from the time i was 13 until i was 19 i saw my mother less than a handful of times. maybe three. one of the times i saw her was for my high school graduation. then the two of us hit the road for a trip up the northern coast of california.
i am the middle child. my mother moved out when i was 8 and moved across the country when i was 13. and it occurred to me that i had never really been alone with my mother. and here we were. just the two of us.
my mother is the most fun when traveling. i discovered this on that trip. one day i'll have to tell you about our more recent trip to los angeles when her own mother was dying. let's just say it involved a HUGE ASS white on white cadillac and an incident that started with a safety deposit box and ended with me stuffing into my purse a plastic grocery bag full of not technically belonging to her (yet) jewels on the streets of east la. like the gypsies we totally are.
anyhow. back to the graduation trip. so we were headed up the coast. we stopped in oakland for breakfast. my mother was born in richmond and grew up in the bay area. but she was always more of an oakland girl than a san francisco girl. more east bay. those were her stomping grounds. with a mother who worked nights as a cocktail waitress and who was always in between husbands and adding kids, as a young girl my mother had lots of responsibility and maturity and very little supervision. she was a child of the neighborhoods, running with the gang, two little brothers in tow.
we made our way up highway 101, through cloverdale, stopping in booneville for something cold, driving through wine country and orchards and heat and continued up highway 128. towards highway 1 and the coast.
i had recently bought the album union by toni childs, but i think my mother had it, too, at any rate we were listening to one of our copies while we drove. we were chatting and reminiscing, the area we were headed to was our old stomping grounds. my favorite place. the place i lived with my mother, my whole family, intact. the way i remember it, the place where my mother was happiest.
now as you're driving on 128 you will go through a stand of trees. and when i say stand of trees please know that it is a majestic gorgeous band of redwoods. it's about oh 10 miles or so. and after winding and heat it's a welcome bit of straight and cool. we turned off the air conditioner and rolled our windows down. we were mostly quiet. listening to the music, enjoying the trees.
when you come out of the trees there's a bit of an estuary where the navarro river mixes with the ocean and then bam. there's the pacific ocean. just.right.there. and if you are me you KNOW it's going to be there because you've made this drive for as long as you remember breathing, but every time it feels like you've snuck up on it. because you can't see it through all the trees.
okay, so we are nearly out of the trees. and the song is ending on the tape. and as the music dies my mother asks
'where's the ocean?'
and i kid you not my hand to god THAT'S right when we came out of the trees to the estuary to the ocean. and it was right.there. like we snuck up on it. and i KID YOU NOT MY HAND TO GOD that's when 'where's the ocean' the LAST SONG ON THE TAPE starts playing!! and the very first line is 'WHERE'S THE OCEAN!!'
my mother looked at me and i looked at her and we couldn't speak so she took my hand and held it as she drove. she would not let it go.
as you may imagine there's a lot more to the story when it comes to my mother. and the stories aren't the same, as no two stories of the same circumstance ever are. she has hers and i have mine. and i'm not going to pretend in my story that as magical as it was that THAT'S the moment i knew i would be able to be totally 'okay' with her and the circumstances of our relationship. that it was right then that our mother/daughter relationship was cemented and firm. a magical musical moment that had the power to heal all. because it wasn't, and it didn't happen like that. that would come later, and i am happy to say that it did.
but i will say this, i remember the way my mother's hand felt in mine as we shared that moment of serendipity. as we looked out over the ocean we both loved, in a place we were both mostly happy. the only place i feel like that had ever really happened for the both of us. together. and please, when you hear the word happy remember the relativity of it. always.
and i did realize then that this meant something. this moment. that this person holding my hand represented a bond that i did not, could not share with any other person on earth. that she was my mother, and regardless of how it all played out, that was a fact that would never change. that and the fact that i love my mother.
so no matter what she did or what had happened, no matter the circumstances, the history...it was done. and that going forward, well, that was up to me now.
so, i held her hand back.
it is in that spirit i bring you this installment of your moment(s) of zen. <------ (psst. click
there are songs on that album i love more, and this is more a love song than a mother/daughter sharing a moment song, but life isn't perfect and neither are the circumstances of the moments that make up that life. so, you take serendipity where you can find it and you try not to be too picky about it.
have a wonderful day. and if you can, call your mother. she'd probably like that.