The Last Day… I Didn’t Know.

I’m struggling to keep up momentum and keep writing. I’m writing things to submit to other sources… places that demand it be unpublished elsewhere. My blog loses, but I’m out there working to be a writer who is published. Facebook reminded me of this post, and I it seemed a great time to repost it. A lots changed since I wrote this. I had a few things wrong, in the telling of my family story… things with my mother were a bit different; I’ve learned a lot since then (https://talesfromthemotherland.me/2015/05/08/other-mothers-among-us-healing-for-mothers-day/ ). “Remember The Time” no longer runs (which is too bad, because it was a great prompt!), and I don’t hear much from some of my old blogging buddies (https://talesfromthemotherland.me/2016/11/07/we-all-poop/). But I am out here, trying to write more and get myself published. This story reminds me to be mindful, but that life marches on, and things change. Hope you’ll leave a comment, and let me know what you think!

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

When Kelly at Are You Finished Yet contacted me and asked if I would co-host this week for the Remember The Timers, a few things happened. First, I was tickled pink. Really, little ole me? Why I’d be honored, I drawled… in my head. Fact is, I am honored. I truly felt a wee bit giddy at the invitation. Me? Invited to play with the big girls? Yippee! Then I simmered down and got to business, all details and whatnot, like those big girls: What’s the prompt? When do I need to have it done by (tomorrow night! Eek!)? How do I add that Linky thing? I got info. and assured Kelly that I could indeed be trusted. I checked in with Emily at The Waiting, Kelly’s weekly comrade in arms, and assured her of the same things.  But the final thing that happened, was that I got…

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Friday Fictioneers: Check Mate

Week five, and I’m feeling great about ending the writing drought. Thanks for all the support and wonderful feedback all y’all! This week’s photo prompt comes from Björn Rudberg, the weekly nudge from our dedicated leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To join in the fun, check out her blog Addicted to Purple. As always, I appreciate honest, constructive feedback; please leave a comment.

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© Björn Rudberg

Check Mate

Nina’s childhood was traumatic. Her mother’s death when she was nine, was followed a year later by her father leaving. She lived with her aunt and uncle until college, and then set her own course.

She learned from that childhood to be vigilant. “Life is like chess,” Nina told friends, “you have to be thinking two moves ahead.”

When driving, she calculated what each car would do, and looked three times before crossing; twice wasn’t enough.

I love you–– please say yes! She read the text, and smiled. Reaching for her phone, she never saw the flared lights of the oncoming truck.

(100 words)

*Please don’t engage in distracted driving! Put the phone away, out of sight. It only takes a moment’s distraction! It’s something most of us could work on.

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! I’m going big on Facebook, in 2016: I’d like to hit 1,200 Likes, and time is running out!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, as soon as they’re published, with no spam.

©2011-2016  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Friday Fictioneers: Up From The Debris, We Rise (A Reminder, & Tribute To Maya Angelou)

Since I first read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, as senior in high school, I have regularly turned to Maya Angelou for inspiration. This week, I have read this stunning poem more than once, may finally get it. Having laid myself bare on Huffington Post, on Election Day, only to feel more naked on Wednesday (made worse by taunts and hurtful comments on Twitter), this poem gives me hope today. It is a reminder, like this photo by Sandra Crook, that there is always color to be found.

Thank you to this supportive writing community for rising each week, to the 100-word challenge that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields throws down, and the beautiful positivity you spread. If you’d like to join us, check out her blog Addicted to Purple, for more details. As always, I appreciate honest, constructive feedback.

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© Sandra Crook

 

Up From The Debris, We Rise

“But mama, everything is so gray; how can you smile?”

As they passed the burnt out buildings and stone debris, Julia held her daughter Audrey’s hand tighter.

“In winter, snow turns black with soot, but when it melts, the tulips still rise and spread their color.”

Her daughter still looked confused; she exhaled hopeless.

“Don’t believe that it’s over, my love. Hope is not gray; we can always find color. The sun is still in the sky; the flowers will return in the spring, and we must always rise.”

As they passed tumbled bricks, the child smiled.

(97 words)

Did you want to see me broken?  Bowed Head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, weakened by my soulful cries? …  I rise. 

If you’d like a real treat, and I mean inspiration, watch Ms. Angelou read her poem!

 

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! I’m going big on Facebook, in 2016: I’d like to hit 1,200 Likes, and time is running out!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, as soon as they’re published, with no spam.

