. This was a long one, I lost my point a couple of times (I had a few) but it came back.

    I should probably note at the top: bring a drink and a snack for this one.

  3. This was very amusing...enjoyed it but....what you described will never happen to you!

  4. Well, Jane, that's because if I'm ever really abandoned, I'll become Hazel for you and Tim.

  5. I keep coming back to this one and thinking how blessed I am to be around to watch you moving into the same place I am now with you. It only gets better, and the day will come when you are saying, "Who's a beeyootiful baby, who's a good, good baby!

  6. I love love love love that comment. And you of course, you are just the mummiest.

  7. ...nice...brought some tears.

  8. nice...
    our change...their change, but love stays the same on mummie mountain :)

  9. You KNOW this theme gets me EVERY time!!
    So often you have been my one person who will understand me. How lucky for me that that person is so insightful, observant and one step ahead of me in life.
    Always, always learning from you.

  10. There will always be a seat on Mummy Mountain for you anytime you need it.