Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Power of a Mother's Voice

The holidays are over, the blue moon wanes, sending its blue tones into my head. My college student has flown back to the blizzards of weather and semester's winds. I hear in my head Bob Dylan's song (sung by Susan+Tedeschi), Lord Protect My Child:
"For his age, he's wise
He's got his mother's eyes
There's gladness in his heart
He's young and he's wild
My only prayer is, if I can't be there,
Lord, protect my child"

I'm taking a moment in this new year to consider the power of a mother's voice. When Ell was just a baby and I was still carrying him in a snuggly, I used to dance and sing with him to Tracy Chapman's, All That You Have is Your Soul. Do you guys remember that song?

"Don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of the bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul"

Waxing nostalgic this evening, I thought it might be interesting to post the advice mail art that I sent the youngin' a couple of months ago. We'd had a discussion about how my voice is in his head. He reminded me that my voice, forever etched in his mind and heart, is so strong, that I don't need to be emphatic anymore. I could whisper and his whole being would respond. Whoa, eh? Sometimes that means, "If it's not one thing, it's your mother." (Robin Williams, I believe)

This mail art piece was a huge challenge for me. It has a printout of some advice I've given, with windows cut out from a photo I took of the Doubletree Hotel. We see this hotel whenever we're outside. I thought, like rooms, a mother's words are stored for instant recall (for good or ill). We can visit the good words by opening the windows. Some of my advice was: Look up at the sky. Don't look up as the birds fly over. More willing, less willful. Floss often, wash hands more often. Ask for a hug. Use a splash of bleach in your laundry. Don't mix bleach with other chemicals. All that you have is your soul. Never iron naked. Sometimes struggle only tightens the ropes we seek to break. Stare at the ceiling for ten minutes or more. "Some know the price of everything, but the value of nothing"--you're not one of those. So, call your mother. There are 64 sayings that he can see by peeling back the paper windows, a bit like those advent calendars one sees during the holidays.

I wrote:
Here, dear Ell, is what's already in your head. Like a hotel with 64 rooms, you have compartments, boxes if you will, in which data, decorated with the minutiae of pragmatic living, furnished with emotions of joy, wisdom, trust, self help and love collected and stored for a time--until it's time to add or subtract more useful aphorisms. Yet some, the deepest and most true, stay always at the ready like your mother's voice, powerful, structural like the girders of architecture that make up each room--contained--a vivid history there. Love, ma (M. S. Esparza ©)

"But really, when you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers. Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!" --Rabbi Marc Gellman

I hope what you hear in your head are your own best, kindest, wisest, most loving words. If there are cruel ones, let's throw them out now. This year deserves a good start.


Barbara Muir said...

Wowee Melinda,

Trying to break my late night circadian rhythm to get ready for school, woke up to read this incredible message. My boy goes back to school today, so I feel for you. I wanted to tell him how much I miss him, but didn't want to overpower him with my grown-up angst. You have created an amazing way to send love.

You are a wonderful artist, and a wonderful mother.

Happy solitude.

xoxoxoxoxoxo Barbara

Janelle Goodwin said...

After reading your post, I had a dream about my mother who passed away in 1989. She was young and vibrant, but didn't actually say anything to me, just appeared at my side. The bonds between mother and child never leave.

Thank you for this wise and insightful post!

Melinda said...

Oh, Barbara, you are going through the same thing. It's tough, but at least we know they are well prepared because we've loved them so.

Thank you. Maybe the solitude will become a large space for lots of joyful painting. Yes, I can see that happening--especially for you!

In a mother's camaraderie--hug, hug.

Melinda said...

Dear Janelle--What a beautiful dream you had. It is so comforting. It is as though you were visited by all of the love she had for you, a calm presence that will be with you always.

Thank you for sharing your dream.

SamArtDog said...

As the expression goes, "what a mother!". I say that with the highest respect. Many of the bloggers I read happen to be mothers new to their empty nests. I hear their angst; I feel their pain. I admire your expression of it, the poetry, wisdom and humor.

Btw, I am the mother of dogs, so my nest gets emptied more often and with more permanence. The difference is negligible.

Melinda said...

You're a delight, SamArtDog. You've got that right about dogs. In 2004, we lost one of the finest dogs who ever lived. He was a therapy dog for me and I was desolate. Just like losing a child. I know.

Now, we have a GSD who is beginning to read my mind, help with the laundry and runs to pick up anything anyone drops, except keys. He is a comfort, along with his "sister" Kate, and nearly fills this empty nest.

Funny. In one of my mail art letters, I refer to myself as "some mother"--with all that that may imply...;)

I would love to hear more about your dogs.

Karen said...

Well as usual you are full of tenderness and humor and hope (as is your art!). Hope you're bearing up okay since Eli left.
That quote about the prayers...so funny! love it!

Melinda said...

Ha! Yes, Karen, I think that just about covers it.

I'm hanging in there and am feeling a bit better. You know, texting, emailing, webcam-ing helps. But, honestly, I am not a helicopter mom. Really. ;)

cohen labelle said...

Hi Melinda,

Your delightful post gives me a heightened awareness of the ongoing, nurturing role that we, as mothers - i.e. some of us - never seem to out grow. It doesn't diminish -this powerful bond that forms from birth and infancy, persists long after our grown children fly the nest. Long after our support is no longer so paramount, we continue to offer it. That is our need as mothers, to continue to care. It is a driving force that defines us.
Your beautiful relationship with your son spills over into your beautiful art work so redolent with humor. That is my second heightened awareness. Before I visited your blog, I was totally unaware of this amazing art form called Mail Art. Wow, that’s an eye opener. I love it.
It’s a world unto itself. Beautiful work, Melinda!

Linny D. Vine said...

Lucky Ell! Tracy Chapman - where is she now? I hope that she's still singing! I like your wish for all of us and thank-you for sharing your thoughtful creation, Melinda!

Melinda said...

Thank you, Linny! Sometimes Ell isn't so lucky with such a crazy artist mom, but I keep trying...and there is always love.

Yes, always good wishes for you, dear fellow artist!

Anonymous said...

That Tracy Chapman song was like my anthem and gave me strength during a very difficult time. How wonderful you sang it to your little one. And now he's off to college, soul and all. I loved your art-advice to him. What a wonderful mother he has!

Melinda said...

Oh, yes, an anthem for sure, Jana. That and Crossroads! My boy has good dance rhythm (dancing with baby in snuggly) because of the drum's tum, tum, tum. Remember that?

Thank you. I wouldn't go so far as "wonderful", but good intentioned...yes.