(pretty much)

I never thought to ask my mother to go away together for a weekend, and, likewise, my mom never thought to ask me. Perhaps we just didn’t want to…

So when Jena called, shaken from a dream that I had died, we decided we needed to spend some time together. We had both been suffering from the changes caused by the  empty nest created when she left home this past December. Jena faces flying solo (pretty much.) I face watching her solo voyage, saying very little (pretty much) and praying a lot.

UnknownSo with some internet searching we decided on Rocky Gap State Park, Resort and Spa in Maryland. It turned out to be much more State Park and much less Resort and Spa, but at least we were together.

We checked out the pool and hot tub. They were inviting, except for the hoards of screaming, splashing kids. I remembered the chlorine-soaked-hotel-pool-evenings of Jena and Landon’s youth. The intention was to water log them so they would go to sleep early and easily. Unfortunately it was usually their dad and I that fell asleep. As I was strolling down nostalgia lane, Jena remarked that she was not interested in swimming with all those noisy kids. I didn’t blame her. Who really does? I joked with her that she sounded old.

We ate dinner in the resort dining room that over looked a sparkling lake surrounded by hills. The meal was mediocre, ending with Jena finding a fly in her almost all eaten salad. The waitress was dutifully concerned, offering a new salad, which Jena declined due to her slight nausea. The waitress, I think in an attempt to comfort us, told the story of another customer who had ordered a caesar salad and was upset to find a fish (anchovy) in her salad. We didn’t bother to explain the difference.

The dinner bread, however, was delicious. Warm. Crusty. Hearty. We ate it all and asked for more. I wrapped the left over bread in a napkin to take back to the room. I knew stuffing bread in my purse was a sign of age. I did it anyway.

We also learned that the annual polar bear plunge to raise money for special needs kids was scheduled the next morning. Jena hopped on board, always ready for the next adventure. She tried to sell me on the idea, saying, “Let’s do it together Mom, you know a Mother-Daughter thing.”  Usually I cannot resist this kind of not-so-subtle manipulation, except when it comes to voluntarily submerging myself in a lake that was frozen-over two days ago. I negotiated my contribution to the mother-daughter bonding would be the $50 entrance fee needed to submerge her 23-year-old body.

So Saturday morning, Jena, along with over 700 other plungers, ran full speed into the icy lake, while snow fell on those of us that were staying dry. I tried, without success, to findimages Jena in the sea of shamrock green charity t-shirts. As I held my iPhone in place, making sure the video light was on so I could capture her heroics, I worried that she would get sick-and it would be my fault.  “What kind of a mom would let her daughter do such a thing?” I reprimanded myself. I had time traveled back to my parenting responsibilities of her pre-eighteen years, when what I said mattered (pretty much).

Jena ran out of the frosty water, and into my outstretched arms holding dry hotel towels, with a smile that radiated heat. I held her as though she was still my little girl, while enjoying the young woman in my arms. I was proud of her. I was proud the us we were forging.

That night we went to the quieter, late-evening pool with a bottle of champagne and paper cups to celebrate Jena’s college diploma and teaching certificate. She told me her life IMG_0937plans, as much as she knew at this point. She told me about her new love and how safe she feels with him. How smart and protective he is. About the practical jokes they play on one another. I got the sense she loved talking about him — as new love does — and that she really wanted me to know what he means to her. I mostly listened. Sometimes I threw in some motherly advise, along with some concerns I wanted her to consider. I realized that she may or may not appreciate my opinion, but our morphing relationship seemed to allowed for it in the moment. We talked easily for a long time.

I felt a new mutuality developing between us. Jena wanted to know about me; about the safe place I went to in the mediation we did earlier; about my writing class as she edited my assignment with thoughtful, insightful suggestions. I softened into her interest. It felt like a door into our future. She was becoming interested in me in a way saved for adult children. Our mother-daughter norms seemed to be maturing. I warmed to it, feeling my historical uber-mother vigilance relax.

