Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Today is my baby's birthday. My daughter was born 30 years ago at this moment (Pacific Coast Time) after a 48 hour labor that began on Memorial Day, 1976. Still makes me smile to think about it. She was born at home, with a midwife and her daddy in attendance, along with our best friends. I would not have had it any other way. She popped out with a 10 Apgar rating, and proceeded to squirm her way up my belly to my breast with absolutely no assistance from anyone, least of all me--said attendants were busy with the cord and placenta, and I was totally drained. And that focus has been her trademark ever since.

So having no money, my gift to her is to include some poems I've written about her over the years, and this weekend I will try to do justice to writing up the story of her birthing, which was a journey of self-discovery and infinite love, and not a
small education in midwifery.

Here's to Ms. E, the greatest gift a mother could ever receive.

This one is actually about her birth...

She’s On Her Way!

I sensed your coming before you began your journey
A quiet chime in the universe, I can’t remember exactly when,
Announced your essence long before you entered the world

Then a gargantuan effort just to separate you from my body
Two full days of dialogue
Before you slithered out in a totally unexpected configuration
Squirmed up my belly to my breast
And proclaimed your arrival

The midwife said you had FOUR cowlicks
Even one would have been a spot-on sign of assertiveness
I just smiled

So I knew before I even knew you what you would be
Except that you turned out to be so much, much more

As for myself, I now reckon that the two days of birthing
Was simply the Cherokee ritual for separating mother from child
To begin the circle of life

This one was while she was still in college, I was destitute, and never knew when I'd get to see her again from one visit to the next. She had spent a winter term in Zimbabwe, and written some profound things and taken some pretty amazing photos, which she has on her wall right now...

World Traveler I

Jet-stained backpack slung over one shoulder,
Dear head full of wisdom and lush long hair
She’s home for a while.

Gazing into those far-seeing golden eyes, I see what she sees
stories writings drawings photographs dance in their depths
Living out how she finds the world.

She brings a poem about a woman in Africa,
In such vivid, profound words that she appears as real before us.
A subtle stone elephant
An exquisite lizard bowl
Visionary child, eye on the world, the world in her eye

Said backpack organized to perfection
Passport around her waist
Just the basics, ma’am

Wise in the way of respecting each culture
Always recognized as goddess, drawn in by a family, included in their lives,
art, history, customs, music, dance
An authentic soul
A compassionate collaboration

For a while, too short, we share our lives
Lavishing love and attention and talk

Then the bittersweet drive to the airport,
always reluctant to part
Each visit is perfect, barely enough to keep me going until the next
Inevitably, I watch her sweet head bob down the concourse,
wait til the plane taxis for take off,
rush to my car with eyes glued to the plane, strain til I can no longer see it.

Have a good cry til there's nothing left but to go home.

I wrote this the day she left Australia to go back to the states to begin college. Scary stuff, being a half a world away from your only child when they're going through such a milestone in their life...

Saying Goodbye to E

In the black hours of this day’s morning
You flew into the sky to begin your journey
As a young woman in the world
Leaving two grieving parents behind to face the dawning of the day
Still holding on to you with all their strength,
hugging a space the shape of your dear body.
Heartlines trailing through the vast oceans of space, through the crack on the edge of time
Lost to sight, but firmly attached to a place deeper than sight

Last night I anointed your beautiful, confident young woman’s forehead
With oil that you had chosen to symbolize the end of your initiation into the universe
For days I reviewed the catalog of necessary wisdom that a mother must impart
To keep her daughter safe and smart, happy and healthy through all life’s joys and pains
I asked the ritual question: What is there that you feel you do not yet know
That I might be able to impart as one last gift of knowledge—
A seal to the years that we have embraced together with our bodies, hearts and souls
Set to mark you as blessed and inviolate—
A woman
to be sung & cherished,
to listen to for her wisdom and clear-sightedness and compassion,
to stir what is good and kind and fiercely loving and gentle in all who behold her
to light in her a beacon for others to draw near for shelter and grow from your mutual nurturing
to touch young and old with peace, comfort, healing and good humor

Your answer was a gift in return, sweet words telling me what you felt I’d given you,
your final acknowledgement that the rite was well and truly done
Only thus was I able to let you go with love and the sense of completion of perhaps my
Life’s most important work
And with the certainty that I am also blessed to be part of the miracle of you
And will continue to be so for all of eternity

Happy Birthday, sweetie, I've got lots more to tell you!

Yo Mama


cchang said...

You really are the coolest mom in the world. "Saying Goodbe to E" made me cry. What a wonderful gift!