Thursday, October 8

A Beginning

Dear Alexis,

I use this space to remember, as a means of spurring conversations that should happen when you're older, as a way of documenting your world. There are parts of your world that you won't know unless I tell you about them, and I know that sometimes the best way for me to do that is here. I tend to choose my words more carefully, be fairer to the people I mention, and do a better job of balancing all sides of a story when I do it in writing, knowing that I have an audience.

One of the parts of your world that you won't know without me telling you is your grandma, my mom. She's also one of the people that I know I would describe differently in a conversation than I will here. It would be very easy to talk about a small part of her story, perhaps the funny part, or the part that is really just about me. Maybe I could talk about how completely unfair it was that I grew up never able to steal clothes from her closet, because she only ever wore things I wouldn't be caught dead wearing. I'm not even kidding when I say I never once witnessed the woman wearing jeans. Instead, her closet bore a rainbow of polyester elastic-waisted pants. If that sentence alone isn't just cause for hours of laughter, I don't know what is.

For years I've had a few posts about your grandma rattling around in my brain. For years I've known that parts of her story are important, that parts of her story need to be told, and that I'll only tell those tales fairly if I do it here. Yet, I continue to prolong that which I know needs to be done. I'll do just about anything to avoid telling her story. Mostly I would just much rather write about you.

Recently I asked myself my favorite new question to ask myself: Why? Why am I so quick to write something, anything, and everything about you but so reluctant to shake those rattling posts out of my head and finally get them out of the way? It only took a moment to figure out the answer once I faced it head on--I know you much better than I ever knew her.

It's not that I didn't want to know her, it's more that she didn't want to be known. Much of her life was a mystery, in no small part because she didn't talk. Really. Every single day you and I have a conversation that is longer than any I ever had with her. She just didn't have anything to say. On the rare occasions that I had a friend over to our house, I often would tell the friend that my mom was mute. It was easier to just make an excuse for her than it was to deal with my friends awkwardly trying to be polite, only to be met with silence. For her part, my mom did what she could to make my lie very closely resemble the truth. She rarely even managed to spit out, "Hello."

Even as your grandma sat dying of breast cancer fourteen years ago, she didn't feel words were important. She didn't leave me with words of wisdom, she didn't declare a battle cry and fight the disease, she didn't even say goodbye. She didn't have anything to say.

That brings us back to my new favorite question--Why? Why didn't she have anything to say? Now that I'm a little bit older, perhaps a little bit wiser, and have the advantage of time and distance, I think I'm able to see the answer.

My mom was broken.

She had nothing to say because she was a shell of a human being. Life had beaten her down, driven her to silence, taken away what I assume must have once been there. I mean, at some point she must have been a happy child, a child who sang and played games and laughed. I don't know exactly what broke her, but at some point her spirit died, although her body remained. I don't know when she became broken, but it predates even my earliest childhood memories.

Alexis, I prefer to write about you, even when there is nothing to write, because you are very much so not broken.

I'll do anything to make sure you stay that way.



  1. I love you and A both! I miss you!

  2. wow babe.

    I don't know what to say.

    you are amazing.

  3. The human spirit is such an amazing thing. With a mom like that, it is remarkable that you are the person that you are, and the mom that you are. You should be very proud.

  4. Alexis is a lucky girl to have you. May she remain unbroken forever.

  5. Anonymous7:50 AM

    My mom's mom died when my mom was a child. What little my mother speaks of her isn't good. However my mom fought against how she grew up and was always a wonderful mom. Alexis is lucky to have you.

  6. I don't know what breaks people that way. My own mom is broken in a different way, and I ask myself the same questions all the time. And I try very hard to make sure my relationship with my kids is different.

  7. Jarrard8:10 AM

    It is a cycle that is hard to break. I swear that I think about it every day and your thoughts about your mom resinate very strongly with me. Thank you for the points to ponder for the day.

  8. Alexis is a very lucky little girl. You're awesome, lady.

  9. Wow. That was quite a post.

  10. I think that you're doing what every mother hopes - learning from her mistakes. You're doing a fantabulous job but you're right to make sure Alexis knows "Why?"

  11. good lord thats beautiful

  12. Thanks for sharing. Wow, the similarities of our situations are endless. I really feel that if your mother was still here, Alexis would have totally had a profound effect on her. That kid just electrifies everyone around her. THAT, my dear, is because of YOU!

  13. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Tears in my breakfast today. Tears for your mom, tears for you, tears for my mom, tears for me.

  14. Oh, dear, you made me all sniffly. Right now I'm that annoying person in the cubby who keeps sniffling and I can't even blame it on you because I'd be unmasked as an internet sneak. :)

    That was a beautifully poignant post and I applaud your courage. It's obvious that you know better than most why you shouldn't bottle something you're thinking about inside. Alexis will appreciate seeing this side of you - and what helped make you *you* - when she is older. And because no mom can ever hear it enough - you are doing a GREAT job with that little girl.

  15. Wow. I'm all teary now. I hurt for the relationship you didn't have with your mom and I rejoice in the knowledge Alexis will not have that same experience. You are amazing.

  16. More than making sure Alexis is never broken.... I see you, in all that you do for her, making sure that YOU are never broken.

    You once told me that I make you yearn to be a better mother. Back at'cha.

    You are an amazing mother. She knows it now, she will know it as a teenager, and she will know it as an adult.

  17. Anonymous3:28 PM

    Beautiful. I can only echo the sentiments shared by everyone else and say that Alexis is so very lucky to have a mother who is determined to not let history repeat itself.

  18. Great post. I am dealing with different issues with my parents. As a parent myself now it always comes back to the affect on my son. You are doing a great thing by sharing.

  19. @lindsay_faith6:35 PM

    Beautiful post! Glad you decided to write it. You should be proud of yourself for the wonderful mother you are to Alexis. She is blessed!

  20. Lovely post. I don't have a broken mother, but I did have a broken grandmother, and I know about the silence. I think you are remarkable!

  21. Wow girl. You've got me all teary over here.

    I don't think you ever have to worry about Alexis wondering what you have to say. You two have a beautifully close and open relationship.

  22. Well that was enough to send me over the edge today. Great post.

  23. powerful post, my friend.
    (written with leaky eyes. that says something.)

  24. What a lovely post. It's not always easy to forgive our parents and realize they're only flawed humans. Your daughter is a lucky young lady.

  25. You know... I have always loved you. Adored you. Your style. Your humor. Your ability to laugh *with* us, not *at* us. And by "us," I mean ME. Of course.

    I have a clearer glimpse at how you became the woman that you are: full of strength, insight, wisdom, and sass.

    So, here I am...still...digging you. Wish Alexis could rub some of her pixie dust on T & C. :) 'Cause you're rubbing yours on me.

  26. I'm so glad you wrote about your mother. And that you write about Alexis so much. And I'm sure when Alexis writes about you someday her words will be quite the opposite about HER mother...

  27. Big hugs. This post made me emotional. Partly because I can relate to having a broken mother, although in a different way, and partly because I feel your heart needs the compassion and love that maybe you missed out on growing up, like I did, and so we love our children that much more to compensate for where we lacked. You are breaking an important chain, and I am so there right along with you.

  28. This hit home harder than I expected. Thank you for sharing that sliver of information...

    And thank you for being brave enough to say it out loud (or, on paper, which has a permanence that can be equally as frightening).

    It's admirable that you don't want your little one to be broken, but don't be afraid to let her be cracked...

    "Ring the bells that still can ring.
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in."
    -from "Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

    ~*hugs*~ I miss you guys.