I realize, looking over the three generations between my mom, Jena and me, Jena and I are lucky. Not everyone likes their mom or their daughter. I don’t think my mom liked me – I was too much. And she never really knew me. It was my job to know and please her. So I did. Until I didn’t.

Jena and I have something special. I love being her mom and I think she loves having me as a mom (pretty much). She told me that no matter where she is living, when she decides to have children, she is returning to live within an hour of me…because I am home.

With Love,
waxseal2

 

 

 

Mother Daughter Tattoos

Soon after her 18th birthday Jena called me announcing she wanted to get a tattoo. “Oh,” I responded, wondering where I had gone wrong, “Really?”

 

“Yeah” she said, “and I want you to get one with me.”

 

To understand the absurdity of this request you must understand just how much I HATE NEEDLES! I delivered both of my kids naturally, not as a political statement or as an “all natural earth mother,” but because the idea of a needle in my spine was worse to me than any labor pain I might endure.

 

“Mom, are you still there?”

 

“I’m here.” I eked out.

 

Jena went on to describe the tattoos she wanted branded into our flesh. When she was young I would tell her, “I love you to the moon and back.” A sweet nothing for just us. We continue to write, text and say it to each other still.

 

So what does this have to do with our tattoos? Everything.

 

Jena endearingly presented her idea, “Mom, I want us to get I love you to the moon and back. I will write it on you and you can write it on me. Then we have it forever in each others handwriting.”

 

She had me by the heart strings. How could I say no? What a very sweet request. So sweet it melted my fear. I agreed.

 

 

After we hung up I began my research on safe tattooing practices and the most painless part of the body to get inked. I discovered meaty body parts hurt the least. Inside of arms, ankles, tops of feet, or anywhere directly on bone is agony. So I asked myself, “Where am I the meatiest?” (Since beginning menopause I have many more meaty areas to choose from. This was the only time I have been thankful for that.) I also needed to combine meaty with private-this tattoo was not to be for others enjoyment or amusement. After much research and consideration I decided on my upper butt/hip. Right side.

 

The day of the appointment we arrived at the carefully chosen parlor. I was so obviously out of place in my summer skirt and top, panic in my eyes. I felt like Pollyanna in a biker bar. As we waited, sitting with heavily tatted repeat customers, the advise began, “Don’t get it too small, it will look shriveled in a few years. Don’t put it where you might stretch because it will distort. Don’t get red or pink ink because it fades (sounds good to me) and it can cause allergic reactions.”

 

I am headed for the door. “Really? Are they serious? How big is not too small- cuz I was thinking tiny. Where on my body might I not spread or sag in the next 10 years? And, okay, I won’t get red ink-as if that was on my color palette.” Jena calls me back and I sit down.

 

 

Our names are finally called. We head down a spiral staircase into what looks, feels and smells like someones damp basement. We are introduced to our artist, an early 20 something year old man/child. He shows us to his part of the basement. I go first.

 

He “invites” me to the “tattoo chair.” Because of where I want my “art” he directs me to get into the chair face first, resting my torso on the back of the chair, that he lowers, allowing my ass to rise into the air for easy access. Seriously. You get the picture. I threw Jena one of those you are in big trouble mom looks.

 

There I was, for what felt like forever, my ass in the air with a cute young man’s face dangerously close to my butt. What does one talk about in moments like these? I know how to make small talk with my manicurist, my hair stylist, even my gynecologist, but I was out of my comfort zone. Literally and figuratively. It hurt…a lot. I kept asking him what letter was he on.

 

So, in the end (no pun intended) Jena and I have our mother-daughter hand written body art axiom. It will be with us forever and ever. When I catch sight of mine in the bathroom mirror I always smile, feeling warm and loved. Unless I notice the O in love is a little wide. Then I I skip breakfast.

Random Acts of Kindness

Anyone that lives in Pittsburgh knows that going for a walk involves hills. It is the good news and the bad. I love that I have a treadmill right outside my door and hate that there is no such thing as a leisurely walk that doesn’t involve sweating.

