The Auburn Public Theater asked me to write a letter to my mother as part of the promotion of their production “Dear Mom”. I was happy to be asked and loved seeing the play on Saturday night. Here’s my letter:
Recently I thought, I need to write my mother a letter. I need to let her know some things. Then Angela called and asked if I’d write a Dear Mom letter. It was easy to say, yes, this is on my list; I have some things to say. Then I forgot the things I wanted to say. Or I lost them. Like the view of a mountain. It is clear one day, and then weather moves in and it is lost. You are that big, Mom, that hard to see in your entirety. Love is impossible to capture when it is happening. It is boundless and therefore if you start to look for its edges, the markers that define it, you will be looking for a long time. You can’t do it. And this, thinking of the difficulty of trying to see love as one can see an object that can be turned over and admired, felt, held and understood, this reminded me of what it was I wanted to tell you.
I have shared you. With Patrick, my brother, of course, but I’ve shared you with the world. You are everyone’s mother. You were the daytime surrogate for two generations of Auburn’s children. And you became, over time, the mother to the mothers, even. You are boundless in your generosity. You say yes when everyone, especially me, says no. And in this way you throw us all off balance. You are there saying yes and suddenly we are all looking at ourselves, our no’s, and we’re wondering, why not yes? We don’t always like the view this gives us of ourselves. After all, what is really lost by opening up ourselves, our homes, our days to people who need a place to be? Children. Always yes to children. So I’ve shared you, even when I didn’t want to share you. And eventually, I’d give up my resistance—because what else was I going to do?—and I’d learn that sharing you and saying yes was also OK.
You are courageous. You turn the prism. You are brave enough for what comes to light. You are strong enough for the burden that is created. You are a mountain.
And there’s love. You have never withheld love or reserved love or made love the province of the home only. You have put love in all the places you inhabit and this, I think, is why you are so brave. As a writer I know that for this to be understood I need an example, so I’ll give one. Recently over family dinner you were talking about opening the school for one family regardless of the bad weather. Of course, I said no to this. I didn’t have a say, or a stake, but I had an opinion. You said, if the school doesn’t open, then the children will have to be driven thirty minutes to the caretaker’s and dropped off in time for the mother to drive thirty minutes in another direction to make it to work at 7 a.m. See, this was not a business decision; this was a decision about children who were going to have a hard morning. And then, like always, I felt the resistance yield. Yes. You lead with love; your school is full of children who enrich each other in learning, not full of children who can pay full price or pay at all. When you say yes, it is love.
You are beautiful. You are abnormally strong and flexible. You took an engine apart once and put it back together. You are smart. You are all of these things all at once, which women aren’t supposed to be so sometimes you are mistrusted, sometimes by other women. You say hard things. You are honest. You cannot lie.
After the twins were born, you admitted something surprising. You said you had worried about having enough love for two. You had worried that love would not be infinite, but of course it was, and you were in awe of this. That your love for each child could be so vast, never limited by the presence of the other, rather broadened by it. And this surprised me. That you of all people would worry that love would have limits.
When Jed and Ella called for mama, you said, yes. You didn’t want their calls for mama to go unmet, and I was at work. So they learned to call you mama too. Inside I said, no. I said, I am the mother. Sometimes we corrected them. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it bothered me. Sometimes it didn’t. But here’s the thing: You shared motherhood. When I was three, I called Geraldine Mom and you did not correct me. You said, yes. You had every right to to say no. You had every right to think, but I am the mother. But you said, yes let us have a family where we will not draw lines and borders. Let’s love wholly as a family with two mothers, two fathers, two children. It came as a surprise to me when you worried about your love supply. You always yield love.
Ella and Jed call you Gilda now because the other kids do and they want to be like the other kids. Sometimes it happens all at once: mamagrandmaGilda. It doesn’t matter; we know who they’re talking to. Like the other kids when they call you Gilda, they are calling for mother; they are calling for friend; they are calling for protector and honest speaker; they are calling for the woman who will give them the dignity of saying yes.