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Prompt 146: The Mother of Uncounted Possibilities
Rebecca Solnit on mothering yourself & a prompt
Today is Mother’s Day.
Surely your social media feeds, like mine, are filling up with tributes to “the greatest mother of all time.” Certainly mine is a contender. I’ve written before about my maman and her glorious care packages, and this year my brother Adam and I hatched a plan to start repaying the debt. Today she’ll receive flowers and some delicious cheeses and other provisions—though who am I kidding? It’s nowhere near her next level thoughtfulness; her care packages come in hand-painted wrapping paper and arrive not just on holidays but any old day.
But our relationships with mothers and motherhood are also complicated. I am not a mother myself, and because of the chemotherapy I underwent, I’m infertile and have had to reexamine what motherhood will look like for me—fostering, adopting, or just being a really cool auntie who’s always sending postcards from Bulgaria, then showing up on the doorstep in an overly embroidered cape and Jackie O sunglasses, spinning outrageous yarns full of curse words, keeping everyone up way past bedtime. Now that I’ve gotten going, that actually sounds pretty good—gonna add this to my list of motherhood possibilities, stat.
All to say, it may be a joyous day or a “griefy” day, as I saw in a Tweet recently, or if you’re like me, maybe both. And so I’m returning as I do every year since 2016, to words from the author Rebecca Solnit—to her Facebook post about mothers. It explodes the parameters of this holiday and also the possibilities of what mothering can be.
Currently mothering a pack of scraggly mutts,
146. The Mother of Uncounted Possibilities
“Mother is both a noun and a verb. Some people had great mothers but lost them, some had or have mothers who never mothered them or stopped mothering them for some reason, treated them as adversaries or as worthless, and Mother's Day can be a punitive day for all those for whom this is true. The other half of the question of what there is to celebrate is what mothered and mothers you, how you mother yourself, how you celebrate and recognize what cares for you and takes care of you, and what do you care for in return.
“I remember once looking at the Pacific Ocean, to which I often reverted in trouble, and thinking "Everything was my mother but my mother." Books were my mother, coastlines, running water and landscapes, trees and the flight of birds, zazen and zendos, quiet and cellos, reading and writing, bookstores and familiar views and routines, the changing evening sky, cooking and baking, walking and discovering, rhythms and blues, friends and interior spaces and all forms of kindness, of which there has been more and more as time goes by.
“And of my own mother I wrote, in The Faraway Nearby: Like lawyers, writers seek consistency; they make a case for their point of view; they do so by leaving out some evidence; but let me mention the hundreds of sandwiches my mother made during my elementary school years, the peanut butter sandwiches I ate alone on school benches in the open, throwing the crusts into the air where the seagulls would swoop to catch them before they hit the ground. When my friends began to have babies and I came to comprehend the heroic labor it takes to keep one alive, the constant exhausting tending of a being who can do nothing and demands everything, I realized that my mother had done all these things for me before I remembered. I was fed; I was washed; I was clothed; I was taught to speak and given a thousand other things, over and over again, hourly, daily, for years. She gave me everything before she gave me nothing.
“May you locate the ten thousand mothers that brought you into being and keep you going, no matter who and where you are. May you be the mother of uncounted possibilities and loves.”
—A Facebook post by Rebecca Solnit, originally published in 2016
Your prompt for today:
What mothered and mothers you? How do you mother yourself? How do you celebrate and recognize what cares for you and takes care of you, and what you care for in return?