©2011-2016  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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For My Daughter… This Is History

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As I finally went to bed last night, at midnight, I found myself shaken by feelings that I dismissed as silly. I let them wash over me for only a moment, and then picked up my book, in the hopes of distracting my weary brain. I spent all of Monday making phone calls to undecided voters in swing states: predominantly Florida and North Carolina. I made nearly 200 calls in the course of the day, most of them wrong numbers, but many of them brief conversations. My brain needed distracting.

But at 5:30 this morning, there it was again. I woke from a disturbing dream and instead of thinking it through, or trying to make sense of it, I found myself giddy again. Not the excitement that my 53-year-old self feels about seeing my grandson, traveling somewhere new, or finding a great pair of boots; this was unmistakably childish in its giddiness. For the shortest of moments, I pushed it aside again and tried to get back to sleep, but it kept me awake. The girl in me–– the one who still remembers first love, summers on the beach with her friends, dancing with a crush, riding her bike for miles, playing with Barbies–– the girl in me felt the thrill of possibility. After today, all girls may finally know that they too can grow up and be President of the United States.

And right there, I’ve labeled myself. You may have stopped reading, based on this personal moment I’ve shared. The cynic in me gets that. As I said, I pushed that feeling down two times; dismissed it as silly and dramatic. But there’s no denying that it kept me awake, when my internal clock knows I need several more hours of sleep. It pushed me out of bed, and left me needing to put these thoughts down. For months and months, I’ve read other women (this woman!) express this hope. I’ve seen the memes, the op-eds, the blog posts and reports; a woman is running for President. I’ve also seen the mud slinging and ugliness all around, and like so many, I’ve mostly felt stressed… simply wishing this was over.

But the second thought that woke me up this morning was this: regardless of its outcome, today is history making. This election has been more divisive than any election I remember, in the thirty-five years that I’ve been voting. The first time I cast a ballot was my senior year of high school: Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. It felt historical to me, because I was voting for the first time–– the polling place being my high school, center of my then universe. I have never missed a vote, since that first year I was able to; it’s a right and a privilege I take very seriously. And while that election felt important for personal reasons, this morning I woke up and felt an overwhelming sense of history. I woke up and felt an undeniable excitement in knowing that this election will be remembered for many years to come, as historical, for reasons that are both simple and complex, at the same time.

Strangely, these two emotions, as I woke in our still dark room, were bigger than the increasing anxiety and stress I’ve felt, as both sides have amped up their ads, the news has reported 24/7 the same few stories, and the nation has been unmistakably divided. Putting aside all of that, what woke me was the sense that today we are watching something that will be discussed for a long time, regardless of the outcome. Whether it’s history or herstory, it’s changed everything. Like him or not, Trump is different from any candidate I’ve ever seen run for President of the United States, and Clinton is the first female candidate of a major party, nominated for that office. The girl in me woke giddy with the potential of that, the adult woke in reverence for the historical import of it all, and the weight of this outcome.

Again, it’s not hard to guess what side I land on this ballot, from the things I’ve shared here, but having spent weeks discussing it, and an entire day calling folks to encourage, I woke today free from those thoughts, free from the need to convince or cajole, argue or discuss–––– for these few, quiet moments before I go to the polls, I turn on the news, or face my neighbors and friends. I woke thinking of my niece and two nephews, who will be voting in their first election. I remembered the heady sense of importance I felt in 1980, when I faced the first election where my opinion counted. I woke thinking of finality of Election Day, when votes are finally counted. I woke with reverence for the process.

I woke thinking of the incredible people I talked to yesterday–– every one of them living very different lives from me, as demonstrated in the conversations we had and the details we shared. I woke thinking about “Samuel,” my first call of the day, who was so kind and such an old school gentleman, that I knew I could make the rest of my calls with confidence, though I started outside my comfort zone and nervous. In his 70s, he spoke with such passion about his right to vote, and his community–– who worries about stolen ballots and doesn’t trust the system. I spoke to two girls, both twenty, who weren’t planning to vote, because they’d always heard “it didn’t really matter.” I looked at my signed and sealed ballot, waiting on the counter to be taken to our local polling place, and felt gratitude for all I have, and honored that many of the people I called, took the time to politely take my call, and tell me their thoughts. Plenty hung up; only one swore at me.

