During a family dinner last Sunday, the conversation landed on the topic of the words mom and dad. How, while everyone else is encouraged to refer to us—parents—by our given names, we teach our children to refer to us by these labels. And while this is both traditional and our normal, it’s at once very odd. Mom. Dad. Fork. Spoon. Chair. Table.
Some, we determined, shun the status quo and from an early age refer to their parents as Mary and Bill. While this is strange to us, it’s all very normal to them.
We circled around this subject until my youngest daughter announced that since we, she and I, are now the same—both mothers—she would begin referring to me by my given name, Linda, an ode to our equality. I felt sad for a moment, taken aback, gut punched by the significance (insignificance?) of it. But, once the moment settled, the whole name game felt somewhat freeing.
Perhaps it goes with the theme of my week: Cracked.
Earlier, Monday or Tuesday, as the sun hit the windshield when I pulled my car out of the garage, I was horrified to discover a crack had grown from a microscopic rock chip and had begun to climb the pristine glass from the very bottom towards the top. Poor, Noreen (my car), I thought, your perfect, youthful self is shattering.
Much like I thought a few days later, when after a sudden spring melt, and maybe a windstorm we’d had, I discovered a hairline crack in the paint above a window in my living room. Suddenly, it seemed the whole splendour of the room, the house, was marred, tainted, lost forever.
Just like my face, when I applied the coconut oil anti-oxidant facial treatment serum I bought for a deal at Winners on Friday, in hopes of sealing the cracks and crevasses that are now starting to show.
My world and I are cracking. Linda’s world. Linda, the new name of equality. Linda’s cracking. Me, I’m cracked
All this comes after a conversation with my husband: “You should think about going back to school,” he said. “Journalism.”
“Why do you say that so fast?” he said, his voice raised by frustration. “You used to be up for anything. Why not now? Why?”
I was offended. Caught off guard. Wounded. Hurt. Of course, I’m up for anything, I seethed. Just not that.
“Take off your coat,” he always says, his metaphor for live your life. “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
And, it isn’t. Perhaps this whole cracked up week was a monster conglomerated metaphor, with the shift from Mom to Linda its bold underlining, meant to make the message urgent, let the light in.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
This is a hard stage of life: My daughters are grown up, mothers, and they don’t need me so much anymore, at least in the ways they once did. They’re fine, independent creatures, quite capable of looking after themselves, and theirs, without me. I don’t need to be their caretaker, be at the ready, anticipate their needs. And I’m proud of that: It means I did something right.
They’re my friends, my heart, my beautiful babies, my besties, and, in return, I’m the keeper of their nothings, a grateful and honourable place to be. Perhaps, in return, I owe them my light, to embrace the cracks, widen the cracks, draw the light, shine it.
The crack in Noreen’s windshield began at absolute center bottom, travelled straight up to midway and now, after a road trip punctuated by potholed spring roads, is bending slightly towards the driver’s side. Perhaps the metaphor means to lean in and move from passenger to driver in this life that is not a dress rehearsal. To let go. Or let. Or go.
The word mom, the role, bears a complex juxtaposition—the torture, the elation. At the heart, my heart, it’s an overwhelming, gripping, all-consuming, passionate, love and gift that is incomparable, only penetrable by second-guessing and a constant desire to always do right.
But there are cracks and there is light, their light and my light, and there is life. And it is spring, a time of new life and new beginnings. Of letting go, letting be.
There is Mom. There is Linda. And this morning, Linda discovered a small rip, a crack, in her coat. So she took it off, threw it away and went for a walk. The sun was shining, warm on her bare, pale skin. She followed the sidewalk until she came to the edge of a forest and decided to take a path less traveled. In a clearing, the rays of the sun danced through the pine boughs, and bounced colour and possibilities off of the puddles of melted snow. She found a stick and wrote I am Linda in the mud, and smiled.
When I got home there was a text on my phone from my youngest daughter, my equal, that said, “Yo, Momma.” And my heart burst, because despite it all, me, Linda-Uncoated, there will be many things, but there will always be Mom.
Life itself is a fantastic juxtaposition, a complicated, dirty mess of right and wrong, do this and that, heartbreak and heart-on-fire, know-for-sures and second guessing. It’s impossibly hard and a breezy, delightful gift. It’s what we have. Just this once. Today.
There is a crack in my identity, and I plan to widen it, leave off my coat and fully embrace the light.