Sunday, December 30, 2012

an entry for her 73rd birthday

Out running on this blustery winter day, I considered how to honor my mother on what would have been her 73rd birthday. But where to start? Back at home, clean and in comfy clothes, I have dug out her journals and found a birthday entry from around when she turned the age I am now, 41: December 30, 1980, the very day of her 41st birthday.

Overall in her journals, she does not write about me constantly, or even often, despite our closeness, but I seem to pop up as a topic on her birthday entries. Perhaps this is because it was always the holiday break, and we were spending day after day together (and I know how challenging that can be with my two kids).

In this birthday entry, she worries that her friends, with whom we were on holiday, were disapproving of my suddenly immature behavior (the usual: bathroom and sex humor) and new use of the word “homosexual.” (She does not describe how.) Though she thought I was being immature and inappropriate, she wanted to defend me.

“As I write this, it sounds as if I am the child. This sitting apart and writing is something I did, too, as a child.” She didn’t know how to confront the issue, so she got it out in blue ink on paper in her lovely (but hard to read) cursive. I understand this disappearing, finding a space to express and create alone. I am doing it right now, as my husband and kids play with Legos in the next room.

I want to remember her, celebrate her and connect with her today. That requires quiet moments and writing. I am the apple to her tree in so many ways. Despite our likenesses, I have been thinking about where we differ: She disliked much of the music I like (“All I can hear is the pounding.”), she would disapprove of my dark purple hair (“Oh, Caity, it looks so harsh.”), and she wondered at my dedication to running (“I am just so impressed!”). I can hear her in our dis-connections, too, and feel close to her.

My favorite line from this journal entry? “My new awareness and acceptance of the tadpole qualities of men.” I don’t (necessarily) agree, but I laughed out loud. A great line, if a tad, um, sexist. Then I think of my house, in which I am the only female (even the dog is male), and I wonder if she might have a point. Sometimes. Maybe. “Tadpole qualities.” *Giggle*

Monday, August 20, 2012

Underwood Portable

I have an Underwood typewriter from the 1940s and I am playing with it and thinking of my mother.

(Of course, I had to scan this to post it.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

five years ago today... mother died. I should be doing work, but instead I seem to have dedicated today to remembering her.

I am finding old photos, scanning them, posting them on my facebook page, and updating the facebook page I created for her ( I re-read an interview she had with Jan Hutchinson in the October 1988 issue of the journal Fine Line. They talk about whether her writing is autobiographical, morality in her writing, whether writing is political, women and writing, and my mother's two novels (at the time) Games of the Strong and Dancing on Coral.

copyright Nancy Crampton for Cane Hill Press
I am drawn to where they discuss how writing "mother stories" was unusual at the time (my mother had just written "The Day of the Mothers," which was included in Australian Short Stories No. 22). My mother says,
"I really like to try to write about life for women at is really is and life for single mothers. It's an extraordinary life that many of us lead with lots of pressures and responsibilities that are too easily pigeon-holed. Either you go to work or you bring up your family -- and it's not just either/or for economic and all other kids of reasons. But you wouldn't want to give up the responsibilities; they're wonderful responsibilities. It's a connection most mother's don't want to give up, the one of caring for their children. Plus, they have to work for economic reasons. And most women aren't doing work they like. I feel I'm a very lucky person that way because most women have terrible jobs and are poor. It's a very complicated area for us to write about."

Though many of her stories are dark, sometimes surreal, she says she can find a "fluffier," "lighter side" to stories with children: "Whenever you've got children, there's hope, this open-endedness, the next day, and it's delightful despite the troubles."

I'll take the words "wonderful responsibilities" and "delightful despite the troubles," and remember how much my mother loved me. And I will also think of them when my two young boys require so, so much, as children do. Despite or because of all of it, they are delightful and wonderful, the next day.