 

So it was this morning. The spring weather has me ditching the gym and heading out over the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh to get my heart rate up and, hopefully soon, my butt in a favorite pair of summer slacks. On my last leg of my route is a very steep hill. As I looked up from the bottom, I prepared myself mentally and physically for the climb. I found a favorite song on my ipad, jacked up the volume, dropped my focus into my hips, made sure my feet were fully meeting the sidewalk, took a deep breath and started up the hill. Whew, half way up I decided there was no shame in stopping against a railing to rest. As I rested I noticed the neighborhood, smelled a cigar-couldn’t find the culprit-and noticed two cars drive past me going down the hill.

 

I started the second stretch. I was tired and not sure I wanted to, or could, do it. I remembered going into labor with Jena, my second child. When I got into the full throes of labor I said (well shouted) to my husband, “I changed my mind, I don’t want to do this.” I fully expected him to say okay and we would go home. We didn’t.

 

The also remembered was when I was leaving my marriage. I would go to the gym and run (I am not a runner) on the treadmill. I would think I was going to die. I would tell myself that if I could survive 5 more minutes of running than I wouldn’t die leaving my marriage. I ran those 5 minutes. I didn’t die. I felt more confident, so I ran 5 more telling myself, “If I can run 5 more minutes without dying…” I ran 30 minutes this way and successfully ended my marriage.

 

So it was with me and this hill. If I could do this hill I could survive anything. And, since every alternative route home also involved a steep incline, there was no backing out. Halfway up the second stretch a women in a Honda CRV pulled up next to me and rolled down her window. I wasn’t sure I could talk to give her the directions she must be stopping to ask me. Then it occurred to me, wasn’t she one of the cars that just passed me? I stopped walking and looked in through the open window.

 

“Do you need a ride?” she asked with concern.

 

I instantly had a visual of how tragic I must have looked plodding up this incline and felt ashamed. Gratefully, as quickly as my shame reared its disabling head, it was replaced by how touched I felt by her kindness. She had turned around to check on me.

 

“Bless your heart,” I said between gulps of air, “but I am going to do this!”

 

“You go girl!” she responded.

 

I did. I conquered that hill, with her encouragement and kindness inspiring me all the way.

 

Encouragement and kindness. I think that is all we need.

 

Thank you, woman in the CRV.

Audience Participation Week

Maybe you noticed, I hope you did…a post did not arrive in your mailbox or on Off the Couch yesterday-my regular posting Monday morning. That is because I have nothing to say…I am blank…the well is dry…I’ve run out of steam…

Maybe it’s writers block, maybe it was the holiday weekend with the Tom and the kids, maybe it was trying to put a freshly painted bedroom back together (it is never just a new paint job, now it needs new bedside lamps, new window treatments, a new mirror for over my dresser, a new soft chair, a pretty ceiling fan and, now I am pushing my luck, new carpet), who knows what the matter is, but I have nothing. Radio silence.

So I have a favor to ask. You take a turn. Write what is important to you. What matters. What makes you laugh. Who you love and why. Don’t be shy, mine is a kind, thoughtful audience that is supportive and appreciative. We will support your thoughts. Let’s have a conversational week where we write and comment to one another.

I have been LOVING the posts on the I Love My Life column, thank you to those that have shared – Heidi, Jena, Mary, Kim, Ruth, Paula. Please keep ’em coming.

So take a turn and send in your post. Email it to me at pboswell25@verizon.net

 

 

Body Image and Beliefs

Last night Jena was in a production at Slippery Rock University.

Am I Pretty Now

A potent, graphic monologue written by  Jennifer M. Reeher, an SRU student.

Jennifers message?

How unhappy women are with their bodies.

She moves from the benign to the extreme measures women inflict on themselves to be considered beautiful by society. The production is infused with the quiet knowledge that internal pain can not be healed through external alterations.

The wisdom, tenderness and poignancy of this young woman’s offering to rethink beauty is moving.

Stay tuned for my series on Body Image and Beliefs