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I woke with the sober realization that I have unconsciously raised my daughter, now a mother herself, with the belief that she could not actually be anything she wants. Because for all of my words to the contrary, it was only this morning that I knew that I never really believed them myself. It was only this morning, as these big emotions washed over me, that I realized that I never thought a woman might truly do this. I could not go back to sleep, for the reality of what I have kept from my own daughter, and what I have kept from myself. I couldn’t go back to sleep for the six-year-old-Christmas-morning-anticipatory sense of possibility, that I finally allowed myself to feel… at 5:30 morning. Just before I started to cry. I didn’t even realize that for 35 years I’ve been waiting. That I fed my daughter my own hopelessness, along with empty encouragement. This morning I woke up. This, is a tale from the motherland.

It doesn’t matter what side you’re on now. The unstoppable wheels are truly spinning now. It’s three hours later in the city where I grew up. Votes are cast, and will be for another twelve hours here, on the west coast. We probably won’t know the outcome of this election for days to come, and given Mr. Trump’s promise of keeping us “in suspense,” it may be weeks. But for better or worse, and in my humble opinion: much of it has been worse, this election is history making already. The wheels are spinning, the debates rage on, but I woke up giddy… and for these few minutes, I’m savoring that.

I was prompted by my own emotions, and my own awaking. But The Daily Prompt is a fun way to number it. Check out other numbers here.

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! I’m going big on Facebook, in 2016: I’d like to hit 1,200 Likes, and time is running out!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, as soon as they’re published, with no spam.

©2011-2016  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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We All Poop

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We all poop. We bleed when we’re cut.We laugh when it’s funny, and we cry when it hurts. But sometimes it feels like an uphill battle to be recognized as having feelings, by people who I think matter. I try really hard to be thoughtful. I don’t always hit the mark, but it’s rarely intentional. I’m careless sometimes, but then I generally realize it and feel terrible. I apologize; I try to make amends. I try again. In a year that has been especially focused in my personal life on moving on from things, letting relationships that don’t work go, owning my own needs and worth–– it’s been a strange realization that the world where I  write, is often the place I feel the most unheard.

That is a hard thing to swallow, because writing is also where I feel the most me. It’s where I lay things raw and try to share without filters. I put myself out there, and I hang in the wind. For the most part, it fills me. And no doubt, writing is not for sissies. Maybe I’ve become one? But lately I have felt hurt by folks in my blogging community, in my writing community–– by people whose opinions matter to me. I’ve felt abandoned, and a couple of times, used. Yes, it’s irksome, the Daily prompt, but as I started to write this post, I realized it transcends even that. How to put it less whiny? I’m not sure I can, and still be honest.

I’ve said it before: I see my writing communities as sacred. If I “Follow” your blog, I read your posts. Ok, so you’re doing Nano Poblano–– blogging every day in November? I admit, I choose which ones to read, because I just can’t read most posts every day. But I look. I never hit delete, without looking first. I try to leave comments, not just Likes. I know what it feels like to write something and then feel like there are only crickets. If you are publishing something, I try to buy it, read it, and support it. Putting together an anthology? I donate, even if I’m not submitting work, because I think it’s important to those who are. I recommend folks for awards (real ones, like BlogHer Voices of the Year), and I vote when your books or pieces are nominated for things. And no, I’m not perfect; I miss the mark on some of these things. But I do my best, because I think writers should be supported, in any way I can. Each of us is putting ourselves out there, and that takes courage, faith, and chutzpah. It’s hard. If you mean something to me, I try to support your efforts.

My therapist (I’m on the lifer plan) has a saying that I hate: You are entitled to your labor, but not the fruits of your labor. He’s right; I know it. But lately I feel like people I have thought of as part of my tribe, my writing tribe, aren’t really there for me, and I can’t help it, that bothers me. I have struggled to write, and then when I do, folks aren’t there. I see them in other places; I know they’re still making rounds… just not round to me. Folks ask me favors: can I help hook them up at Huffington Post (Actually, no. HF chooses their writers and I have no real pull. None. Not because I don’t want to support you, but because I can’t). Can I help put a blog post out there? Can I give advice? But they aren’t reading my work, or helping support my efforts to keep on plugging. It’s hard enough to plug along, but that much harder when you feel alone.

