Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy birthday, Ma! A note to the Original Love Junkie

Happy birthday, Ma! Even with your eyes downcast here, you look somehow mischievous and lively. Strong, and devil-may-care sexy. One of the things that motivates me, and gives me pure pleasure, is breathing life back into you with words. You were so vivacious. I remember your deep laugh, the infectious timbre, its crazy escalation. The way you sang nonsense ditties by Lewis Carroll when you were drunk. "'You are old, Father William,' the young man said, 'And your hair has become very white. And yet you incessantly stand on your head. Do you think at your age it is right?'..." Don't worry. I will not let them forget you.

Here we are, bewildered by the world, together. I love how strong your clavicle looks, and I remember how you broke that clavicle in one of our many car accidents. This one happened somewhere outside D.C., in that white w/ black convertible topped VW bug with the green-and-blue flower stickers from Zuma's stuck on the hood. I remember the song "Everybody's Talkin' At Me" by Harry Nilsson was playing on the radio, and how when we smashed into the guardrail, you threw your arm protectively across my chest, and I loved that. I can still feel the warmth of that arm, pressed against my child's chest. I can't hear that song without feeling grief rise up in me like smoke.

You're so young here, Ma! High school? Before you became a Bostonian debutante? When you still wore the proper WASP clothes, the red lipstick and pearl earrings. I call this expression of yours "stargazing." If you look at the B&W photo of me on the home page of this site, you might recognize that same stargazing in my face. Those telltale shining addict eyes. They light up when we're triggered, don't they, Ma? When we fix our gaze on something, someone, whom we think will save us. Something that still breaks my heart is how you kept looking for love from people who could never give it. If there's one most precious thing I've learned in recovery, it's this:  "Go where the love is." If you don't, you will surely die.

I love this one of you in triptych, Ma. You, incognito. You, gazing (somewhat) steadily, though off to the side. You, questioning yourself, questioning it all. You had such humor, and heart. I thank you for all the photographs you handed down to me, the gift of your artistry and your eye. I miss you. Terribly. Today, I celebrate that you were born, and I thank you for birthing me. Happy birthday, Ma. Don't forget. I will always love you.


  1. Very poignant Rachel. Much love to you and happy birthday to your mom. Marina

  2. So melancholy beautiful and brave, both of you.
    Thank you.

  3. I love this. That picture of you as a baby is amazing. I can't believe it's been one year since the first post!! Malina

  4. midnight cowboy song. love finally seeing your mother and you as a baby...such great pictures and memories, bittersweet. thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for this beautiful post and for slowing me down for a moment to reflect.

    -Jillian Lauren