Posts Tagged ‘mother’


Are You My Mother?

You are being held in a wider embrace, one more ancient than your own understanding.

Celeste Snowber

In 1957, P.D. Eastman wrote Are You My Mother? which was—and still is—a popular children’s book. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all liked to pick up this book and read about the antics of these magical and fun animals and people featured in the stories and read with a lyrical rhythm.

In this story, a baby bird is born while his mother is on the ground just below the tree branch where her nest sits, hunting for food. He begins to look for his mother. He looks up and down and all around. Not finding her, he steps out of his nest and plunks on the ground after a long fall. He could walk but not fly, so he decided he would now go and find his mother.

He begins his quest not knowing what his mother looks like. He doesn’t even know what he looks like. I read the story to my children often and to myself, alone, many times. I knew I was on the same quest, having so many unanswered questions about my own birth mother in the early 1970s. On a page in the book I saw an illustration of an eager baby bird on a search for his mother where he was often sad and alone, or afraid and brave at the same time.

The newborn bird is puzzled. He must find his mother and he does not know that he walked right by her at the bottom of the tree when he first began his search. He does not see her behind the rock pulling up a worm to feed him and he doesn’t realize she is close by all the time.

Asking a kitten, a hen, and a dog if they are his mother, he becomes somewhat discouraged because, of course, they are not his mother. He begins to question if he really does have a mother, but he is sure he must have one and is more determined than ever to find her. He begins to find mechanical things like a bulldozer, a boat, and a plane.

“Here I am, Mother,” he called out. But each thing goes on its own way, with no response. Except the bulldozer which makes a loud “snort” and picks the baby bird up in its shovel basket. The bulldozer lifts him up in the air and returns the frightened baby bird back to the nest from which he came. Just then, mother bird returns with the worm to feed her adventurous, hungry infant.

“Do you know who I am?” she asks baby bird.

And baby bird did know because she was not a kitten, or a hen, or a dog, or a cow, or a boat, or a plane. She was a bird.

“You are my mother!”

The pages of the story of this baby bird summarize the same quest I had been on for many years. I felt the uncertainty and the search of the small bird was like my own. I realized in small bits that it was all right for me to search—even necessary—to make me whole with my mother.

I felt the loneliness within the search that I needed to identify, wrangle with, acknowledge, hurt with, and eventually come to accept and make peace with. It did not pit one mother against the other. They each had their own space within me.

I had a mother, different from the one I called Mom. I was a daughter who became a mother. I would bring my mother, now a grandmother, back into our family-fold.


 Bird Watching

She lays

Hidden for the most part

Waiting and watching

With her beating heart

Her feathered body spread

Wide in the nest, an act

Of full creation.

One Mother

Bird, two eggs

Pulsing new life

Of wing-tipped grace

Into the world

And their own special place.

Procreation and expansion

As the fragile shell

Gives way

To life seeking life.

The rhythm of life

And love goes on,

     goes on

          goes on.

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“Meaning does not come from what we do. It comes from what we are. If we are lovers of beauty, then beauty will fill us all our days. If we are committed to justice, then justice will drive us past all fatigue or failure. If we are devoted to building human community, then we will find meaning in the people whose lives we touch. It’s when we are driven by nothing other than our daily schedules that life becomes gray, listless, and dour.

Life happens quickly but the meaning of it comes into focus only slowly, slowly, slowly. The challenge is to keep on asking ourselves what it is.” These words are taken from author and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, in Songs of the heart, Reflections on THE PSALMS.

She offers a simple and profound book of poignant and challenging reflections on twenty five of the 150 songs of praise found in the psalms. Each of the twenty-five chosen reflections offer a spiritual oasis away from the stresses of a world that demands more than the human soul can sometimes bear and have rich meaning for people today.

In my memoir, Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary, I too offer at the beginning of each chapter a brief pause for the reader that is like the spiritual oasis Joan Chittister speaks of. I call them Islands of Silence. They are easy and accessible to the at-home mother who needs a private pause from combined child-care, taxi driver, medical emergencies and unending upkeep of home responsibilities.

They are equally beneficial for the students of all ages (we are all students of life) and business and corporate ladder climbers who can find an instant cubby-hole within to take stock and quiet the busy and overworked mind.

The first Island of Silence I offer in Chapter One is…..


The Breath
The Easiest of All Practices of Consciousness
Wherever God lays his glance life starts clapping.

Your breath is an Island of Silence that is with you at all times. You cannot live without it. A baby’s first important work to do when he/she arrives and separates from the maternal umbilical cord is to… breathe.