Some of you are always there. You know who you are, and please know that you mean so much to me! My Friday Fictioneer buddies area wonderful about reading my 100-word ditties each time, and I do my best to read theirs. I’m a little put out when other bloggers only read those 100-word pieces, and don’t take the time for bigger posts, while I read and comment on theirs. In all likelihood, they won’t be reading this one either. The folks who are there over and over–– I know who you are, and I know you’ll be the ones to say: “don’t let it bother you; hold your head up; keep on plugging…” Thank you. Sincerely, thank you, you, you, you, you/Mike, you, you/Heidi, you, you/Redwoods, you, youMary Ellen, and you. I know how lucky I am to have your support. I know it, and I appreciate it. This rant purge effort to express myself, is not directed at any of you.

But I do let things get to me. I do question my worth and my ability to write. I question my writing worth, when folks I have respected and shared with, don’t take the time for me and my work. It’s not just tit for tat, it’s about supporting each other in efforts that are hard won and important. It’s about being real and following through. If you ask me to write a plug for your book/post/work, then honor that and send the love back. Don’t forget you asked, and then leave my plug swinging in the wind. Don’t ask for favors, when you aren’t taking the time to do me the favor of a read. Don’t say “let’s support each other,” and then disappear. It sucks. It makes me question these connections. It hurts. If you’re still reading, you may see why I’m still in therapy.

Blogging/writing is a very personal and special world. We all work hard to connect and build relationships. We rely on each other to build traffic and feel heard. Of course, we all have busy lives. We all have families, issues, losses and joys, that we’re grieving or celebrating. We miss a post here or there.Some bloggers are just so big that it’s hard to keep up (first world writing problems). I’m no different. I put myself out here and try hard to honor the fact that you do to. But when you drop off the radar completely, or never really show up, it’s more than irksome; it’s hard not take it a little personally. Sure, maybe I’ve been naive in some of my perceptions–– believing some relationships are “realer” than they are. Clearly I’ve read some signs the wrong way. I was never good at dating either. But now you know: I wear my heart on my sleeve; I take things (too) seriously; I’m not perfect, and I care. A few telling Tweets or missing Likes and I bleed. A few too many slights and I blow (in case you weren’t sure what this post is all about) and yeah… we all poop.

If you feel like I’ve been a hypocrite here, if you feel like I don’t hold up my end of our writing friendship, if you feel the same way or not, if you just have some thoughts about this, leave a comment. I appreciate hearing your feedback. And if you’d like to contribute to the daily prompt, check it out here. 

Insert writer for rapper and enjoy this ditty! Really, play it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuJzSTNDUGI

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! I’m going big on Facebook, in 2016: I’d like to hit 1,200 Likes, and time is running out!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, as soon as they’re published, with no spam.

©2011-2016  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Word Play

It’s a double header (I’m all about baseball this week, as the Cubs won!), as this is my 2nd post for the day. In fairness, the first was a guest post, of beauty and import. I was determined to get my Friday Fictioneers contribution in, too. This one was a challenge. I had a few stories that came to mind, but it was this play with word (do you see it?) that had me counting words and keeping track. Just felt like fun, as I challenged myself to get this story written. Three weeks in a row; dare I hope that the writer is unblocked?

If you’d like to join this 100-word challenge check out Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog, Addicted to Purple. As Always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback. Please leave a comment.

 

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© Jean L. Hays

Word Play

“Hey! Look around; this road is history!”

In the back seat, trading baseball cards, as dad drove down Route 66, on route to my grandmother’s house, it was hot and dry. My buddy Joe and I could care less about jewelry and antiques Nan was handing down, or history. A good trade was the best I could hope for. Joe wouldn’t admit it, but I’m always the victor here. Who gives up a 1985 Roger Clemmens? Joe’s dad nearly killed him.

“Turn up the radio, dad.” My buddy’s thick as a post sometimes, and I’ve got a bead on his Griffey.

(Exactly 100 words)

 

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! KAPOW! I’m going big on Facebook, in 2016: I’d like to hit 1,200 Likes, and time is running out!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, as soon as they’re published, with no spam.

©2011-2016  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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An Election Week Guest Post

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What? Tales From the Motherland is doing a guest post? Well, wonders never cease! I’ve stated, in a few recent posts, that I’m seeing things in a new way. Admittedly, I should have done this a long time ago, but I get stuck in my own silly boxes. I’ve also been stuck in writer’s block, struggling with change overall, and life as a whole. I’ve been rethinking positions I’ve held, and trying to figure out new ideas for this blog. I want to stretch and reach out to others; I’ve been struggling to find my groove again. This election has my head spinning, but I haven’t known what to say…

Meanwhile, in a galaxy quite nearby, another writer, who I know from a local writing group, was telling some (mutual) writerly folks that she had things she wanted to say, that she wasn’t ready to share on her own blog. They told her to talk to me, and lo and behold, I made it to the monthly meeting tonight–– that I’m never in town for, and… kismet! The stars aligned;  writers I admire were all on the same page, and Tela and I came together.

