Monday, November 29, 2010

Bee Free

Being in a foreign country and relying on public transportation, I appreciated receiving my daughter’s texted directions. You want to catch the southbound 44 on Robson and Burrard at 10:12. It will take you to the campus and you should get here around 10:45. My roommate and I will come and meet you. Her thoughtfulness came through the details.

She had taken the time to investigate my direct route to her university campus. I was to attend English class with her, another detail she had specially arranged for us. However, her follow-up text grazed the surface of my sensitive thin skin like that of a threatening bee buzzing by: Text if you get lost.

I was at the 44 bus stop early…privately smug about being early and preplanning exact coinage for the fare. Gazing out the bus window, I noted a couple of downtown shops, should we have time within the next couple of days. Text if you get lost…one bus ride, really? The bus stopped—downtown—and the driver spoke up as if making an announcement to all his passengers. Then he turned as if speaking directly to me, “Last stop, you have to get off the bus.” I turned around wondering if all the other riders were as confused as me. No one else was on the bus.

 “The university…my daughter told me…one bus all the way.” The bus driver probably heard this a lot from parents who get lost.

“You have to get off. I should be back in 10 minutes and the driver issued me a transfer slip.”

I swatted at a bee, bought a cup of tea, and sat inside the coffee shop on alert for the reappearance of the driver. I even rearranged chairs to clear my exit path so that I could bolt for the next university bound bus.

I was lucky to have the first choice of seats when he returned to the bus. Again, I was the only passenger. My new driver friend and I rounded the corner where a couple dozen people waited at the first official pick up point for the southbound 44 headed directly to the campus. Lost? I don’t think so! I took the right bus…just in the wrong direction.

Upon arriving, I embraced our daughter on her own turf of higher learning and independence with melted pride. “What are you looking at?” she asked as she shifted away and clutched at her defenses again. I wanted to jump right back into close conversation again, like the kind we had started on our return flight from her first campus visit this past spring. Mother and daughter daring to entrust one another with private thoughts…compassionately holding one another’s disclosures free from judgment. But I withheld my desire for deeper conversation with my daughter. Stupid bee, go find a flower or another bee.

For the day-and-half wedged in between her classes, assignments, and text-messaging, a couple of bees hovered about us. I remained on alert for a bee attacking my vulnerabilities: Bee devoted. Bee competent. Bee understanding. Bee thorough. Bee patient. My daughter defended against her own threatening bee: Bee autonomous. Bee forthright. Bee resolute. Bee driven. Bee resolved. Weary from being held captive by a couple of bees, we eventually chose surrender. Not in defeat but with the kind of revived strength that Beth Moore describes. “We don’t want to protect ourselves out of our callings. We want to be set free…we are not the fragile flowers we’ve considered ourselves to be. As painful as the process may be, that which shatters our superficiality also shatters the fetters of our fragility and frees us to walk with dignity and might to our destinies.”

The night before we left, we swatted our respective bees over an extended dinner and conversation. After restorative sleep I eagerly accepted my daughter’s text invitation to meet her on campus before catching an early afternoon flight home.

I caught the right bus headed in the right direction. Clackety-clackety-clackety. My roller bags broadcast my arrival to the university campus and a smiling daughter. She unabashedly held our mother-daughter hug. And the two of us spent the next couple of hours—bee free—loudly rolling along the right pathways, through store aisles and into the cafĂ© the same direction together.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Basket Case

In our bedroom, next to my side of the bed but against the wall and purposely hidden from sight of others rests my mending basket. This is the container that holds all the projects I cannot deal with at the moment. I bought a bigger, prettier basket just last year…where I can accumulate more stuff needing attention. Interesting, how the sizeable—but attractive—basket actually intrudes into my path on my way to bed in the evening and then again when I get out of bed in the morning.

Before our daughter left for school last Fall, she plowed through my sacred basket in search of her own unmended clothes. Dismissing a silent tinge of violation, I repaired the zipper on a dress. I mended the seam in her jacket. Her leggings, it was determined, would be worn under long blouses hiding the irreparable run. She was happy to have use of these items again; I was thrilled with the newfound motivation to address other neglected projects.

She had loaned me her little black sweater for a summer wedding event. In gratitude, I vowed to get rid of its unsightly pills, evidence of it being worn many times before me. My brilliant idea to smooth the bumpy surface of her sweater involved a disposable leg shaver. But I guess it was too close of a shave when a tiny little hole appeared. In trying harder to make her sweater better, I made it worse.

Damage happens; I must try hard to fix it. That message was imprinted at the age of twelve. I didn’t shrivel up and cry through the wake of damage caused by my mother leaving. Instead, I was driven to do my part…to try hard and make it better. Some insecure walls were built upon on this damaged foundation. Later I would be the other kind of mom who repairs damage instead of causing damage. However, my own children have known their mom as one who can sometimes try too hard at improving many a little black sweater…creating little holes where none existed before.

I would be the other kind of mom who values her children instead of rejecting them. Any one of my adult children can recount how mother bear has invoked her strength of words in defense of her young. Is that not what good mother bears do? Or is that what damaged twelve-year-old daughters do? This new perception is as unusual as what our grandson describes wearing 3-D glasses at Disney World: “They make the pictures come into your eyes.” Into my eyes and into my heart, I can see pictures of a protective maternal love distorted by unmended maternal insecurities. When mother bear wanted to value and protect, her words sometimes spilled over into dishonor. And her cubs have felt rejected.

But back to my mending basket. I was ready to tackle something of my own…a dress unusable in its present state. The dress was originally costly, $150. (However, I paid $30 at a great sale…I mention this why?) Having worn the dress several times, I carefully washed it on a delicate cycle. Ugh…the dress itself shrunk almost three inches in length while the lining had not. Intending to shorten the lining, I knew the dress would still be long enough to hit my knees. I needed to redeem this dress.

I dusted off my serger sewing machine. I quickly discovered that my sight had changed since using this four-spooled machine throughout my daughter’s childhood making outfits for her or curtains for our different homes. I just couldn’t get my eyeballs—even with reading glasses—close enough to weave the imperceptible threads through the intricate places of my serger. I pushed my chair away from the machine that had served me well in the past. The serger and unmended dress remain untouched on our kitchen table for the last several weeks.

Donning my 3D glasses again, the pictures of the little black sweater, my dress and the serger are coming into my eyes. A new thought accompanied my new perspective: I cannot—nor am I personally responsible to—mend all things. Hmm...maybe it's time to purge my mending basket. Buried deep within is the damaged and neglected article I first wore when I was twelve. I think I'll mend itno, on second thought, I’m going discard it.