I have this abecedarian poem that I wrote a few years back that explored what kind of mother I might be: the kind who gives a child pots/books/art supplies over toys; the kind that goes on a weeklong vacation with kid to a meditation center … in Bhutan; the kind that takes a European train trip with a teenager, jumps off at a stop, and leaves him a scavenger hunt map, some cash, and instructions to meet at a certain hotel for lunch on an island in two weeks. I’m quirky in my imagination and in real life (though not as quirky in the real as in my imagination).
In carrying a life, I think of the passage of life and what sort of ancestor I will be. What will my legacy be? What will my child cherish about me? When I think of my grandfather, for example, I think of his quiet ways and his patient concentration. I loved seeing him put together puzzles for example. It’s one of the reasons that I love puzzles. When I think of my maternal grandmother, I think of meatballs, making meatballs together. It’s very rare that I make meatballs, but that process of doing it with a loved one is incredibly intimate and revelatory of a beloved moment. I also remember her painting my nails and all the different nail polishes she had. She was incredibly smart in her appearance always, and though I’m far more loose (mad scientist loose – I often mis-button shirts and wear things inside out) when it comes to dress, I have a great admiration for a those who are well put together all the time with ease. For my paternal grandmother, I admired her strength and resolve and her faith. Sure, she was the best cook ever, too, but she held her family together in challenging circumstances with her husband traveling 6 months out of every year. If anyone in my family can be described as stubborn, I see that as an inheritance of resolve. We have vision and a commitment to realizing the vision. With my paternal grandfather, I have only a slim memory tied to the scent of clove cigars, a memory of being held. He died when I was about 1 or so. I have stories from my aunts, uncle, father, and grandfather of him beyond that. If anything, I have a great regard for his restlessness and constant travel. He saw the world, and I think I get my desire from him and from his father before him.
I hope to be the ancestor remembered with pride on the family tree, like my great-Uncle Francis who they say was a singer and a poet. I don’t want my degrees to be the only way I’m remembered. I hope that my love of learning, of home, of travel pass on and that someone reads my journals and finds a few lines of wisdom amidst all the hundreds of pages of teenage and young adult angst. I hope, too, that I am remembered for my commitment to community and that those who come after me will also know the nourishment of a sustaining and thriving community.
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