I dare you
May 29, 2021
Do you listen to music?
I do. I grew up singing in choirs and in church, then in plays and an a cappella choir. As a teenager my world centered around music, dancing, and what the older siblings of my friends shared with us, reggae, and blues music especially.
My husband is a clarinetist. There is often music at our house, playing or being played, but there wasn’t always. When the kids were little, our house felt much too noisy to add more sound. Both kids took music lessons and played various instruments. There was a drum kit in the basement and a piano in the foyer, both of which were played and often. We listened to music in the car, sang seasonal songs at the piano, crooned lullabies at night,but rarely danced around the kitchen to rock & roll and jazz as I do now.
How I wish I could have a do-over on that. If you have kids at home, don’t wait for dance breaks. Dancing is so human and fun. Dancing breaks up energy that can stagnate, especially in the kitchen.
Two things I have always wished for in my kitchen are a couch,and a good music system. We have a turntable now, (besides a clarinet player,my hub collects vinyl. Lots of vinyl.) For a time, we had an armchair in the kitchen, where I used to read to the kids while soup simmered, or they’d wedge in together to watch me cook.
But a couch, the kind for a crowd to gather on? That is what I wish I’d had in my kitchen. With a couch, there could have been more lap sitting and leaning and talking in the most inhabited room in our house. Even now.
My kids were home last weekend. We did some cooking; they each prepared a big meal for all of us. We planted our tomato bed and hauled the houseplants outside. While Catherine re-potted her botanical companions, Ben sifted a wheelbarrow full of compost. It was a heart-happy weekend.
Sunday afternoon, I sat on the back porch steps as Catherine loaded her clean laundry into the back of her small car. I had cinched the seat belt around a pot of zinnia, mint, and kale I’d planted for her. She came back to hug me goodbye and swung her hips over onto my right thigh and asked, "Can I sit on your lap?” She asked in a small voice, the kind that I could laugh past, but I didn’t. From her very beginnings, her tiny voice, the tiny writing she scrawled into my journals, the way she sings, has always been a pure tonic for me. I still gauge her mood by the sound of her singing throughout the house. Perhaps if music had been playing when she was little, I might have missed that identifying & beloved characteristic of hers.
You can bet I pulled her in close. No longer does she fit under my chin. But I scooched this college-graduated human who has clambered to a crow’s nest on a sailboat, slept nights in a quigloo in back country Colorado, hiked with many and hiked alone, lost things, and found herself tutoring in maximum security prisons, this adored cousin and speaker of hard truths in difficult moments, she who has sung to the dying and learned music from master singers in Telavi, Georgia, who has a desk job but longs for mountains or a running river, sure as shit, I tugged her onto my lap. I am and always will be her mother.
I started my work life as a writer giving voice to motherhood. Though my work has developed deeply toward daily creative practice, the relationship of family runs through my veins. Blood ready with story, my life has been lit up by being a mother. It has allowed me an entry point to daily creative practice that soothed a longing that is older than all of what you might recognize as me.
I hope that you learn to treasure the stories that are yours to tell. My girl, she has stories to tell, whether she chooses or not. My son, the same. But mothers have been one of the silenced segments of American culture for too long.
Sometime in the next day or two, I dare you to do this:
Just by reading this post, I trust there is a seed of a story quaking within you. One of your stories feels seen and recognized by the part of you that takes what I write deeply into your heart.
See if you can find a way to let that story out.
Maybe it is a story about your mother, or about planting a garden with your brother, or about sitting on someone’s lap. Maybe it is a story of how you mother others.
I dare you to let that story come to life.
Don’t write it, oh no, that would be going beyond this dare.
All I want is for you to tell it.
And see how that feels.