Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dedicated to a Beautiful Song Bird, My Mother

Another Mother's Day is upon us. In the United States a lot of fuss is made over this holiday. Brunches are booked, bouquets are delivered and long distance calls are made across country to ensure mothers and grandmothers are told how much they are loved and appreciated. Personally, before I adopted my sons, I felt a great loss over the holiday. I felt cheated somehow. I instructed my husband to spoil me because I was a woman and the owner of a sweet dog named, Squeak and a Goldfish appropriately called, Fish. Now that I'm the mother of two behaviorally challenged, autistic birth-brothers -- strangely, I don't feel the same way. I don't want to celebrate the obligatory greeting card event. I feel an emptiness where the maternal instinct should be; a hole - a dark, sad place which I don't believe will ever be repaired.

I can't go into detail now as to why my heart is hurting. Some of you - my dedicated readers, close friends and family may be aware as to why I'm feeling this way. This is partially the reason I haven't written in so long. As much as this blog began as a "self help" journey many years ago, it's also morphed into a window of my soul. I'm a wounded bird right now, barely capable of lifting my head. Perhaps eventually I'll heal but for now this bird has been silenced. Because of this, I've decided to write about another bird whose song is still strong and clear and wise. Today I dedicate this blog to yes, a mother - my beautiful mother, Maryellen.


I'm the fourth of five siblings. I have two older sisters, an older brother and much to my former confusion, a baby brother who arrived around Easter the year of my eleventh birthday instead of my much anticipated puppy.

Maria is my birth name; however, I opted to change it to "Bri" during my fifth grade year. Despite what many believe, it had nothing to do with hurting my mother's feelings and everything to do with passing notes during class. You see, I attended a very small Catholic elementary school with one classroom for each grade; essentially thirty-two children grew up together for eight years. We also knew most of the kids in the other rooms because they were our brothers, sisters and/or cousins. The Sisters of Notre Dame taught us and lived in a Convent on campus and were assisted by a handful of lay teachers. Our church was down the street where we attended mass every Friday and on Holy Days of Obligation. There were no cell phones back then. Passing notes was the only means of communication and if caught - DEAR GOD - by Sister Mary Agnel, we were in serious trouble. Besides, what else did silly girls chat about at that age...BOYS! Absolutely - and so we needed pseudonyms. "Breanna" happened to be the name of my best friend's neighbor but I wanted mine spelled differently. I had NO CLUE that there was a cheese named, Brie. The only cheese I was familiar with at the time was Cheddar, American and Easy Cheese (I'm grinning as I type this). Once I arrived at high school, teachers asked if we had preferred nick names. I had a choice in the matter? WOW! That's when "Bri" was officially born. It's never been legally changed and Momma, I'll always be your Maria.

I've wanted to be a mother since I knew writing was what I needed to do. If this is any indication of my passion, I have journals and notebooks of poetry dating back to the third grade. I don't tend to keep things but I wrote a letter to my unborn children before I realized I would never be able to conceive. This special letter is something I did save. It's tattered, yellowed and tear stained. In it, I named five children; three boys and two girls by their first and middle names. I told them that I hoped I would be as wonderful a mother to them as my own had been to me. I prayed they would remember to come to me in their darkest hours and their greatest joys. That they would know love and contentment. And finally, I was looking forward to the moment I would look into their eyes for the first time and tell them that I loved them.

My mother, Maryellen, inspired me to write that letter. If I had been an unhappy child I would never have been able to write it or dream of those beautiful, unborn babies. My mom made life an adventure in every way. I'm certainly not saying she was perfect, no one is. She made mistakes - we all do. There's no handbook on how to raise a Norman Rockwell family but she would scrape and fight and protect us in every way possible plus she had a marriage which served as an amazing example to myself as well as to the rest of my brothers and sisters; a marriage so beautiful that it's almost impossible to emulate.

When she met my first husband (and if he or his family is reading this, please don't be offended), I remember her clearly stating, "Why don't you go out with that nice young man, Eric?" (Eric is my current husband, clearly mother's are always right). She KNEW the moment she met Eric that he was quality; that he was a man who would treat me with the same respect and love as my father had treated her and again, she was so very right. For over thirty years, since I met Eric in high school, he has been my soul mate. I wake up and fall asleep with laughter next to this man everyday. I almost lost him last year - which, when I can gather the strength, I will tell that story - but had he died that awful morning, I would have died with him. My father died on December 22, 2004 and on that day a piece of my mother died too. She is stronger and braver than anyone I've ever known. Their love was a once in a lifetime love and yet last year she stood next to me for three weeks while I endured the hardest time of my life watching my soul mate nearly slip away from me. I will never forget that.

Earlier I mentioned that my mom made life adventurous. It's true. I've heard somewhere that it "never rains in Southern California" but on one Halloween, with four little ones waiting patiently to go Trick or Treating, we had a tremendous storm. My mother (with the help of my somewhat inpatient and exhausted dad), repeatedly changed costumes and stood behind every door in our little house countless times so we could holler, "Trick or Treat"!

Family vacations were not ordinary because mom ensured that they were nothing if not extraordinary. If there was an opportunity to take a Catamaran around an island, we did it. If a Cessna was available to fly over the mountains of Kauai, we chartered it. If mom could find a beach house big enough to fill with cousins, family and friends for a summer, well then yes - we did that too. Whatever adventure mom read about, if dad was agreeable (and he rarely said no) we found ourselves immersed in it. We houseboated at Lake Shasta. Waterskii'd. Went snow skiing in Utah during Christmas. In every corner of my mind there's an incredible memory with a smile.

Thank you mom for every happy memory you've given me, every phone call of encouragement, for the financial help when I could barely breathe through the medical bills, for being here three weeks even though you were desperately needed back home, for all the laughter we've shared over the years, for encouraging me with my dreams and not judging me, and for being one of my dearest friends. Finally, when I was young and stupid I used to say, "I'm never going to be like my mother". Now my greatest hope is that I can be half as wonderful as you.

I love you. Happy Mother's Day.