Happy Mother’s Day. Mark and I are moving kind of slow today at my house. This weekend marks the end of a very busy semester. Nine hours of grad school, two gallery shows, three magazine cover stories, and a wonderful community wide election that brought unlikely groups of people together to push forward in a new direction with some greatly needed school improvements. And it’s Mother’s Day.
While we have lots of images of our blended family with all five of our fabulous kids, this one was on my mind this morning. Sterling, Jenni, and HalleyAnna — the three kids who helped me grow into who I am today.
I have had this picture on my computer desktop and in a frame on my desk for a couple of years. A quick shot taken at a rare moment when everyone was together somewhere, it has always made me think of that final scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” where Dorothy wakes up in her bed on the farm in Kansas and sees everyone around her.
“You were there, and you were there, and you were there,” she says, as she looks at the familiar family members with a different eye…as she remembers a technicolor dream of the adventure of her life.
And I look at this picture, I see my own versions of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.
The Scarecrow: Sterling is one of the smartest people I have ever known. In the third grade, he carried a well-worn copy of Thoreau’s Walden in his book bag, reading and quoting from it. He liked reading Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and books of lists and world almanacs and Texas maps. He was a Duke National Scholar with high scores on the SAT while in junior high, and grew to be San Marcos’ first National Coca-Cola scholar and a presidential scholar. And along the way, he stumbled into more questions than answers and started doubting his own ability – wondering how life would be “if he only had a brain.” Ah, but he does.
The Tin Man: Jenni has been goal driven and organized since she was a toddler. She grew up overnight when Sterling was born and before she was two, she had stepped into the role of second in command in the mothering department. A childhood on stage led to a successful career on the business side of music, a challenging, competitive, and sometimes careless world. She has faced family illness and stopped her world to take care of others. And against common practice, she has put her artists’ needs ahead of hers, and taken on much more than what would normally be required. Through her dedication, her clients have become friends and those friends have become family. Though along the way, when forced to make difficult decisions, she has confided, “I am sort of heartless, I guess.” I beg to differ.
And HalleyAnna, the Cowardly Lion. She learned to walk before she crawled -and always knew she wanted to keep up with the big kids. She has stepped up and stepped out of her comfort zone and made her own good decisions for a long time. She had heart surgery at the age of 13 to fix an extra electrical pathway, was hit by a car while riding her bike nine years later, and has traveled solo to New York City, Walden Pond, Costa Rica and across the Great Divide in Colorado, and got at tattoo of the state of Texas on her index finger, lest she need to find her way home from somewhere far away. As she prepares to release her second album and is packing her car to head across the southeast to promote the record, she thinks a lot about courage. And wonders what it would look like.
And so today as the dust settles after a whirlwind month, I look at this picture of those children who grew into adults while I was looking the other way, while I was busy traveling down that yellow brick road, fighting off flying monkeys and trying to figure out how to get to where we needed to be. And I think of a million things I would have done differently — and oh so much better — if I only had the brain and the heart and the courage …. and time.
And if I had known then what I know now. And the things I wish I had said while time was slipping through my fingers. I wonder if they know how much I love them – and how proud I am of who they are – deep down, far beneath their own doubts and worries and questions.
Looking back, I think that that if I’d only had a brain… a heart… and courage, I would have passed it all on to them.
But for now, I will look at this picture and think of that great adventure over the rainbow that was motherhood.
And I will be so very proud of who they are. And who they have been all along. Even if they don’t completely know themselves.
Happy Mother’s Day.