What follows is a post by Tele Aadsen: fisherman, writer, and all around kick ass woman. I’m honored that she trusted me with this piece of raw, deeply truthful writing. I relate to so much of what she has to say here, and feel grateful that we connected for this. I hope other bloggers will consider sharing this piece on their own sites. While I don’t ever ask that for my own work, I believe this deserves to be read far and wide!

Read Tela’s bio at the end, and see more about guest posts.

Making Change: My Mom, My Vote

            I was fourteen years old when a man grabbed me by the pussy.

We were in the checkout line of our Pacific Northwest town’s Payless drugstore. It was early evening, one week before Valentine’s Day, and I was buying a cassette tape – the Thelma & Louise soundtrack, seriously – as a gift for my best friend. My parents were waiting in the car. I’d stepped up to the cashier when a hand squeezed my ass.

I was not raised to fight for myself or others. My family consisted of three isolated people who neatly sidestepped not only conflict but engagement of any kind. I knew neither fight nor flight; I knew only to cringe into my body like a potato bug. To make myself disappear.

The man circled me. He cupped the front of my jeans, slid his fingers against my vulva, and squeezed. We were alone in the checkout lines – alone with the two women working the cash registers, alone with my frozen feet and pounding heart. No one spoke. I remained paralyzed. He released his hold on his own time, sauntering out of the store on his own terms. Change broke the silence. Coins clattered against the counter as I paid for the tape, never making eye contact with the cashier. I forced numb legs to step through the sliding doors, into the darkness where he might be waiting, and slid silently into the backseat of the Datsun. I didn’t say anything to my parents.

At fourteen, my ugly duckling childhood was barely a year behind me. The transition happened so unexpectedly and without warning, I didn’t yet understand the distinction between attraction and abuse. I didn’t understand unwanted advances weren’t about me, but power and predation – the flexing of rape culture’s muscle. I thought it was my fault that grown men suddenly evaluated me in a way they hadn’t before, openly, as their right. Some I’d known as family friends: the elder fisherman having coffee with my mom on our boat, who, when I described having “worked my ass off,” was quick to correct me, “It’s still there – I noticed!” Others, like the man in the drugstore, were strangers.

Several weeks later, my mom reeled back when I came downstairs one morning. “What happened to you?” she gasped, grabbing my chin and forcing my face up. “Who did this to you?”

I didn’t want to tell her. To acknowledge the long red wounds where I’d dug my fingernails into flesh and pulled, as if in opening skin I could open a door to step back in time, back to a time when I hadn’t felt men’s roaming eyes and hands… That was an exchange too intimate for our family. But she persisted. Finally I confessed, “I didn’t want to be pretty anymore.”

Twenty-five years later, I still see her face crumpling, falling under the weight of grief she didn’t have words for, outrage she’d never been allowed to express.

My mom.

My mom and I exist at uneasy arm’s length. We subsist on three-minute phone calls and occasional visits where stilted conversation clings to such banal topics as the weather and her friends’ health woes. Avoidance of anything more substantial is by mutual, unspoken agreement. I broke that agreement only once, when, exasperated, I named the tension between us, saying the time we spent together couldn’t be fun for her.

“This is fun for me,” she insisted. She just wanted to show me her gardens and have tea together, she said. “I’m not going to talk to you about politics or sex or religion! You don’t have any idea who I am.”

She wasn’t wrong. But she wasn’t entirely right, either. I know pieces of my mom, pieces I carry like coins in my pocket.

Born in 1942, she was her parents’ first child. When her brother was born four years later, her mother told her how relieved she was to have had a son. Boys were better than girls, she explained.

While all boys were better than any girl, my mom learned over the course of her childhood that individual girls merited varying degrees of value. She learned that she, a studious, quiet type, was the wrong kind of girl. Her mother told her so, wondering aloud why she couldn’t be more like the pretty, vivacious girl next door.

My mom didn’t pass that cruel measuring stick on to her only child. Instead my inheritance consists of stories and observations jangling against each other. She was one of three women in her veterinary program at Cornell University. One of few female skippers in Southeast Alaska’s commercial salmon fishery, and the only one with a teenaged daughter as her crew. She spent her sixties as the only woman on her team at an oil refinery. Though she refused to apply a feminist frame to her achievements, that was how I viewed her. My pockets sag with gold, a coin for every powerful memory.

They aren’t all gold. Other memories are pennies, pitted and green with corrosion.

             One. We stand side-by-side, inspecting make-up in a drugstore. It’s the same Payless that will soon teach me the dangers of my femaleness, but today’s only lesson is a 50-year old woman turning to her 13-year old daughter, asking if a particular shade of eye shadow will help her look pretty.

Two. I am working at a truck shop across from her house. I am the only female on the shop floor, other than those spread-eagled across the walls. When I come home broken from a particularly hard day – when the n-word is used to describe Dr. King; when a staff meeting includes blasting a left-leaning local woman as an anti-war cunt; when my boss gestures to one of the posters and says he’d like to see me in that little black number – she waves a hand in discomfiture. “Oh, well…” She changes the subject.

Three. I perch on the edge of a chair at her dining room table. She’s urged me to come for dinner – “Won’t that be fun?” I’m watching her offer to cut a man’s steak. He’s had a seat at her table for the past twenty years, whenever the mood suits him, and is accustomed to being the center of her attention. Tonight he makes loud observations about the slice of cake on her plate and which parts of her body the calories will settle upon. I counter that she’s an adult and can eat whatever she chooses, but the defense is lost beneath the sound of my mom laughing at his “joke,” the sound of my mom agreeing, “I know, Bud, you’re right.”

Four, five, six. I watch my first and most defining female role model, the most capable and strongest woman I’ve known, bow to men unworthy of her, unavailable and withholding. I watch her opinions take on the shape of those of the men around her. I watch her make pieces of herself disappear.

This September, I returned from five months at sea. My mom was eager for me to visit, to see the improvements she’d made around her place. “I think you’ll be really pleased!” She yearns for my approval. In this way, I have been no better than the men she’s surrounded herself with: unable or unwilling to give what she seeks.

Driving into her rural neighborhood, I wasn’t surprised to see my old employer had erected a Trump sign in front of the truck shop, I just rolled my eyes. But the mirror image reflected across the street stunned me. I’d never known my mom to reveal her political preferences; she avoids at all cost conversation that might be controversial.

Staring at the sign jabbed in my mom’s yard, I felt the way I imagine she once did, seeing her fourteen-year old daughter’s self-hate etched into her skin. Horrified, helpless. Heartbroken. Both of us so far beyond each other’s reach.

What happened to you? Who did this to you?

If I could, this is what I would do. I would pull out my pockets, gather those gold coins and melt them down. One woman’s value: absolute, unmistakable. I’d draw back a fist to hurl the corroded pennies away – down a wishing well, maybe, drowning those images of subjugation – but would stay my hand at the last second, understanding just in time that pain is its own kind of protection. Into the flames the pennies would go.

After the smoke cleared, I’d place a breathtaking swirl of metal, a shield of unique sturdiness and heft, into my mom’s hands. No one would ever reduce it to “pretty.” With that shield I would give her anger and grief, the certainty to refute anyone’s assessments of her body, her mind, her self-worth. I’d give her emotions we have never known how to exchange – confidence, joy. Trust. I would pass on to her every survival tool she wasn’t able to give me. I’d give her everything she never received herself.

But that’s a kind of change I don’t know how to make.

So I draw upon what I have: my vote. I vote as if my ballot might take back every time we laughed at our own expense, held ourselves responsible for a man’s behavior, blamed our bodies as the offender, changed the subject rather than the narrative. Every time we made ourselves small. My mom and I may never learn how to be whole and visible to each other. Still, even if we just cancel each other out, I vote as if we might yet share a safer, more equitable world.

aadsen-guest-post

Tele Aadsen is a tree-hugging, tofu-eating, feminist commercial fisherman and a writer, identities that coalesce in her annual performances with Oregon’s FisherPoets Gathering. Her name is pronounced “Tell-ah,” and she is currently revising a memoir, Hooked: A Season of Love, Sex, and Salmon. You can follow her work at www.teleaadsen.com.

If you’re interested in a guest post on Tales From the Motherland, please send me a message and let me know what you want to share:  tftmotherland@gmail.com

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