Mother’s Day: Part Two
We are all imperfect. We make mistakes, we are unsure of our choices. We live with regrets. Sometimes on social media I feel lost in a sea of perfection. Beautiful children, healthy food, gorgeous scenery.
Sometimes I also post those photos.
However, I often try to balance them with the nitty and the gritty. I can’t ignore the difficult places and the hard stories. Especially these days when it seems so very inappropriate to ignore what’s happening to our country. I don’t understand how people go about selling their jewelry, their books, their clothing line, their sobriety, and their yogi lifestyles as if all is normal. They were appalled days after the inauguration but they’ve quieted down now. It’s back to business as usual.
But then again I am guilty of working in references to my books when it seems to fit the story.
We are all a series of contradictions and we all need to make a living.
So, here we are on Mother’s Day. The perfect Hallmark holiday. There have been a few posts on Instagram that I liked about people who had difficult Moms and I appreciate the honesty although I don’t see too many people pointing the finger at themselves. It’s their mothers they are criticizing. Yikes!
I had a group of friends in New Hampshire who would meet for wine emergencies. These were days when everything went wrong. Days we questioned our skills as mothers. Days we needed friends who were honest, self-deprecating, and sympathetic.
I have just returned from a road trip with my oldest daughter. Chelsea had some recent upheaval in her life. A breakup with a boyfriend, a broken hand from a snowboarding fall, a broken car, and a dog in tow. Her lease was up, temporary housing didn’t work out, and she was moving on but she needed some help getting from here to there.
I know. I just returned from a road trip. I promised an accounting of how Rich and I did it on limited resources. That blog is coming, For this trip I received a buddy pass on American Airlines from our friends in South Carolina.
My first night in Reno convinced me I was doing the right thing despite pulling the credit card out a few times. I do have my faults and inadequacies but I always show up and rise to the occasion.
Chelsea has been on her own since she was nineteen. She has lived in New York, Missoula, Steamboat Springs, Bear Mountain, CA and Lake Tahoe. She rarely asks for help, is strong and independent, and feisty. The teenage years were difficult at our house but as my mother-in-law always said, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
The time we spent together on the road was wonderful. There’s something about hours spent in a car and miles and miles of road that had us sharing previously untold stories. We laughed and talked seriously. We complained about the bugs on the window that ruined our road photos and at the end of the day she was patient with my driver delirium when I took a wrong turn or got cranky. Athena sat in the back seat, her head resting on the center console between us. When Chelsea went in a gas station to get coffee or snacks or water, Athena stood up and stared out the window, quietly making sobbing sounds. By the end of the trip I was in love with my grand-dog Athena.
On our last night together we unpacked her belongings, rearranged furniture and hung pictures on the wall. Together we made chicken parmesan. She drank beer and I drank wine. And this leads to a story I did not share on Instagram, the epi-center of perfection and branding, for fear of being judged for my imperfections but it seems rather foolish as I was in the state of Nevada and doing nothing illegal. .
It happened when we passed through Nevada. I traveled this road with Rich back in September when we ran out of gas. On this trip I was hyper-vigilant about filling the tank when it reached the half-way mark.
When we stopped in Battle Mountain for a refill I told Chelsea I wanted to drive through the town. I had read Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, years ago. I wanted to see the place she wrote about.
Before we hit the road, Chelsea had taken a few tokes from her pipe. Marijuana is recreationally legal in California and Nevada.
Battle Mountain is a photographic gem. The sort of rundown rural American town I love to photograph. The forgotten places that led to the election of Donald Trump. The places no one is interested in talking about but me. I was so excited to pull over and capture it all I drove right through a stop sign.
“Whoop, whoop,” the siren on the police car behind me shouted.
“Shit, what did I do? Roll down the windows, I think the ganja aroma is clinging to you,” I said, my heart pounding.
I pulled into a little park. The police officer followed right behind me, got out of his car, and peered into my open window. He pointed to the very large stop sign on the corner across the street.
“You didn’t see that gigantic stop sign?” he asked.
