On Mother's Day

Facebook is an interesting space.

A snapshot of my timeline would reveal a stream of the usual: meme pics, 'Like' trolling (Like if you think puppies are SWELL, I bet only 2% of people who read this agree with me!), game spam & folk proclaiming how BLESSED & *amazing* their lives are when every time you see them their heads are about to burst Scanners-style from stress & unhappiness.  Tossing along on the surface, innocuous pictures of attractive children, meals consumed, parties attended, geographic locations visited.

But this casually unconscious ephemera floats over a bed of cold stone and regularly dashes into large, unyielding rocks which break the surface unpredictably- a friend who recently lost their significant other to cancer, a friend who's had a recurrence of their own cancer, a marriage breaking up, a missing teenager, lost jobs and homes.

It's life, everyday things that happen constantly, but consolidated & made explicit.  Prior to social media events outside your immediate circle of family & close friends were time-shifted.  You'd usually hear about them later, sometimes much later, from a friend of a friend, blurred & muted by the distance it traveled to reach you.  There's a meaningful difference there, although I haven't pinned it down exactly.  It's akin to how playing a vinyl LP is very different thing from playing the same music on an iPod, informationally identical yet not at all the same experience.  The effortless proximity and immediacy Facebook delivers, making no distinction between your closest friends and someone you barely remember from high school, is new and sometimes unmanageably delirious.

I considered this phenomenon today as a tsunami of mother adoration swept Facebook, scouring all else away with a frothing wall of vintage snapshots & Hallmark sentiments.  It's a tide I can't float along with- Mother's Day is my turn to be the black rock in the stream, the uninvited witch at the christening party.

My own mother did an awful job.
It was likely the best she could manage, and raising Fuss (in a two parent family) has given me a genuine appreciation for the practical difficulties she faced as a single mother after my dad fucked off & had to be endlessly harassed before he'd grudgingly cough up irregular lumps of child support. She struggled to keep a roof over our heads, and mostly succeeded.  She struggled to feed us both, and mostly succeeded.  (Quick aside to anyone who's ever disparaged "welfare mothers"- stuff your judgement up your ass sideways, and I hope it ruptures your colon.)  But she was an abject failure at parenting's Job One- keep your children safe.  My childhood was an endless parade of sketchy, menacing men and volatile situations.  We hitchhiked all over the place, we washed up at a hippy commune for a while, there was the bowhunter who lived in the mountains and made his living selling venison and hosting cockfights, there was the other guy who took us to a warehouse in San Francisco because he wanted to get a pet raccoon  except they had a fight and broke up and the two of us spent the night at the downtown bus station.
As with much of my childhood I don't remember that part, just my disappointment that we wouldn't be bringing a raccoon home with us, but mom brought it up on her deathbed with a shudder- we can safely assume the San Francisco Greyhound station circa 1973 was a Fellini-esque abattoir.

All of it is intellectually understandable- she was just reenacting her own crap childhood of servile, powerless women & violent, unsafe men.  She was nineteen when I was born, so no time really to get her own emotional & psychological problems straightened out.  My dad was a coward & bolted the minute she'd put him through college, not even showing up at the custody hearing & as noted treating requests for child support like toilet paper.  And while I can't say she didn't love me, it was a constricted, secretive thing.  I doubt it ever gave either one of us comfort.

I'm sad she died because I think she'd have been a good grandma for Fuss, and similar as we are I suspect he'd have kicked loose a lot of old feelings that would have opened up some opportunities for her to reconsider the past.  Also children are a catalyst, and he'd have made us be different together which couldn't have been a bad thing.

This is a good picture of us, her eyes closed, clutching at me awkwardly while I lean away openhanded and stare down the camera in my shark tooth necklace. This looks like it was around the time she sliced one of her wrists open and pretended a glass fell off the shelf and cut her.

Happy Mother's Day to mom, who I wish had had an easier, better life, for my sake as well as hers.
And Happy Mother's Day to the Wife, a spectacular mother who does all the important things perfectly.

No comments: