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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website, PlantingDandelions.com

The Hope Chest

If only for a minute or two
I want to see what it feels like to be without you
I want to know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

Lucinda Williams, "The Side of the Road"



Around the time of my parents' final separation in the late eighties, my mother and I spent a wonderful night together in Ottawa. I was nineteen, and living in Toronto. She had come up to the capital from Newfoundland on business. We marched on Parliament Hill together ("What do we want? Choice!"), we visited the new national museum, we drank scotch on the rocks in the lounge of a posh hotel, we went out for dinner and I ate sushi for the first time. And we talked and talked and talked.

My mother, who remained close to my father right up until his death, opened up to me about their 24-year marriage in a new way: woman to woman. It was very healing for me, and as I listened, I was aware that for the first time, I was glimpsing my mother as her own person. As someone apart from my father, my sister and me.

That night, she shared with me that there had been a moment, when my sister and I were still young, when she fleetingly entertained a plan of escape that didn't include us.

To understand how shocking this was for me to hear, you'd have to know my mother. In the dictionary, under "maternal," there's a picture of my mother. As far as I ever knew, she was the most nurturing, tender, devoted mother in the world. It was impossible to imagine her with her back turned.

When and where I was a teenager, some girls and mothers still assembled "hope chests." It was a wooden chest in which they tucked china, linens and other household wares, in anticipation of married life—the fullfillment of said "hope." Needless to say, the woman who stuck a pro-choice sign in my hand and marched me up Parliament Hill, did not give me a hope chest.

She gave me much more. That night, not for the last time, she stepped down off the altar of sainted motherhood, and let me see her as a real person. A woman who could adore her husband and children with every breath in her body, and at the same time be conscious of the part of her soul that could not be domesticated. She gave me permission to acknowledge that wild place in me, to accept it alongside my fierce love for my family. To not feel the need to reconcile or cure it, but just let it be. The deepest truth resides in paradox. Our humanity is too vast for either/or.

Instead of porcelain and monogrammed pillowslips, this is what I have in my chest.

I need it far more often.

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14 Comments:

Blogger The Casual said...

Kyran, your writing is so beautiful. Every time I read your entries, I either get tears in my eyes or goosebumps on my arms. You really have a wonderful way with words. Thanks for sharing with us.

~The Casual Perfectionist (.com)

9:07 AM  
Blogger twintales said...

What a wonderful legacy to pass on. Thank you for sharing.

Kelsi

11:09 AM  
Blogger Geoff Meeker said...

Bravo! Vulnerable and brave at once. Perhaps another book simmering on the rear burner of your memory? :)

11:11 AM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

you stole my breath!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Okay, so yeah this is a wonderful post and all (seriously) but....where does one find that Lucinda song?! I found a live version on YouTube here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXaeqifAxKI&feature=related

And I see that another live version is on a later edition of her eponymous album (I have the first edition w/out the bonus tracks). But is it some other album of hers? Thanks for any help.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

tom, it's off the eponymous cd that came out in '99(?). The live is with the bonus tracks, but in my edition, the studio version is there too (track ten). It's got a white case with a b&w photo of 'Cinda on the front. Loads of good stuff. am I too Blue is one of my favorites, also Price to Pay. oh, and Just Wanted to See you So Bad...and of course, Big Red Sun Blues....

4:03 PM  
Blogger witchypoo said...

Congratulations to you on your nomination! Now I have to register and vote.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Oy. I'm such a dork. I was in my office (and hence not near my less-than-perfectly-organized CDs) when I wrote that. I *thought* I had checked with Amazon.com about what was on the original *Lucinda Williams* CD.I guess I misread something(see the whole dork claim in my first sentence). It is a wonderful album, maybe my favorite in her really fine career.

Seriously, as the father of older-but-not-quite-adult kids, I wonder to what extent a parent should be frank about his or her struggles. Your post is very helpful in this regard. Thanks.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Tom, I think you should just trust your gut on that one. That happened to be the correct moment for Mom & I. I probably couldn't have heard it a year or two earlier. also, they were splitting up, so my bubble was already burst.

5:03 PM  
Blogger witchypoo said...

I hope that you mother gets to read this. Beautiful!

8:46 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I found you via the Ninja Poodles blog - something about you ladies from Arkansas - and promptly pissed away 90 minutes of work time browsing through your blog. I'll definitely be back.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Micah said...

Ok. So your blogs are thoroughly delightful (as, I strongly suspect, are you!).

Is your friend, Georgia, whom you were speaking to from a phone booth in Ireland as you ate a Cadbury bar ALSO my dear friend, Georgia, the Aussie of Peach Pavlova fame?

My father is also a poet. There is much we have in common. And, you are a such an inspiration. After studying writing for the last 6 years, the last thing I've done lately is just that - write. You are doing what I want to be doing. Can I look up to you?

3:52 PM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

Oh, this is worth so much more. And I'm so excited about your nomination. You've got my vote!

8:26 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Micah, the one, the only Georgia Peach!

Now, if you look up to me, that means I would have to look down to you, and we can't have that. Besides, I'm deathly afraid of heights. ;-)

I was in awe of your very professional looking desk & office the other day, myself. Very grown up, I thought.

10:34 AM  

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