There are many meditative practices that focus on different ways to engage with your breath for stress relief and relaxation, but taken down to its simplest level, one may just choose to watch one’s breath.

If you don’t want to go to a gym, if you are not ready to engage in Pilates or Yoga (where the attention is put on the breath), you are perfectly free to sit comfortably alone, turn your thoughts inward, seek the quiet and simply breathe… in… out… in… out.

You will see this Island of Silence will come to you and you will appreciate the restoration it gives. Beautiful scenery will not take your breath away. It will give you more breath.
If you don’t wish to sit, you may walk in one of your favorite landscapes, amidst flowers and trees, birds, and animals, still focusing on your breath coming in… going out… coming in… going out.

You may be stuck in traffic with things to do, but still… you are stuck in traffic and you can breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out.

Return to this Island of Silence many times during the day. It is perfectly fine to take short stay vacations of breathing tranquility. It is low cost, efficient, and brings rewards of renewed energy and purpose. Turn your attention to your breath daily and give this a try.

This is an Island of Silence that begins the first chapter of an at-risk emergency birth where the child is saved, yet the young twenty-nine year old mother dies. Life and death do, indeed, both happen quickly. I am the child who lived. The meaning of it and the grace held within the loss of my mother all happened very, very slowly


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Tom and I have been getting our affairs in order. We’ve received no bad news or anything like that. We anticipate and look forward to a very healthy and happy 2014. But we have “basement issues” with unsorted boxes and papers from our foray of frequent moves and we’ve bravely decided to tackle just a bit of it.

Some of that includes straightening out the fireproof box and making sure records are current and pertinent.  I was mom’s durable power of attorney and we’ve just passed the 6th anniversary of her death in November 2007 so I walked down memory lane a bit before continuing on my task.

Mom was at Hazel Findlay Nursing Home in St. Johns, Michigan when she passed, a long-term resident with Alzheimzers disease. Even without her speech, mom could, nearly up to the end, brighten a worker’s or visitor’s day with her cheerful smile and laugh.

Before entering residential care, mom was living in an apartment near her sister in Indiana. When she visited us, she loved to dote on our cat, Bradley. She kept up a pretty bright conversation with him, and saw him only through compassionate eyes of love. They were pals.

Mom’s been on my mind lately anyway, not just because of the paperwork but because it is Thanksgiving season turning quickly into pre-Christmas season. These were festive times for mom and baking was her speciality. I, in fact, was boasting about her famous pumpkin pie (like none other) that was a cherished heirloom in our family at our October high school reunion luncheon and found myself promising to bring the proof to our November luncheon.


Six pies later, I had pretty wide acceptance that her pumpkin pie was pretty darn good. Mom took out all the stops during this season with her baking. Many traditional Norwegian specialties plus the always-loved sugar cookies cutouts, the confectioners sugar pecan balls, and many others that were stored all over the house and somehow kept fresh right up to the holiday. Mom gave much of it away, but my two brothers and I were lurking when ever we could to capture an extra one or two when nobody was looking.

They may not have been looking, but once in awhile we heard from far in another room, “You kids, get out of the kitchen!” How did they know?


Tom was reading the newspaper one night and said to me, “Oh, guess what is the secret ingredient to the best pumpkin pie.” I bit (no pun intended) and answered, “Ginger.” “Wrong,” he said. “Love.”

By the time Thanksgiving had come and gone, I had added four more pies to my production for family. And I have to agree. I know mom’s baking came from love. And my own? Surely, love is the added ingredient that was enjoyed by all.

About three years before mom died, I wrote a poem at an IWWG Writers Conference I was attending in New York. As I did in every visit to mom, I also tried, in the poem, to get behind that mask of Alzheimers and touch my mom by calling out her identity. This is the poem.

Her Name is Marion
by Susan Heffron Hajec

She is somebody
her name is Marion.
She is somebody
she is my mother.
She is somebody
she is ill with Alzheimer’s.

She is somebody
she is the delete key that’s been
mistakenly pressed on the computer of life.
She is the jigsaw puzzle
with the missing pieces.
She is the finished recipe
minus a key ingredient.
She is the sunset
blocked from view.
She is the wrapped birthday present
without the signed card.
My mother is somebody
Alzheimer’s is the lurking bandit.

My mother is somebody.
She is the gentle sensation of peach fuzz
on my cheek.
My mother is somebody
She is the beckoned smile from a baby.
My mother is somebody.
She is the organizer in a house of chaos.

She is somebody
her name is Marion.
She is somebody
she is my mother.

                    Skidmore 2004

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