No I did not and yes, it was rather large. But it was on the sidewalk in front of the building I was so captivated by. I started babbling about the long ride from Tahoe, how I flew in from Rhode Island the day before.
“Aaah, that explains the accent,” he said.
I told him I was so busy looking at the scenery I missed the sign.
“Really? All these beautiful places you’re traveling from and to and you stop here in Ugly to take a picture?”
I mentioned Jeanette Walls and her book and how I wanted to see the town for myself.
He peered in the back seat. Athena was panting, her tongue hanging out, her tail wagging.
“Where you headed again?”
“Colorado. I’m helping my daughter move there.”
He looked at Chelsea. “Ski bum, aren’t ya? Well, I’ll tell you something. My Mom would never have done anything like this for me.”
He stepped aside for a moment and spoke to someone on his radio. My heart was still pounding.
When he came back to the car he said, “You know that Walls woman, she got a lot of things wrong about this town. First of all we don’t have tortoises. I don’t know if she really lived here or not but people swear she graduated from the high school.”
“Really?” I smiled. “Well, you know there’s a lot of memoirs out there now and maybe people elaborate or make things up to enhance the story.”
“You can take a picture of the little monument we got over there.” He pointed to the sign we saw coming into town. Welcome to Battle Mountain along with some rusted farm equipment on the rocky soil in front of the monument.
“I’m not gonna give you a ticket but I do need to run your license.”
I could feel my breathing slow down. I got my license out of my pocketbook and handed it to him. He went back to his car.
After he returned my license and set me free Chelsea took Athena for a walk and I leaned my head back on the seat and took deep breathes. When I opened my eyes I saw the police officer talking to her.
As we pulled out of town, I asked her what they were talking about.
“He said, ‘you know the places you’re driving through on this trip?’ Then he held up his hand and lifted one finger at a time and said, ‘Four states. Legal, legal, illegal, legal. You know what I’m talking about?’ I nodded yes.”
“You didn’t say anything?” I asked.
“I said, Yes, I know what you’re talking about. And then he said, ‘In Utah it’s a felony. If you get pulled over in Utah your mom is going to jail. So make sure you don’t have IT in the car when you cross the border.”
“Oh my God,” I said. “You have to clean that pipe. I knew he was smelling something. You don’t have any left, do you?”
“No, that was the last of it.”
That night in Park City we told our friend Steve the story. He told us in Utah it’s a felony to even drive across the border with liquor from another state!! We talked about Jeff Sessions and how he’s encouraging the legal community to throw the book at criminal defendants and push for the toughest penalties possible. We also talked about the 60 Minutes episode about Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia who was found guilty of corruption and bribery but when his case reached the Supreme Court, SCOTUS overturned his conviction. He was vindicated, his felony charge was dropped, and his legal license reinstated.
I guess it depends on who you are in America. Who you know. How much money you have. What kind of legal defense you can assemble. As a Mom and an American I worry about these things. Income inequality, the environment, the future my daughters will live in, and the very real possibility of the loss of democracy for all.
In Tahoe the rents are so high kids squeeze into condos or rent little houses that were once sheds. I picked Chelsea up at this renovated shed where she was staying with friends.
I realize there are people out there who will judge me. I can take the heat. My first novel, The Reverse Commute, helped me develop thick skin. There was nothing illegal going on here. The police officer was a decent, kind man who knew and respected the laws of Nevada. I was lucky enough to encounter one of the good cops.
After we left Utah and entered the safe haven of Colorado we walked across the street from our Super 8 motel to a legal dispensary. Chelsea purchased a special blend of marijuana formulated for soothing the nerves. There was no smoking of any kind allowed in the hotel. We joined several other people out in the parking lot who were also chilling after a long day on the road. You gotta love that Rocky Mountain vibe.
I was never very good at discipline. I am no angel and I have made my share of mistakes. During the more difficult, tumultuous times for our family, Chelsea told me she appreciated the fact that I was tolerant. I took that as one of the highest compliments she could give me.
Mothers are not perfect. We make mistakes. But with love, honesty, tolerance, and open hearts we do the best we can.
Happy Mother’s Day!